I am here to learn to know how to support start-up in their side not policy maker’s eyes since I was responsible for a boosting tourism start-up projects in Seoul Metropolitan Government. The projects was done for start-ups which have went through over 3 years because we wanted to implement new services or product for tourists. I think at least over half of them were well proceeded, however, some of them has issues such as not targeted and worst thing was when they did not have any will or capacity to proceed project they proposed. At that time, tourist’s behavior and tastes are changing and personalizing, however, the government cannot follow all various needs of tourists from all over the world. So, we supported Tourism Start-up financially in order to meet very different tourist’s needs. As a result, I learned I think it was basically difficult mission, however, I believe my understanding for business, especially of Start-up is much increased for almost 8 months at Kingston. During welcome week, we were supposed to suggest a solution to make students more creative and playful plan for university as and innovation agency, ‘Whatif’. It was too intensive, we had to go outside and questioning people who I did never talk to. And set a customer demographic and brainstorm ideas and have to make a prototype and pitch it. It was so challenging time for me. However, it turned out just a beginning. I learned theories and tools. Also, I experienced to open business and I felt the gap between theory and reality. In this essay, I would like to explain the Theory and tools I learned and lessons from Practice.
- Design Thinking
Design Thinking is our basic line, starting point. Then, what is Design Thinking? I think Design thinking is a problem-solving tool with the human-centered view. I think that it can be applied to business as well as public policy when it comes to considering people’s need. Today, environment is changing rapidly and market is full of competitive and uncertainty. Problems are getting difficult to solve. I believe that Design thinking can provide a different, relevant approach to see the problems and find solutions.
As far as I understand, this approach is similar to that of designers to create something. According to Dorst, Design Thinking is a process to find solutions: what & how about open question. It can be like exploring the vast, unknown and no-answer universe by forming circumstances deliberately. In order to work those ways, Lawson and Dorst stated that there are 5 core design activities: formulating, representing, moving, evaluating and managing (Lawson & Dorst 2009, cited in Alice Comi’s deck).
Dorst described this process that “they are exploring the broader problem situation, gathering clues that can lead to the emergence of themes.” (Kees Dorst, 2011) Also, this undetermined and unlimited process is explained like this ‘Design projects are hard to plan and control, because they are a mix of a fairly linear problem solving process and an iterative learning process that is driven by the reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action’ (see Valkenburg et al. 1998 cited in Alice Comi’s deck).
This can be understood with Activity theory which was developed from Vygotsky who made concept ‘mediation’ between Subject and Object. This theory provides a framework which we can consider people’s action as well as knowledge, language, custom and materials in the respect of relation and interdependence. In the below triangle, all factors are associated and inter-related and I think the most important concept is ‘Contradiction’. According to Engestrom’ theory, Contradiction can lead to innovation and develop the system of activity. This view is related to that of ‘Job to be done’ “Jobs are never simply about function — they have powerful social and emotional dimensions.” From this view, I think we are required to think phenomenon or human activity as a result of interdependent actions with holistic perspective. In doing so, I believe we can tackle problems with proper tools and lead to the big and fundamental change. This understanding is useful to me as a public officer to solve problems or initiate new policies and programs because otherwise, it can be happened that fragmentary approach often fails to deal with problems.
2 Design thinking Tools – bodystorming, brainstorming, prototyping
To discover problems and user’s unspecific needs, we learned some techniques: observation, Role playing, brainstorm, Bodystorm, persona and so on. For me, the most impressive and unique method was bodystorming. It is literally testing with body physically. It can be used in empathy work, ideation and prototyping. I think it provides physical context and make our idea or approach much more clear and specific. We wandered sitting on the chair and we could see the many obstacles and felt desperation deeply as wheel chair users. I think among different tactics, this is the most helpful way to put myself in user’s shoes.
Through IDEO Shopping CART Video, I learned how idea come easily and people are willing to add great idea. In the process, they observed how people use the shopping cart in the market and listened to people related to the shopping cart from the customers to the employees. The most interesting point was diversity of members. Even though they don’t have expertise in shopping cart, they made it. Secondly, I love the climate of team. It was friendly and free to be able to talk anything. No judging and negative criticism. I just felt positive atmosphere and collaborative culture. Decision-making process was democratic by putting post-its. Lastly, they communicate with tangible prototype like a drawing. Through this, I learned visualizing idea is essential to exchange opinion and develop together.
I think prototyping is one of the most important tools for start-up when it comes to narrowing the gap between realities by getting user’s feedback. Tom and David Kelly advise ‘prototyping is the low-cost experiments’ to decrease possibilities of failure in their book, Creative Confidence. D.school guide says that ‘A prototype can be anything that a user can interact with – be it a wall of post-it notes, a gadget you put together, a role-playing activity, or even a storyboard’ However, the prototype should meet needs of users by equipping main ideas and its virtue. Eric Ries mentioned ‘Minimum Viable Product’ to ‘test fundamental business hypotheses’. In order to make prototype effectively, according to IDEO, firstly we need to create experience map and define questions what to prototype. Then to get feedback from potential end users and focus on user experience and encourage open conversation with users instead of suggesting presentation. Last tip is to build on feedback. This means that based on feedback we need to improve and this stage should be repeated continuously. (OpenIDEO Blog)
3. Practice. The gap between Theories with Global Song’s practice.
While we leaned theories and tools, we jumped into the start-up world where 9 of 10 start-ups (ideas) failed. However, we armed ourselves with design thinking mindset. As a matter of fact, I were struggling with all stages. Having experienced, I now feel it could be normal. To make products or service for users is not easy, especially for start-up which do not have much resources, funds and experience. So, I would like to share my experience in terms of Business Model canvas, Pivoting, pitching.
3.1 Problem-Idea-Product: Make a Business Model Canvas
My team, Global Song’s team members were Rachel, Mo, Yun and me. However a week after Mo disappeared without any talks but it was okay at that time. To build a business, we were supposed to focus on problems at first. At that time, I was so passionate and whenever met people I talked about networking issue. They liked my story and in this process, we found many of their concerns can be solved by bringing them together. From this experience, ShareShare was born as a social network platform to communicate and solve problems as international students. At this stage, we tried to engage with users, students like me. We were looking for problems around us. We followed ‘Empathy’ stage of D.school’s Deign thinking Guide. According to D.School, “core-principle of design thinking is engaging with real people – particularly the users and customers of your work. Deep understanding of your users leads to new perspectives which, in turn, spawn novel solutions.”(Understand mixtape) D.school emphasize to “engage with users in order to uncover needs that people have which they may or may not be aware of. Also this can guide innovation efforts, identify the right users to design for and Discover the emotions that guide behaviors.”(Understand mixtape) For me, ‘empathy’ is meaningful and valuable lesson because I believe this approach can provide relevant and meaningful solutions to people.
So, based on interview with friends, we decided ShareShare’s core area depending on top needs of students: entertainment, living, study. ShareShare project started. At mock dragon’s day, we tried to talk from the heart and this was because we had empathy and same feeling with students. We finished first pitch, however, it cannot be launched because we lost key resources, Rachel who has computing skills to make a platform.
To prevent this situation, start-up needs to build a solid Business Model by using Business Model Canvas. This can tell business’s whole process and asset at first sight. For us, according to Business Model Canvas, which consists of 9 blocks: Value Proposition, Customer Segments, Channels, Customer Relationships, Revenue Streams, Key resources, Key Partners, Key Activities, Cost Structure, it was impossible idea to articulate after Rachel dropped the course due to health issue. In this case, start-up can not react easily at this situation because of limited resources. In this respect, do not forget to maintain key resources and review present risks and make backup plans. Likewise, Business Model Canvas gives information about customers, products/services, infrastructure and finance. This can provide a frame to evaluate business’s capabilities whether have key resources or can accomplish key activities. As a start-up, I believe that making business model canvas is required in advance launching new product. If we were adhere to ShareShare project, we would be broke. Again, make sure to build clear and solid business strategy based on business model canvas.
3.2 Pivoting when necessary
According to CBnight, “Not pivoting away or quickly enough from a bad product, a bad hire or a bad decision” is analyzed as a reason for failure in 7% after destruction of startup business. From the very beginning, we advised that do not have attachment your idea, however, even though we understand we cannot make it because of loss of Rachel. We did not move quickly and spent winter break without pivoting unlike team One minute. After they got critics that initial business model was a bit vague at mock dragons, they started to pivoting right after. However, I and Yun pivoted just a week before Trade fair. I think it’s simply because I was afraid of the change or taking new idea. From this experience, I now understand that timing is very important, especially for start-ups. Furthermore, we need to challenge our idea to develop and meet customer needs. This is because it is dangerous to put money and resources in bad ideas then they cannot pivot when they want to because time is too late and they are not capable of any more.
3.3 Pitching and again Design thinking! Think people!
Our new product, MyDrawer can be personalized smart file holder. This is made in collaboration with art students in Kingston. In the process, they were willing to help me and liked our product. We were confident with our product. However, we were struggle with pitching because of language barriers and unfavourable judges. They did not seem to understand our product at all. I lost energy fight with that. However I miss one principle to persuade judges at pitching. Remember who your audience is! Most of the judges were old aged male. Our target group was art students and there are a big gap between them. However, I did not consider it. After Janja mentioned that “think about children” at the mock dragon’s den and gave advice at the class, we changed our tactics to expand our customer group to be able to scale up by focusing on children anyone who can be interested in without changing any of our product. Now I felt our story sounds more convincing and persuasive to anyone. So, do not forget to the audience! Pitching is highly important to get funding to commercialize idea. So we need to remember who audience is. I am not comfortable with public speaking, however, as a public officer to persuade people, I need to accept this weakness and develop further. Tips is considering listeners and practice! practice! practice! Practice only would alleviate my nerve.(Guardian)
From this journey, I have learned a lot of tools and knowledge how to see problems and how to make solutions from idea. In addition to this, I experienced building a business and in this process, I fully understand the limitation of start-up and advantages of it. If I would take a same role to boost tourism start-ups after go back to Korea, I might have reviewed their business model carefully and to meet the needs I want to support a testing program iteratively especially. However, the most important learning is that I have confidence to explore solutions to any difficult problems. This means public administration also has faced different and difficult problems to deal with. I believe that Design thinking will help me to lead much more relevant and effective solutions through human-centered and citizen-centered thinking.
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Guardian(2015) Master your nerves: four steps to delivering a great business pitch available at: https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2015/jul/07/master-nerves-four-steps-delivering-great-business-pitch
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