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10 Steps to a new and Improved Creative Practitioner May 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 3:12 pm

Introduction

This paper is a critical review of the Creative Economy module of the MACE programme at Kingston University.

Coming from a background in Industrial Design (Furniture) with a work experience of five years in the field I realised it was important to expand my sphere of knowledge and hoped that a Masters programme in the creative Economy would help do the same.

The creative economy module of the course brought with it a foray of information, new ways of thinking and acting. I could define my learning into three broad segments, first the conceiving and the running of a business, second Design thinking skills and the third and most important – using Design thinking skill to successfully run an enterprise. In a recent interview with Ms. Neelam Chhiber, MD and Co-founder of Industree crafts Pvt.Ltd. (A Bangalore, India based Social Enterprise), on the subject of Managing creativity and Innovation, Chhiber stated that her key insight from running a Design backed Social enterprise was that “Design is nothing without management skills. Designers have to be deeply strengthened with management skills as this is the only way design can cause any change. Design can do nothing without business and business can do nothing without design”. (Chhiber, 2010)

I have divided  this review into ten segments. These are based on my key areas of learning within this course.

Ideating :

Ideating is the most enjoyable part and also one of the most creative part of any project. The best thing about it is that one does not have to be right at every step of the way. Seth Godin in his blog state “The best ideas come out of the corner of our eye, the edge of our consciousness, in a flash. They are the result of misdirection and random collisions, not a grinding corporate onslaught”(Godin, 2010).

But of course there are situations where you may have a problem at hand and need to find a solution or identify a gap that you could fill in. These call for a slightly different approach. During the course of this year we have learnt various techniques for ideating like mind mapping, role playing, Lateral thinking, IDEO method cards etc. each of these offer a different method to first evaluate a situation, break away from the obvious and then reorganise or find patterns within the thinking process.

Having said this, it is also equally important to channel creativity in the right direction. Edward de Bono says that one of the dangers of creativity is self-indulgence. The purpose of creativity should to bring about a change in direction, this change does not propel or provide for motion and if one is constantly changing direction it would be difficult to get anywhere.   (Bono, 1991)

Empathy :

As social beings one would think that empathy would be of utmost importance to us when delivering a product or service into the market. Strangely this is not the case. Most of us are so involved with the design of the product/service that the user becomes secondary. Empathy can be used as a powerful tool that benefits both the end-user as well as the producer/designer/entrepreneur. Understanding the user can help one identify the gaps in the market. The information gathered can help one focus on the relevant issues hence leading to a service/ product that is much superior to that available from competitors. This in turn builds trust with stakeholders and on the larger scale of things eventually could lead to a better social culture.( Patnaik, 2008)

Storytelling :

It’s amazing how some stories can capture you and convince you of things you thought you couldn’t ever be convinced of; and then there are those that help you see things that you had never seen before. Let’s admit it, as humans we all suckers for stories! We are born and brought up with them. Our parent and Grandparents told us stories when we were children. We have grown up watching Movies and Television; listening to Music and Reading books (all forms of storytelling). The most interesting people we know are those that can tell a story well. Our priced processions have stories behind them and so on and so forth……………

As times change knowledge becomes redundant and people have to generate new pools of knowledge. We are currently in this stage of change called the Big Shift. In these early stages it is usually extremely difficult to quantify or define knowledge because of its newness, making it extremely difficult to express or convey. This is where storytelling comes in. Hagel in his blog titled From Research Monographs to Story-Telling: New Forms of Communication in the Big Shift says “Stories emerge as an increasingly central form of communication in times of rapid change because they so richly reflect the needs of the time. In particular, they help us to shift our perception from static objects to dynamic relationships.”( Hagel, Edge Perspectives with JohnHagel, 2010).

Taking this into account as Creative Practitioners how could we not use storytelling as a potent tool to bring about change?

Prototyping:

Coming from an Industrial design background prototyping has always been a part of my work process. During the course of this year I have rediscovered the importance of prototyping and especially quick prototyping. Using available material and objects to convey ones idea, be it for something tactile or intangible like a service, can be an extremely useful tool. As our business involved running reality games for Kingston University students, one of the greatest challenges we faced was converting ideas to action. We realised that prototyping games on a small-scale, helped us empathise with the end-user leading to better solutions. It also helped us realise and rectify the flaws within our process giving us the option of making mistakes at an earlier stage without suffering huge consequences, or as Tim Brown says “Fail early and often to succeed sooner,” (Manuel Sosa, 05 )

Collaborating:

Collaborations and Multidisciplinary team work seems to be the buzz word of the time. I’ve always enjoyed working with people from varied backgrounds as I feel it brings about the most interesting discussions and ideas.

Looking deeper into the concept, we are in changing times, moving from one phase to another when it comes to knowledge building and transfer. The phase where knowledge was a tightly held possession to be protected and built upon is now gone. We are now in a phase where we need new and better knowledge that calls for look outside of the confines of our existing knowledge pool. People have realised that the way to do this is through building new collaborations with diverse knowledge pools. ,(Hagel, Edge persprctive with John Hagel -Defining the big shift, 2009)

Entrepreneurship Skills:

Running a business under Young Enterprise was a much more challenging task than expected. In this section I would like to illustrate areas of learning from the running of our business.

Forming and running an effective team – We used speed dating as a method to form teams. This involved conduct mini interviews with each of our colleagues; eventually leading to us choosing our teams based on compatibility and skill sets.

Our team comprised of 5 members representing 4 countries, 5 professional backgrounds currently perusing a masters in the creative economy with 4 different specialisms. In spite of being such a mixed team we managed to strike a balance. The key rule being, give everyone a chance to speak and express their ideas. Though this helped maintain harmony within the team but eventually had repercussions, in the form of “over suspended hierarchy”. The key learning here was the importance of an organisational structure with designated duties and work flow strategies.

Developing a business plan – The next step once we had formed a team was to arrive at a viable business plan. We began by identify a gaps in the market. Initially we looked for possible options within our respective fields of specialisation. After a lot of deliberations we decided to work on a project that all of us were passionate about, improve the quality of life at Kingston University for both the students as well as staff. Based on interviews with students and staff at KU AS our own experience we arrived at our business idea – Reality games. As in any case there were positives and negatives to our decision. Negative – we didn’t have a background in game design and development or event management. Positive – We could look at the subject from a completely new perspective.

To develop our business plan we use various tool like prototyping, interviews, developing personas to define our target market, research to identify competition, storytelling etc. etc. Where I think we were lagging was that In spite of our process there were points where I felt we didn’t put our research to best use.

Viability and Feasibility – Our initial business plan was to run large-scale games within Kingston University. The major expenses to be incurred were on the prize money which we intended on acquiring through sponsorship. This was something we depended too much on. After a point we were running out of time and funds and hence decided to change the scale of our games. We found a solution in running pop up games as well as forming small partnerships with various people. This meant small investment in terms of money as well as time and effort. For the sponsor it meant publicity at a minimal cost. Most importantly for our Client it meant fun and entertainment at a low-cost and we brought the games to them.

The other step we took was to split our business into two segments, one that dealt with conducting reality games and the second a game development consultancy. Both these segments functioned in parallel sharing resources and funds.

Managing creativity and ideation – In spite of being such a mixed team, the one thing we had in common was ideating skills. One of our key challenges was managing this creativity. At all points in time we found that we were flooded with ideas. Though enjoyable as we moved along onto the various stages of our business we realised that just ideating was not enough. The hardest part was funneling our ideas and doing so without de motivating fellow team members. We found the solution in expanding our business into the game development consultancy, this served as melting pot for all our ideas.

Role definition and management – Our initial decision not to define roles was met with the realisation that there were too many overlaps and we were not arriving at viable solutions. This led us to assigning leaders based on skill sets. Also any member of the team could second chair with a lead. Though this system seemed functional in theory, in reality it was a lot more difficult to instate. A majority of our team came from creative backgrounds making it difficult for them to take on managerial tasks and forgo creative tasks altogether. Though our team bonded well, one of the learning’s here is for a multidisciplinary team to function at its best it needs to be well balance in terms of skill set.

Marketing – We relied on the internet and social networking sites for initial marketing. This didn’t work too well for us. Our approach was wrong as we applied techniques that worked for us on a one on one basis and expected it to work as effectively on the web. Out USP we realised was in conducting activities in real-time and in person. Eventually we found that our pop up game format doubled up as marketing for the company.

Brand development – Though it took a while to arrive at our brand identity a series of short brainstorming exercises helped define it pretty accurately. We developed a Brand kit that we used in all our pop up games. Our brand identity gave us a common language to communicate with, made it easier for people to remember us and helped us keep our goal in focus.

Networking through social Media:

Humans are social beings and have a need to share their ideas and knowledge, today social media has become a vessel for the same. Henry Jenkins on the subject of collective intelligence says “Nobody knows everything but everybody knows something and the more we broaden our access to this expertise the stronger position we are in ourselves”.(Jenkins, 2009)

Social media can be used as a great tool for networking and has benefits when it comes to gathering information, sharing knowledge, marketing, advertising as well as testing.(Common Craft) In the past year we have been exposed to social media in the form of Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc. I personally have not been an avid user of social networking sites but the advantages now seem to ought way the reasons for not getting involved.

Self Evaluation:

Self evaluation at constant intervals is extremely important. It is easy to start off with a certain goal in mind and then drift off as time goes along, only to make one realise that they have ended up wasting large amounts of time, funds and energy. The GROW (Goal – Reality – Options – Will) model is one method of self-evaluation that helps one access, analyze keep track of as well as improve one’s performance. (mind tools – The GROW Model)

Conviction:

Converting Ideas into action – In spite of having largely worked within my own team for the duration of this course I would like to say that I have learnt a great deal from the various other teams of MACE. What fascinated me the most was the manner in which some of the teams developed their ideas into functioning businesses and what that they had in common.

I have come to realise that one can have a great idea, a great business plan; oodles of design thinking expertise, managerial skills etc. but at the core there has to exist a conviction for your ideas.

Having Fun!

Working within a team of people can be interesting but also has its pitfalls. The initial excitement of working on a new project and meeting new people eventually wears out as the realities of the project set in. The process of designing a product/service or setting up a business can be cumbersome with questions on viability and feasibility constantly looming around. It often becomes easy to get sucked into a negative mindset causing one to lose focus or momentum.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt is never forget to have fun! A sense of humour is a handy tool and ‘take it with a pinch of salt’ is a very wise saying. The best way to get a task done is to enjoy doing it.

Conclusion:

Having illustrated my key areas of learning from the Creative Economy module, I am happy to say that I am at a position where I feel I can make a difference in whatever endeavour I take on in the future. This course has provided me with an overall view on the subject of Entrepreneurship, Design thinking and Multidisciplinary collaborations but more than anything else it has helped me identify my areas of strength as well as weaknesses. Having said this I feel it would have been ideal if a portion of the module were focused on the theory of the subject especially when it came to areas like marketing and finance. Also field trips to establishments like IDEO, Design Council etc. would have added to the strength of the course.

The practical experience of running a business was I think the high point of the module as it gave me the opportunity to test ride my skills as well as practically apply the information and knowledge gained within the module.

My future plans stand at eventually opening my own Design consultancy. I am also interested in the area of Social enterprise development and Design education. I hope to be able to contribute to all these fields and believe that the MACE programme will hold me in good stead for the same.

Bibliography

1. Bono, E. d. (1991). Lateral thinking for management, a handbook. USA: American Management Association.

2. Chhiber, N. (2010, 04 26). Managing Innovation and creativity within a Social Enterprise -Industree Crafts Pvt.Ltd. (S. Kariappa, Interviewer)

3. Common Craft. (n.d.). Using Interactive Technology in the Classroom Workshop. Retrieved 05 09, 2010, from http://www.rouvelle.com: http://rouvelle.com/naea/naea.html

4. Godin, s. (2010, may 09). Seth Godin’s blog. Retrieved 04 10, 28, from http://www.sethgodin.typepad.com: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/05/where-do-you-find-good-ideas.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+typepad/sethsmainblog+(Seth’s+Blog)&utm_content=FaceBook

5. Hagel, J. (2010, January 22). Edge Perspectives with John Hagel – From Research Monographs to Story-Telling: New Forms of Communication in the Big Shift. Retrieved 04 30, 2010, from http://www.edgeperspectives.typepad.com: http://edgeperspectives.typepad.com/edge_perspectives/2010/01/from-research-monographs-to-story-telling-new-forms-of-communication-in-the-big-shift.html

6. Hagel, J. (2009, september 06). Edge persprctive with John Hagel -Defining the big shift. Retrieved 04 28, 2010, from http://www.edgeperspective.typead.com: http://edgeperspectives.typepad.com/edge_perspectives/2009/08/defining-the-big-shift.html

7. Jenkins, H. (2009, July 01). MIT enterprise forum. (P. Zac, Interviewer)

8. Manuel Sosa, R. B. (05 , Aug 01). Management today.com. Retrieved 04 28, 2010, from http://www.managementtoday.co.uk: http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/search/article/548074/fail-early-fail-often-ideo-service-design/

9. mind tools – The GROW Model. (n.d.). Retrieved 05 05, 2010, from http://www.mindtools.com: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_89.htm

10. Patnaik, D. (2008, September 17). Wired to care – Excerpts from th ebook. Retrieved 05 12, 2010, from http://www.wiredtocare.com: http://www.wiredtocare.com/?p=451

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    One laptop Per Child October 27, 2009

    Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 6:24 pm

    olpc-logohttp://laptop.org/en/vision/index.shtml

    This is another example of storytelling. This site also has a short animated film to explain what the NGO does.

    What’s interesting is that the Logo itself is self explanatory

     

    You had me at “Once upon a time…………..”

    Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 3:41 pm

    It’s amazing how some stories can capture you and convince you of things you thought you couldn’t ever be convinced of; and then there are those that help you see things that you had never seen before.

    Let’s admit it, as humans we all suckers for stories!!

    We are born and brought up with them.90246971

    Our parent and Grandparents told us stories when we were children. We have grown up watching Movies and Television; listening to Music and Reading books (all forms of storytelling).

    The most interesting people we know are those that can tell a story well.

    Our priced processions have stories behind them.

    And so on and so forth……………

     

    As Creative Practitioners how could we not use storytelling as a tool?

     

    Our story…………

    “What we need is a darn good story and a pinch of good luck” this is how our last team meeting ended (well, maybe not in so many words but what the heck this is my blog!)

    The success of our project completely relies on how well we convince people.

    • The student Union – For their support
    • The University – For their approval
    • Investors – For their funding
    • The students – For their involvement.

    It would be wonderful if all parties involved could see the big picture through our eyes; but that would truly be wishful thinking ……………. or maybe not?

    Our next step is to create this story or series of stories that each of the above mentioned parties can watch/listen and relate to.

    How well we do this also depends on how well we understand /Empathise with these People.

    Our advantage – We are students of Kingston University.

     

     

     

    Competition October 22, 2009

    Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 11:48 pm

    1 http://extranet.kingston.ac.uk/kuvirtualtour/output/page191.asp  –

    In campuses the student union Bars would be considered competition. Drinking and social interaction are two things that definitely make people happy.

     2. www.google.com

    The internet and sites like Google, Facebook,  Twitter etc. could be considered competition as they are all about social networking and interaction.

    3. http://www.apple.com/uk

    People today are so involved with themselves. We see people hooked on their  i pods busy with their phones or laptops, absolutely disconnected with the world around them. This could be considered competition.

    4.https://www.bearwithastar.co.uk/

    This is an interesting way to make someone happy; also it is something that has long-lasting value. A sense of history and uniqueness.

     

    A Confluence

    Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 11:04 pm

    Our group comprises of 5 people

    Two men and three women.

    From 4 countries

     Italy, China, Greece, India.

    With 5 different backgrounds

    Political Science, Management, Architecture, Software engineering and Furniture Design

    And we are here to study

    Music, Management, Galleries and Museums, Product +Space and the Creative Economy

    The possibilities are infinite!

    Working in a group as diverse as this is not always the easiest of tasks but one thing is for sure the experience is extremely dynamic and worthwhile.

    As a group we are open to each other’s ideas and views. The larger picture is something we all try to keep in mind.

    What each of us bring to the group

    The manager – To the point, keeps us on track

    The Politician – Ruffles things up but has a valid point in there somewhere.

    The software Engineer – Has information at his fingertips.

    The Architect – Full of ideas and enthusiasm.

    The Designer –Connects the dots.

     

    In the two weeks that mace group 1 (name as off now) has been a group we have discussed our business project at length. What we have also done is to try and understand where each of us is coming from. Our discussions have ranged from Political history to Music to Art and Design and Culture.

    Our first business idea took root from music; we were interested in looking at incorporating music into a product of daily use for e.g. a piece of furniture.

    During our second meeting we realised that we had arrived at our product too soon. We were looking at how we could combine our skill into one product rather than developing a product or a service that people would want or use.

    This brought us back to the drawing board so to speak.

    The second time around instead of relying purely on our skill sets for an idea, we decided to work with a subject that we were all passionate about.  In the search for a good business venture we stumbled upon certain similarities within our group

    • We are all students of Kingston University.
    • We all come from different countries (no one from the UK)
    • We all study at the Business school.
    • We are all happy people.

    This led to us asking the following Questions, the answers to which helped us arrive at our venture:

    What do we want to do? – Bring people together and make them happy, create a sense of belonging.

     

    Where can we start? – How bout Kingston University

     

    Why the university? – The university comprises of five campuses. Very few people have visited all the campuses or know about the kind of work being done at or the people from the other campuses. 

     

    So how can we change this? – Could we organise an event of sorts that brings people from the various campuses together?

     

    What kind of an event? – Something to do with expression maybe.

     

    Why would students come? – What if we gave them a chance to be a part of the history of this university, to be more than their Student ID no.?

     

    Would the university permit such an event and why? It could work to the benefit of the university as well in terms of publicity; a greater sense of community would mean more students interested in joining the university.

    Proposed names for our project

    United Kingston

    The great wall

     

     

    My first BRUSH with mace………. October 6, 2009

    Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 8:24 pm

    When I found out that we had to bring our toothbrush and paste to class my reaction was “Are u kidding?”

    Apparently not, this was serious business and also my introduction to the Creative Economy class.

    Empathy as a tool and IDEO cards demonstrating various methods to use this tool to gain insight on a topic is what summed up the class.

    The topic – Brushing your Teeth.

    The exercise was divided into two parts – being the subject and studying the subject.

     

    To be subjected to brushing………………

    As a designer, I would say that collecting information by speaking to/studying a subject can be difficult as most people tend to get on guard while they are being questioned or observed. The same happened to me when I was asked by Cynthia to answer questions about my brushing habits. I was firstly embarrassed to be brushing in front of a total stranger and to add insult to injury I had to answer questions while doing so.

    What Cynthia did was to first understand my brushing routine and then to present scenarios and ask me how I would go about brushing under the circumstances. One of the scenarios was to imagine brushing without a basin. This started a discussion that also helped us understand different traditional methods of teeth cleaning and cultural differences for e.g. In West Africa people use coconut husk to brush teeth and in India the bark of the Neem tree. In both these countries in rural areas using a basin is not common and people tend to rinse and spit out into the open.

    Observation :

    There are so many ways of doing a task as mundane as the brushing of your teeth. All one has to do is be receptive and open to ideas. It’s not necessary that the method that most people adopt is always the right/only method.

     

    Self infliction……………………..

    The IDEO card I picked read “Bodystorming – to set up a scenario and act out roles, with or without props, focusing on intuitive responses prompted by the physical enactment.”

    For the exercise I decided to brush my teeth in four different ways and asked Magdalena who graciously agreed to be my study subject to respond to what I was doing.

    1.  I lay down flat on my back and brushed my teeth – She reacted saying this could be very dangerous as someone could choke.
    2. I stood on one foot and brushed my teeth – she thought I was modelling in front of a mirror while brushing.
    3. I brushed my teeth with my finger and toothpaste – She reacted saying I was on a night out with friends and had forgotten my brush.
    4. I brushed my teeth with a toothbrush but no toothpaste – She said that there must be some sort of toothpaste shortage.

    All of the responses I got were immediate/intuitive reactions to what I was doing.

    This form of data collection can be really interesting as the subject is reacting to what u are doing; this I feel would be a lot easier than having to do the task themselves .It also makes the subject less conscious and more forthcoming.

    Now having said all of this if you were to ask me what my conclusion from the exercise was, I would have to say “nothing concrete” but what is important though is that each response I got from Magdalena opened up new avenues for innovation:

    • Could there be a device that cleans your teeth while u are laying down. Would this need to be a method of dry brushing so that the person does not choke?
    • Could a dry brushing method be combined with a mouth freshener which could be in the form of tablets/ powder/ spray or any other substance that is edible? To swallow instead of spitting.
    • A disposable teeth cleaning device as simple as a chewing gum in case u forget your tooth brush at home on a night out.
    • Use and throw brush heads that can be fitted on to the stem.
    • Can the tooth brush and the toothpaste be built into one product, seeing that the two products are usually not used in isolation? This could also help keep tab on how long you should use your brush and reduce the number of items you would to need to carry when you travel.

    Observation:

    • It is important to keep the big picture in mind or it’s easy to get side tracked (as I was initially focused on the role playing more than on the reaction to what I was doing).
    • Being a study subject or roll playing (getting out of your comfort zone) can help unlock your mind.
     

    A little bit bout myself to begin with………… October 5, 2009

    Filed under: Uncategorized — shriyakariappa @ 3:44 pm

    I apologise for not having gotten on sooner but this whole blogging thing is new to me.

    Okay so I am a Furniture Designer from Bangalore, India. Was born there but brought up all over the country including a short stint of two years in Iran.

    Design came about by accident and thank god for that!

    I graduated from Design school (Srishti school of Art Design and Technology Bangalore) in 2003 and since have worked with two firms, both back in Bangalore.

    I have experience working in a Design and Manufacturing setup ( largely wood work) for 3 1/2 years and with a Design consultancy for 18months.

    I enjoy Ideating and am good with materials and detailing. I have also worked with Space and Retail Design.

    I am unfortunately extremely challenged when it comes to running a business but hopefully this course will help remedy that.

    The reason I am doing this course is because I needed a Whack on the side of my head!!(It’s the title of a book by Roger von Oech check it out) which basically means I was stuck in a rut and needed something to dislodge me.