Feeds:
Posts
Comments

MACE Assignment

An individual report (c. 3,000 words) comprising two sections:

Section 1:  A critical evaluation of the extent to which the student’s creative and entrepreneurial management behaviours, skills and attributes were developed by the experience of setting-up, running and closing down the enterprise.  This will be based on evidence from individual blog entries throughout the Programme (50%) 

Section 2:  An assessment, applying the GROW model, of how these behaviours, skills and attributes will help the student to achieve their longer-term career goals (50%) Think of this as the story of your time in MACE and a description of what you want to do post-MACE, by highlighting your best blog entries that cover the four topics of Goals Reality Obstacles/Options and Way Forward. 3,000 words. Any images must be included in the appendix. 10 citations must also be included. Have fun with this and post it on your blog and print it out.

Table of Contents

 

Section 1

Introduction: Page 3

Changing the Way I Think: 4

Working as Part of a Team: Pages 5-6

New Skills Acquired: Pages 7-8

Section 2

Introduction: Page 9

Goals and Realities: Page 10

Problems, Opportunities and What Next: Pages 11-12

Bibliography: Page 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 1

Introduction

Looking back on my time in the MACE program and over my blog entries I realise not only how much I feel I have learnt over the duration of the course but also how little I knew about some aspects of business practise beforehand. My previously held assumptions about running a business and the nature of creativity were broken down and then reassembled. Initially I was slightly reluctant to embrace new ideas, primarily because I was out of my comfort zone but having bought into the ideas and processes I feel that I gained a lot from the experience. From prototyping to sales and working as part of a team to doing individual activities such as preparing financial statements I have certainly had my horizons broadened. During this section I am going to reflect on three areas with reference to my blog: learning to think in a new manner, coupling working as part of a team with individual responsibilities and the new skills that I have acquired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing the way I Think

I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical after the first couple of lectures and I felt slightly unsure about what it was we were trying to achieve. I was being asked to think about things in a way that I had not before and it felt a bit illogical. Coming into the course from a very process driven job, (financial services recruitment), it felt bizarre thinking about things in this leftfield way. For example when we had to break down the act of brushing our teeth I wrote that it felt “a little bit like therapy” and that “I was slightly uncomfortable having to put my emotive thoughts on paper.” I know that I was not the only one who was having to address the way we were breaking things down as AC had written in her blog, “never have I thought about understanding physical empathy by literally looking at the world through the eyes of another” (Groenkjaer, 2009). By breaking a product or service down into its individual parts and its function I was able to start to dismantle the conceptions that I held and I was able to look at things in an entirely new light. In my blog I had written that “the way to do this appears to be to start from scratch; address why the object exists in the first place.” This type of thinking was to prove invaluable as the business was to progress.

Throughout the experience we had to essentially start again with the only constant being why we existed in the first place, the very nature of our business. From the start we were taught that the first idea that we had was almost certainly not going to our best and that it was alright to make mistakes so long as that when we failed we recognized our mistakes and did not insist on pursuing them (Sosa, 2005). I had to adapt my thoughts not only on product or service development but also on the hierarchical structure under which businesses operate. In the past I have worked in companies that have a clear management structure with a clear chain of command and I thought that this was the way that we would operate. Having clearly defined our roles it was noticeable that there was no one individual who was going to be in a position of power and initially I felt that this flat structure might hold up decision making and delay our progress. However I quickly learnt that as long as trust exists between the members of the group that a chain of command is unnecessary and can be a barrier to individual creativity that in turn benefits the company as a whole.

Working as Part of a Team  

 When first put into teams there was a limited amount that we knew about each other both in terms of personality and areas of specialism. I think that we were lucky that it turned out that we all got on remarkably well and there was very little disagreement, at least that I was aware of. On reflection we all came from relatively similar backgrounds and we had nobody with a specific product design background which shaped our decisions on becoming a service based company. Furthermore after the “speed dating” event I felt that we ended picking each other on personality as much as on us occupying the three segments of the usability, feasibility, viability model. This meant that we therefore had to acquire new skills in some instances, with Alice learning a huge amount about web design and technical IT skills and in my case learning all about a company’s finances.

 From the outset we quickly established what our roles would be and I was to be responsible not only for the company’s accountancy but also collaborating with AC, our Marketing and Advertising Director on sales. However a large portion of the work we did was a collaborative effort during the weekly 4 hours of meetings that we undertook. During these periods all key decisions would be made and we were given the opportunity to present to the others what we had done and to determine what we would try and achieve over the coming week. Back in October I wrote of our differences but at the same time noted that up to that point“that the majority of what we have done is of a shared viewpoint.” Luckily this shared vision was to hold over the coming months. I have reflected on whether as individuals we should have been less compliant with each other’s views in order to create more debate about our direction and the service that it was offering but I believe this would have led us down a dangerous path. Given the relatively limited amount of time we spent in each other’s company being receptive to the views of others even if at times it meant disregarding my own opinions was for the greater good and it kept the process from stagnating. Reflecting on the “Feasibility, Viability, Usability” Venn diagram it did not make sense for me to spend valuable time contesting aspects of the design when this part of the business did not fall under my remit. Likewise if I had told my colleagues that something was not viable economically I would not have expected them to then dispute this with me as they were not looking after the finances. That said there was always an open dialogue between ourselves and everyone was encouraged to speak up regardless of how silly some of the ideas we came up with were (Tischler, 2001).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Skills Acquired

My experience of compiling financial statements and looking after a company’s funds had been at best theoretical having done a business studies A Level several years ago, so it was certainly a learning experience being responsible for this aspect of the business. It certainly helped having templates to follow and the sessions on finances were useful but up until actually finishing the financial statements I was sure that we had done better than we had. I had not factored into the equation just how much of a chunk VAT would take out of our revenue despite having drawn up projections of how much I thought we would earn. I also learnt just how in depth we had to go when it came to costing what we would spend and if we had been even more accurate it would have hurt our margins more. For example if we had included things such as business related phone calls, ingredients that we already owned already which we used in our videos and some business related travel then our costs would have escalated. Going forward into future business projects I will certainly factor in these smaller expenses which on their own do not amount to much but added together are significant.

I have also become far more aware of the importance that technology and new media play in conducting business. As a self confessed technophobe I was sceptical about how much of a role the likes of Twitter, Facebook and the like would have on how we would run the business but I now recognize the role that they play. Although I was not personally involved with much of the technical side of the business I at least gained a decent understanding of what it was about and went from being a cynic to an ardent supporter. I also had to learn to become the member of the team who had to say no. The others were coming up with some great creative ideas for example looking to hand out promotional materials on a CD or USB stick to the local restaurants to try and attract advertisers. My role was to do the costing for this and then weigh up whether the risk was worth it and I had to be prepared to say no. I think that as a team we were fairly risk averse so it was not too problematic but it was certainly a useful attribute to learn as frankly most of the time when caught up in the excitement of a new idea my gut was telling me to go with it. This whole venture was about producing something creative and I felt at times that my role had the least to do with this aspect in the team. However there are different ways of looking at the creative process and as Alice has written in her blog, “working within a particular industry or environment does not make you a ‘creative person’, but the way in which you apply your knowledge, your experience, and your practical skills, does” (Vaughan, 2010).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 2

Introduction

The main thing that I can take out of the MACE course is that if I were to set up a business within the next five to ten years it would no longer be a leap into the unknown. I have an understanding now of the processes which I would need to follow and I would have the confidence to do it. Instead of looking for an excuse not to start I would now just press on with things and treat the start of any project as part of its development rather than holding back on a launch (Ito, 2010). Other than this I have learnt the need for cooperation and teamwork. I certainly do not have all the necessary skills to start a business on my own but by collaborating with a diverse group with different technical backgrounds I know I can set up a business. Prior to this course I would have sought out like minded people with a similar background to my own but I now know that I need to work with people who can bring something new to the table instead of telling me what I already know. Although on my own I did come up with interesting discoveries and ideas I found that the most progress was made when it came to our group meetings. The breakthroughs would come not when one of us presented an idea but when we discussed it and built on it (Lehrer, 2009).   By using the GROW model to asses my time in MACE and my future aspirations, in this section I am going to look at how the course has shaped my outlook on business within the creative industries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goals and Realities

In terms of the goals that we set ourselves at the start of the course I feel that we fell short but these aims were set on a wave of optimism at the start of the year. So as it finished we did not gain a profit of thousands but none the less we did make an operating profit of £46.67 and we made a substantial number of sales. And the goals that I set myself at the start were definitely not exclusively monetary. I certainly feel that I developed a lot of the softer skills that are required in business and these are attributes that cannot be learnt from a text book but instead that can only acquired from going through the practical experience of working in a team. These skills such as listening, observation, negotiation and empathy are learnt through practise and are highlighted in a recent report by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Hey, 2007). The realities of our final business model were certainly far removed from our first idea which was to have a tangible magazine with revenue being gained through advertising. As it was we shifted to an experience based company having failed to attract the collaboration of any of the local restaurants or bars. I initially failed to take into consideration the external economic conditions that this country was going through. I was also unaware of how long the whole sales process would take, especially when dealing with restaurants that were part of a chain. The managers were unable to make a decision without consulting their head office and as it was not a priority for them it took more time than we had. That the process took longer than we had should not have come as a surprise and with hindsight we should have managed our deadlines better. Furthermore and partly due to our inexperience I am not sure that our sales strategy was co-ordinated enough and we should have sought feedback from those companies who turned us down so that we would have stood a better chance with future pitches (McLellan, 2009). By keeping a clear log of where we stood with our clients and by following up in a more structured manner we would have also stood a better chance of securing business. The reality of how we were to generate revenue evolved which actually worked out well for us. Instead of selling advertising space we sold an experience which is a fast growing area of the economy and it gave us the opportunity to charge a significant mark up (AllBusiness, 2000).      

Problems, Opportunities and What Next?

Having already highlighted the issue of time I feel it is also important to raise the issue of sales. Throughout the process we had plenty of businesses showing an interest in advertising with us and then later in collaborating with us on setting up a Temptation but this did not translate into sales and revenue. One of the obstacles to this was that many of the venues we spoke to wanted to see some evidence of our track record and as we were a young business this was not something that we could provide. Especially during an economic downturn the key decision makers in a business want to know that they are going to get their money’s worth and this was something that we could not provide until we had been running for a period of time. Also a lot of the restaurants and bars who target the student market allocate their advertising budgets in September at the start of the educational year and as such when we were approaching them from Christmas to February they had nothing left to offer us despite being enthusiastic about our ideas. However an obstacle can turn into an opportunity and if we had not come up against this we would have not hosted our own event which was the most enjoyable and satisfactory part of the business that we did. By going on our own we were able to control all the variables which had made everything so unpredictable. Therefore we decided the date, the location, the price and what the event would entail and I felt a lot more in control as a result. The one variable that we could not predict was the weather and if it had been dreadful it would have seriously damaged our revenue.

I think that Temptation will continue to function on some level but it will be very different to what it has become in recent months. This is not a problem as we have always had a very flexible business model but it is tricky to predict what exactly the future holds. The biggest variable that we are facing at the moment is our own futures. I do not know whether Jam and AC are even going to be in the country next year and I am fairly certain that Alice and I will not be living Kingston and none of us will be students. This will make it a lot trickier to still be Kingston’s only student food magazine as we will not have the same relationship with the student population or the area. However the website is certainly something that I intend to continue with but this would be more as a hobby rather than as a business as I am still unsure as to how we can generate revenue from it. The website will also probably have to change dramatically, possibly catering for young professionals living in London although this would obviously need to be discussed. The entire experience however has been a perpetual evolution with Jam remarking in her blog that throughout the process “change is the only constant,” so who is to say that we cannot continue to adapt (Alalami, 2010).  In terms of my professional future I am currently uncertain but I think in the short term I will be working in either a gallery or a museum and in the medium term I would like to part own and be involved in the running of a gallery. The MACE course probably is not that relevant to my immediate future but in the longer term I am certain that it will be useful and it will give me the confidence that I need to take the leap of faith required to set up my own company.

Bibliography

Alalami, J. (2010, March 16). Welcome to the Real World; It’s not always pretty! Retrieved May 13, 2010, from Jam’s Blog: http://blogthejam.wordpress.com/

AllBusiness. (2000, November 13). The dream society and experience economy. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from Growth Strategies: http://www.allbusiness.com/specialty-businesses/1144934-1.html

Groenkjaer, A. (2009, October 24). Looking at the Cieling. Retrieved May 13, 2010, from Anna-Cathrine’s Blog: http://groenkjaer.wordpress.com/page/2/

Hey, J. V. (2007, July). Self-Reflection: Lessons Learned in a New Product Development Class. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from ASME Digital Library: http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=JMDEDB000129000007000668000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes&ref=no

Ito, J. (2010, February 9). metacool Thought of the Day. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from Metacool: http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2010/02/metacool-thought-of-the-day.html

Lehre, J. (2009, December 21). Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from Wired.com: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/fail_accept_defeat/3/

McLellan, D. (2009, December 19). McLellan Marketing Group. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from Drew’s Marketing Minute: http://www.drewsmarketingminute.com/2009/11/what-are-your-sales-mistakes-costing-you.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheMarketingMinute+%28The+Marketing+Minute%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Sosa, M. &. (2005, August 1). Fail Early, and Fail Often – IDEO Service Design. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from Managementtoday.com: http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/search/article/548074/fail-early-fail-often-ideo-service-design/

Tischler, L. (2001, February 28). Six Surefire ways to Kill a Brainstorm. Retrieved May 10, 2010, from Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/articles/2001/03/kelley2.html

Vaughan, A. (2010, March 4). Back to my (Grass) Roots…. Retrieved May 13, 2010, from Alice in Bloggerland: http://iamthroughthelookingglass.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

Lights, Camera, Action

The Advert

Making our advert this week was yet another example of how useful it was developing such strong personas for our business at such an early stage. We were able to bring them to life once more to demonstrate the needs that our consumer base faces. So with Jonny, Bing and Megs once more taking centre stage we managed to have an afternoon of playing around with their inabilities to face up to the culinary world whilst being able to use some of the slogans we have created such as “What the F**k is custard”. The advert was split into three short sketches:

1.) Bing’s inability to eat custard with chopsticks

2.) Jonny’s inability to budget beyond his next beer

3.) The lengths Meg will go to in the pursuit of beauty

 By using these characters with whom we are so familiar it made it much easier for us to tap into what message we were trying to get across and the needs we were trying to satisfy. I also liked the fact that it didn’t turn into infomercial and was instead a way of us just being able to have fun with 3 simple ideas. We also made the decision straight away not to use spoken words but instead to use text as this is a tactic that has been successful for us in the past. On top of this it also allows us to use the fonts which we have come to associate with Temptation and as such it helps us to reinforce the brand.

 Other than that this week has spent providing further content for the website (Temptation on Tour) and tomorrow holds a day of speaking to more restaurants. This is something that I have been doing today over the phone but it seems that managers are just as hard to track down over the phone as they are face to face. Finally tomorrow evening we are going to do some more filming of ourselves cooking as according to the Google tracker this has been one of the most popular items. Apart from anything else it’ll be a nice chance for us to sit down and have a meal together with no meeting agenda. Often the best ideas arise in informal settings when we are under no pressure to produce anything tangible and we can instead just focus on having some fun and see what comes of it!

This week with Temptation

This week was time to get back onto the streets of Kingston to get talking to the restaurants who will hopefully provide us with much needed revenue! After a brief team meeting for half an hour, AC and I got out there to pound the streets of Kingston. After a couple of hours we had spoken to a few of the independent restaurants and had some pretty positive feedback. As ever the major hurdle to any immediate result was that the absence of senior management who are going top be the decision makers. That said we managed to speak to some middle management who were upbeat about the prospect of us putting on a night on a Monday or Tuesday when business is traditionally quieter.

I feel that the difference this time was that the restaurants were able to see this venture as a guaranteed source of income. With the advertising there was too much uncertainty as to whether they would get a return on their investment. This time it felt like a collaboration and I think that the benefits to both parties was far more evident. We are in a position now where we have to wait for a couple of days to see if they get back to us and if they haven’t by the end of the week then it will be a case of chasing them up on the phone with a view to securing a meeting with the relevant decision maker.

Following on from our afternoon in the town centre, we met up back at the library to discuss what we had discussed and to see what the plan was going forward. Alice and Jam had spent the afternoon touching up the content and the format of the website so any of the clients we met today should be impressed when logging on. Other than that it was a case of uploading our job descriptions which was a useful chance to reflect on our individual roles.

I also had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with a friend who is currently driving a start-up. I found this both useful and interesting to discuss the various challenges and problems of starting up a new business with somebody outside of MACE. It always helps to get an entirely fresh perspective on an existing project and definitely helped to fire up my excitement for the present semester’s work on Temptation.

Pushing On

 

We have reached the stage with the business where it is time to stop talking and start doing. The website is now up and running, the bank account is set up and more and more people are aware of who we are and what we do. In short all the infrastructure is in place and it’s now time to start generating some revenue.  A good way to do this is going to be to split up the structured meeting time we have into two distinct parts: planning and action. The planning side of things should be fairly straight forward and will need to be split in to two areas:

1.)    Approaching restaurants about both advertising and also hosting evenings. Kingston will be divided into geographical areas which can be approached with our ideas.

2.)    Providing more content for the website and making sure it’s up to date as this is going to be one of the key factors for advertisers when they are making their decisions on whether to invest.  

In order to keep things on track it’s just going to take a little bit of discipline in the face of other deadlines competing for our attention and to make sure that we are all pulling in the same direction.

Presenting to Class

It was good to share with the class our ideas for our business and to hear how everyone else was getting along. It also bought home the magnitude of what we were all hoping to achieve; there’s a lot still to be done. I think the main thing that we took away from our presentation is that we need an effective way to demonstrate to potential advertisers what we are capable of. Although we have had a lot of interest in the idea it is important that we can show them something more which is why we are exploring doing a small edition first up which we can show to advertisers to attract business. On top of this we are launching a website which will be another point of reference for businesses before they hopefully decide to invest in us. Finally we are looking at doing a PDF version on CD which we can hand out to interested stakeholders.

 All of the above are examples of how we can boost the awareness of our brand which will hopefully lead to profit. They are also examples of prototyping. Having set off at a fair pace, last week’s class gave us a chance to take a step back and address the direction we were taking. I think we may have been guilty of concentrating too much on what the consumer of the magazine requires without  taking enough time to consider the needs of the businesses who will actually be financing our venture. Our business won’t work unless we get both sides right so going forward we have agreed to base our decisions around both of their needs.

Prototyping

We returned to a familiar theme this week being asked to look again at prototyping. This started with examining what are product really is and then stripping it down to what functions it performs. For my case this meant that a student food magazine became an information and entertainment service concerning food. When asked to list other things that perform the same function I came up with an initial list of 8 and was then asked to categorize these which I did as:

Written media

Interactive

Visual media

Audio

By breaking it down in to different categories it helped me to think of further examples which took me up to 18 alternatives. We then went on to consider all the materials the alternatives were made of, how it is done in nature and other exercises to expand our thinking on the initial product. It proved to be quite a methodical way of mapping out all the different alternatives to a magazine. It also allowed me to take a step back from the product and look at it far more objectively. This is a good thing as sometimes I think I can become slightly set in my ways and not look at ways to continue developing the magazine.

At the end of the lesson we were asked to do a quick prototype for a lift button which as much as anything I found an interesting study in group dynamics when certain of our senses were denied us (sight, hearing etc.). It made me realize how important it is for us to meet up in person for our group meetings and cover as much as we can rather than over the net or phone. It is hard to develop common goals when not meeting on a regular basis for a sustained period.

Story time

One of the first things that we looked at in this week’s class was the different ways that we can tell stories. These broke down into:

Text

Data visualization

Event mapping

Documentary

Film

Animation

Out of the examples that we were shown during the session I found the Bear by Jean-Jacques Annaud by far the most effective. By engaging with me on an emotional level I became involved in what is probably best described as a documentary style. The production values were excellent and this leant the clip a degree of credibility that would maybe not have come across in a different style. Another example was a breast cancer screening document which takes the viewer through all the different stages of the process. For its purpose this is far more effective than the previous high budget documentary style. The point I am trying to get across is that it very much depends on what story you are trying to tell, for what purpose and to which audience that should determine the style that you are to use. All the above can be equally as effective but in different circumstances.

brown_bear_3

The second part of the lesson was spent watching a lecture on Innovation and Design thinking by Tim Brown. The important factor that I got from this was that design should not be restricted to just the product itself but from every process from inception to launch. Design itself can therefore be one of the main drivers in a business’ strategy. The second point that made an impression was the significance of being out in the field. This helps us to see things from the consumer’s point of view rather than just our own preconceived ideas illustrated through analogous situation tests.