Hyunmi’s reflective essay: Theory and Reality

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.

  1. 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

2-1 bodystorming

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.

2-2 Brainstorm

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.

2-3 prototyping

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.

design thinking process

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)

business canvas

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.



ABC, 13th July 1999, the Nightline: the Deep Dive with IDEO, website https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M66ZU2PCIcM

Christensen, C, Hall, T, Dillon, K, & Duncan, D (2016), ‘Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”. (cover story)’, Harvard Business Review, 94, 9, pp. 54-

CBInsight, The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail

Dorst, K. (2011). The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application

D.school, An introduction to design thinking process guide

D.school, Bodystorming, available at https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/48c54/Bodystorming.html

Eric Ries, 2011, The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses

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

OpenIDEO Blog, 2013, Tips and Tricks to Run an Effective Prototype, Website: https://challenges.openideo.com/blog/testing-prototyping-tips

Osterwalder, Alexander, et al.(2014). Value Proposition Design, John Wiley & Sons.

Osterwalder, Alexander, et al.(2010), Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Startup Genome, 2017, Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017

Tom Kelley and David Kelley, 2014, Creative Confidence published by William Collins


Don’t forget to Go and Talk to people: Collaboration

For me, the whole journey was about collaboration. MyDrawer is in collaboration with many art students in Kingson. We advised just to go and talk to people. When I worked on ShareShare idea, problem-solving social platform, I deliberately came up some issues which normally students went through. I couldn’t this time because we did not have much time. However, a miracle happened when I did not intend. Here’s the thing. When I visited dormitory of my friend, Grace and it has been a long time after we met because of many assignments. We were in the kitchen and I met Ching, illustration students. I saw her portfolio and I talked about MyDrawer. She really liked it and she said she was willing to paint for the project. After that, when I meet art students, I could ask actively to collaborate with us.


So I went Knights Park to put a poster looking for collaboration and there I met many illustration students. They liked our product because of the fact that they can express their ability. I thought I found right partners. I saw some of them drawing at the library until midnight. While dealing with many projects got from their module, they gave precious time and share their talents.






This is an amazing and valuable experience for me! They put their collaboration work at their social media and I found this is much influential than our account. Their work was exposed to many followers and got a good response. In this process, I experienced a way to communicate with customers and brought their ability to the product.


She exposed MyDrawer account 🙂




In terms of making prototype, Yun’s friend, Chloe made for us, however, she was extremely busy at that time. If I were fighting with this problem, I needed to give one piece to each art students then they would use structures of MyDrawer.


As a result, I felt grateful for students who gave me hands on this process and power of collaboration.

Collaboration makes it happen! I will talk and go directly again! And I keep that in mind I got help from others without giving anything, I would be willing to help others when they ask.

Thank you all of you! I won’t forget you, creators!





Don’t forget audience

For me, pitching is so difficult.

Whenever we had to move to next stages, we’ve been struggling with barriers such as lack of resources and experience. Sometimes we were frustrated, however, we did not stop to step forward and overcame hurdles and eventually got there

Above is what I wrote at ‘global song’s business report

However, we were frustrated with pitching. Firstly I was not confident in speaking English and public speaking. It was like a big hurdle. We only two people and then there were many portions that I have to cover. At the beginning of pitching, I was really panicked I did not know what I am talking about. The only solution to this phobia is to practice. I know but I think it was not enough and I did not in the classroom.

Another thing is about the judge. When we did at first pitch and we thought they are not going to understand this product ever.  I had no energy to fight with this problem however, Janja gave some advice to consider the audience. Most of the judges were old aged male. They looked do not understand at all. Our target group is too narrow and it’s difficult to draw judge’s attention. Actually, Janja mentioned this before saying that “think about children” at the mock dragon’s den but I did not understand at that time. I did not think who is the audience. So we changed our tactic to focus on children anyone who can be interested in. Plus, Clare also helped us. She brought me another classroom and she pointed out that I needed to speak up otherwise speaking delivery is getting low.

business canvas

We fixed customer part from 2~30 people to young students and parents. After revising Business Canvas Model, we found some confidence and we think we were more persuasive than before.


The one thing I was sorry is that I did not think about storytelling. I did not get used to this at all, however, to give an impression I need to deliver a story instead of just explaining. And practice practice practice. Don’t forget the audience!



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

Don’t forget Value Proposition Canvas

We were told that our value proposition is not clear. I wrote in the previous blog. We cannot lose two good things: tools which help manage papers and can customize. So as we advised, we decided to work on value proposition again. We reviewed the book, Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. The Value Proposition Canvas helps us see the details of ‘value proposition’ and ‘customer segment’ in the Business Model Canvas. ‘Value Proposition Canvas’ consists of Customer Profile and Value Map. “In terms of ‘Customer Profile’, it helps to break down customers segment:  what they Gain, Customer job, Pains related to their job. At the gain of the profile, we need to describe the outcomes customers want to achieve or the concrete benefits they are seeking. “(Value Proposition Design) Through mapping value proposition, we can match our product with customer’s pain.



In this era, creativity is currency and it’s not only for the Creative Industries. Jack Ma: He warned if education is not changed we are going to be in trouble at Davos(2018). He said, “Everything we teach should be different from machines.” And to achieve this, he suggested teaching creative activity such as painting. As above, we also believe in the power of creativity to tackle serious problems our planet has faced. So we want to do something to support to nurture creativity and show people talents. Plus, this will help to relieve people’s stress.

So we stick to this value proposition. For entrepreneurs, breaking down their value proposition in detail is inevitable. This is because it can reduce time to make various decision in terms of branding, promotion and so on.

“Avoid wasting time with ideas that won’t work. Relentlessly test the most important hypothesis underlying your business ideas in order to reduce the risk of failure. This will allow you to pursue big bold ideas without having to break the bank. Your processes to shape new ideas will be fit for the task and complement your existing processes that help you run your business.”(Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want)

So, don’t forget to review this canvas!




Osterwalder, Alexander, et al.(2014). Value Proposition Design, John Wiley & Sons.

World Economic Forum(2018), Meet the Leader with Jack Ma available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zzVjonyHcQ

Don’t forget consistency.

After getting the mission to create promotion video, I was panicked. We were not sure we could make it. Because I had to go Korea during Reading week and Yun had to go Milan a week after reading week. So we didn’t have much time to do. However, we made it for 1 day. The problem is a concept but we decided to show problems of previous products in the market and benefit of our products. This was because we talked with potential customers who attracted various advantages of our product. At first, we came up with some movie scale idea, however, we faced limitation soon. Yun was a great great actor!! We focused on showing a changed life of a customer who is satisfied with our product in terms of managing papers, waterproof, transformation and painting and stress-reliever sides. ( Now I got that this is too much) I filmed with my cell phone. To make a video, I had to search how to do it on the Internet. There were many reviews so I could make a short clip by using free editing video software. I used a copyright free music provided by YouTube and put subtitles to deliver messages clear.


As a result, messages were too much in that. Alice gave feedback focus one point is much easier to communicate with customers. It contained too many information in terms of customizing side. Riddhmar told emphasizing the product at the beginning would be much better and Anthony mentioned in the ending, put some information for customers to drive customer actions such as where to buy this product.

From Alice’s feedback, I realized I did not consider consistency regarding our business model. So we sent a confusing message via promotion video. After I thought commercial advertisement which normally repeats their product name over and over again to make viewer remember it, I found that delivering only one message is still difficult and we had better focus on our target customer. In the future, I will keep this lesson! Don’t forget consistency! We need to decide based on ‘business model’ Do not arbitrarily!

Don’t forget to ask early  


At first trade fair, I think we learned a lot on that day. It was the first day to meet customer and we learned from visitors. We had only one prototype. We prepared in order to communicate with potential customers as much as possible since we had made it late and we didn’t get any feedback from others. So we installed trial zone because the material is important to understand our product. And we asked visitors to get feedback with surveys. Through surveys, we found some clues. Firstly, it’s about pricing. Actually, we were struggling with pricing. So we wanted to find how much customers are willing to pay. They answered between 6~7 pounds mostly. So we can have the answer about the price of MyDrawer after this survey.


survey result


Secondly, we found that MyDrawer has a lot of advantages and customers attract different points. We set a target customer who is interested in Creative Industries so we emphasize the point that customer can personalize with our product. However, some of them like the sustainability the material has. Few liked its function and at that time we also did not know its strength that much. So Through the conversation with potential customers, we could understand our product’s strengths well. (However, this became the reason we lost the concept later in terms of promotion later. I will reveal it next blog) But Janja questioned why she bought this item and we got advise to fix value proposition. From this, we had to examine whether our product is enough to sell.


Lastly, it was empowering moment. We met some art students who liked our product. Our collaborators visited our stance. Especially, Sumi-Kim, added idea when making the product name, really liked our product after tried the materials. Then she promoted our stance to her flatmates so we had many customers. I appreciated her!


Sumi-Kim testing our product


From this event, the meaningful learning was that entrepreneur needs to meet customers often to get feedback. Otherwise, it will be far away from the needs of people and ignored by customers. Plus, I learned to sell the product among many items, an entrepreneur needs to have a compelling value proposition. I think that we could not pick one advantage of our product to sell at that time and that’s why our selling pitching might be less persuasive.  So, don’t forget to ask early!

Don’t forget 7 days


Just 1 week before the fair, we could have a baby in our hands but we don’t have much time. We divided our task. Yun took a pricing part and prototypes for the Fair because his girlfriend has a sewing machine and skills. Regarding a brand name, I came up with ‘Draw-er’ which contains 2 meaning with literally a drawer preserving items and people who can paint. Still, it wasn’t enough. Sumi, an art student suggested adding ‘My’ so the name was made finally. Our new baby finally has the name, ‘My drawer’.


Fortunately, materials we ordered via Amazon arrived on Monday so Yun could start to make a prototype for the fair. Thank you for the Prime Amazon! However, the pen did not come eariler.


I wanted to hold a private meeting to collaborate with art students, my friends. I asked them to come to my house to explain our product and make them try on them However, they were all busy and said they were available during weekends not that day so our luck was over. Collaboration project is delayed.


Luckily, 2 days before, I met the New World, Canva.com which allows people to make any designs by using their templates! Cellina gave a lecture about tools to make prototypes and deliverables for contests. I was into it! This tool was so useful for people without design skills just like me. I opened the twitter account to communicate with customers!





Yun and I gathered and rehearsed the display in Penryn Campus. I prepared a survey with Surveymonkey.com because we didn’t meet any customer. We prepared promotion slides (made with Canva.com), an experience zone to test the material. I saw some flyers on the desk so I decided to make a flyer for customers. Yun brought a nice prototype. We were satisfied with it because we don’t have much time. Working on this, I overcame the grief that I couldn’t raise our first idea and felt so released! I appreciated Yun to bring a nice idea again.


rehearse trade fair 



From 7 days, we worked very hard. We tried to prepare and do what we can as much as possible. Most of them that we planned was accomplished, however, there is something not happening such as delivery and collaboration. In terms of the delivery, Tyvek was delivered on time, however, the pen was not so we couldn’t ask art students at that time. We asked so late and everyone had own schedule so it couldn’t make it. Our situation was emergency but there are some lessons from this experience. I will keep that in mind that make schedule carefully and act early because there is what I cannot control, especially when it comes to need to be done by others.