“It is not how you start the race or where you are during the race-it is how you cross the finish line that will matter.” Robert D. Hales
And so here I am, 7 months into a race I hadn’t the slightest clue where it would lead me. I didn’t know what the finish line looked like nor how long it would take me to get there, all I knew was that I wanted to rediscover myself, my passions, my drive, my purpose, and mostly my career. I started this race as a way of taking charge of what and who I am and what I want to be and recreate a brand that communicates my values and my work.
I first came across the concept of Reframing in my first lecture on the course, it was a Design Thinking Class and our first task was to use the process of reframing to evaluate a gift giving experience. As I had missed the precious weeks class, I sat and listened to the various ‘solutions’ my classmates had come up to solve the gift giving dilemma. As I listened, I found myself modifying some of their solutions in a way that I felt would be an even better solution, or simply looking at the problem from another perspective taking into consideration how I personally have felt when choosing a gift. That process of seeing the problem through different lenses and finding insights to support those lenses I discovered was the basis of reframing. In essence, choosing to make lemonade out of lemons is reframing as you are taking a difficult situation and figuring out what positive result can come out of it (Tanner, 2019). In design thinking, reframing employs divergent thinking as a way to ensure you explore various possible solutions, and then use convergent thinking as a way to narrow them down to a final solution (Prototypr, 2018).
“I believed through this race I wanted to not only rebrand myself but also be able to look at myself through different lenses, and hence why I chose to combine the two words in order to represent my journey throughout this course”.
With all the excitement and expectations, I had for the course, sitting in my first Design Thinking Lecture gave me slight anxiety as I was under the assumption it would be solely based on coming up with creative and innovative ideas which is a weakness I never intended on overcoming. The thought that I would have to sit through this class felt like a nightmare and had me questioning if I made the right choice. However, by the end of the class, I learnt there was much more to the design thinking concept. As Dorst (2010) puts it, Design thinking involves various reasoning patterns that humans use in problem-solving based on various settings of knowns and unknowns. Be it through deduction (e.g. business as usual; target customer is known, and product option is known) or through induction (where the problem is known, and you know the result, but you try to figure out the solution). Hence, based on science inductive reasoning informs ‘discovery’, while deductive reasoning informs ‘justification’ (Dorst, 2010).
WHAT (thing) + HOW (working principle) leads to RESULT (observed)
However, in order to create value for others, the principle of
WHAT(thing) + HOW(working principle) leads to VALUE (observed) Is implemented where we know the problem, we know what value a solution could offer to the consumer and hence we build our business idea based on that ‘possible solution (Dorst, 2010) as if you build a business based on solving a real need, your business can overcome any economic condition as the need will not go away with a stumbling economy (Oppong, 2014). This realization is what led to pushing through as I realized it is not about thinking of the most innovative idea that is set to change the world, but even something as simple as finding a way to make people with disabilities get around a specific building.
As the module was primarily based on starting a business venture using the lean methodology, the first thing that came to mind was not the business idea but who I would have in my team. As I was late on the course, most teams had already been formed and I knew how vital a team is to business success and hence when I am faced with a problem or opportunity I tend to look at “first who, then what” (Inc.com, 2018). I put the team together based on academic merit, then later added a creative as we had to balance out our analytical capabilities. We thought we had a good enough balance, as Tuckman (1965) shows the most cause of conflict in the storming stage is the differences in skills and abilities and that it is important to identify strengths and weaknesses and see how to best maximise the strengths and minimize the weaknesses in each person. In my perspective, this is the two categories I would place each of my team members. Due to some strong similarities as seen in the table, conflict was inevitable as we needed someone that would be a carer to mediate and maintain harmony during the conflict (McMillan, n.d)
|NAME||DOMINANT ROLE||SUBSTITUTE ROLE||DESCRIPTION||VALUE ADDED|
|AL||Achiever||Doer||· Strives for results
· Wants to progress towards goal quickly
· Impatient with delays
· Prepared to help others
· Hardworking to finish task
|Calm collected, always made sure we were all completing our tasks as given. Very good with numbers.|
|TADU||Doer||Leader||· Clarifies objectives of team
· Set our and communicate a vision
· Always active and ready to lend a hand
· Keen to see progress
· Develop team spirit
· Bored with too much discussions
|A perfectionist that can be both a blessing and a curse. A curse because decisions were delayed because there was always something I wasn’t completely pleased with. In addition to the extra money I always wanted to spend on the little details.|
· Collects and analyse information
· Thinks through problems
· Listens to what is said
· Creates common purpose
|Kept the spirit alive. Almost played a mediator when he could. Great analytical skills|
|GHALIA||Achiever||Thinker||· Wants to succeed
· Always active and ready to lend a hand
· Keen to see progress
· Thinks through problem
· Anticipates problems.
|The creative in our bunch. Her attention to detail is impeccable.|
Design Thinking allows for the integration of analytical thinking (deductive and inductive logical thinking that utilizes quantitative methodologies to arrive at conclusions) and intuitive thinking (knowing without reasoning) (Prototypr, 2018). Throughout our business venture, we followed the below process to help us in bringing an idea to the market that was not only innovative but could also cater to a true need.
Adapted from Plattner, 2010
As a group, we each contributed 2 ideas which we would analyse and reframe where necessary and settle for the one that we would all agree on. Our ideas ranged from health apps, mobile virtual bodyguard, recipe app for students by students to a wireless charging backpack which we all unanimously agreed on as we all experienced the frustration that came with getting into our university lecture rooms only to find all the seats with power sockets are taken which meant all your devices discharge halfway through the class. This was the empathy stage of our process (EMPATHIZE), in order to (DEFINE) our chosen idea, we had to relate as to whether a discharged battery was more frustrating when in class or while carrying out day to day activities e.g. while in transit and all airport sockets are not compatible with your charger or after a wild night out and you try to call an uber and your phone is discharged due to the 100 selfies you took.
Defining our various scenarios made this more relatable and more valid and hence we were able to (IDEATE) how we could solve the problem in the various instances as a backpack could be regarded as too bulky for a night out and having cables and a power bank in small purse means little space for all other essentials. Using body storming and customer feedback, we decided to go for a stylish mini bag that would not only be a fashion item but also have a technology that charges your phone wirelessly while being fairly portable. We were able to then build our first (PROTOTYPE) as seen in figure A1 and A2, and then later was able to (TEST) using our second prototype (B1 and B2) and first minimum viable product (C), making all necessary adjustments based on customer feedback. This was in line with the lean startup methodology that follows a process of interacting with customers (e.g. body mapping) and gaining customer feedback in all aspects of the business model and following an agile method where you produce an MVP, gain feedback and make necessary adjustments till it is accepted by the customer (Ries, 2011) and hence what we did. However, due to the time constraints, we had to conclude our business in the Experiment stage as we did not get to the point where it would be readily acceptable by our customer at the price that we had set.
Adapted from Ries, 2011
Does Team Work Really Make the Dream Work?
Working on this project as part of a team was challenging, having people from different backgrounds and with different views, however, it has not only taught me patience but also allowed me to value other people opinion and realize that it’s not always going to be my way or the high way. I have had to deal with conflicts and sometimes had to compromise what I believed was right as a way to avoid discrepancies. I have also learnt the importance of having a mix of skills to balance off each other as opposed to having similar skills from people with big personalities. In our case, I believe we might have had too many cooks in the kitchen and hence that contributed to our substandard communication and conflicts that would have been easily avoided or solved. Moving forward, I would love to collaborate with each one of my team members, in order to get advice on projects and vice versa.
Adapted from Tuckman, 1965
Experimental Visits and the Design Museum
One aspect I believe I will hold on to from this course is the amazing opportunities we had such as the Bright Ideas competition that allowed us to interact with various mentors, business investors and just advisors that are experienced and keen to just listen to our ideas and provide feedback where possible while also build on our idea from drawing up the business model canvas to delivering a 3 minute pitch and a 30 seconds elevator pitch which not only built on my confidence as a budding entrepreneur but also gave me access to networks that I would not have gained on my own as I believe your network is truly your net worth.
Most importantly the various experimental visits we did, like the Design Museum where we got the ability to see an idea or concept from three different perspectives; The Designer, The maker and The user and evaluating how all three perspectives depend on each other and how they can be used interchangeably. For instance, how, the user can influence what is to be designed and how the designer needs to have the maker in mind in order to ensure practicality or simply how the maker needs to understand the designer’s vision during the creation of the product or service. This further shows how different skill sets are dependent on each other in order to achieve a common goal.
Despite coming to the end of this course, as emotional as it might be, I believe I have not yet reached the finish line. However, I have a clearer picture of what to expect once I cross it and certainly know which paths to take to get there, one baby step at a time. All the processes I have learnt, people I have met and wind and losses I have experienced have made me a better entrepreneur and I am ready to launch my Bespoke women’s suit clothing line in September 2019 followed by an Youth Entrepreneurship Programme in Malawi that will inspire young entrepreneurs like myself so know what opportunities are out there for them, the aspects of design thinking, how to finance their startup and various other tools that I have learnt as a way of growing the currently non-existent entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be and can certainly say I have been Reframed and Rebranded.
Dorst, K. (2011). The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application. Design studies, 32(6), pp.521-532.
D.school Stanford (no date) Design Thinking Process. Available at: https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf?sessionID=1b6a96f1e2a50a3b1b7c3f09e58c40a062d7d553(Accessed: 22 April 2019).
Fast Company. (2013). How Reframing A Problem Unlocks Innovation. [online] Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/1672354/how-reframing-a-problem-unlocks-innovation [Accessed 22 Apr. 2019].
Inc.com. (2018). Why Your Team Is More Important Than Your Business Strategy. [online] Available at: https://www.inc.com/robert-glazer/why-your-team-is-more-important-than-your-business-strategy.html [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
McMillan, S. (n.d.). Team Work. [online] Web.utk.edu. Available at: http://web.utk.edu/~rhovland/adv450teamwork.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2019].
Oppong, T. (2014). Don’t Just Start a Business, Solve A Problem. [online] Entrepreneur. Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236522 [Accessed 22 Apr. 2019].
Osterwalder, A. et al (2012). Value Proposition Design. Wiley & Sons. Available at:http://www.peterjthomson.com/2013/11/value-proposition-canvas/ (Accessed: 21 April 2019).
Prototypr. (2018). Design Thinking as Creative Problem Solving: Reframing Problems by Abductive Reasoning. [online] Available at: https://blog.prototypr.io/design-thinking-as-creative-problem-solving-reframing-problems-by-abductive-reasoning-85e5842eafe6 [Accessed 21 Apr. 2019].
Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Business.Portfolio Penguin, London.
Stfalcon.com. (2016). When to pivot your startup?. [online] Available at: https://stfalcon.com/en/blog/post/when-to-pivot-your-startup [Accessed 19 Apr. 2019].
Tanner, R. (2019). Reframing for Innovative and Creative Problem Solving. [online] Management is a Journey®. Available at: https://managementisajourney.com/reframing-for-innovative-and-creative-problem-solving/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2019].