What we went through MACE.. (or a Reflective Essay of Design Thinking & Entrepreneurship in Practice)

 Last week MACE students were asked to fill a questionnaire evaluating the different modules we participated in during this academic year. When I had to evaluate the “Design Thinking & Entrepreneurship in Practice module”, I started thinking how many different experiences I had throughout this class. At first, when I saw the unit description I thought that it was absurd that we would be following the same unit for two semesters and I was sure I would loose my interest about classes before the end of the year. Also, the fact that we had to interact with social medal and be graded about it scared me, as I had never used blogs and twitter before and I found that it only made sense to me to have my website to showcase my work. But let’s start from the beginning of the “trip”…

The whole MACE experience started on a weekend when, instead of having the typical induction into the university facilities we had a proper start-up experience with the help of Eewei Chen, a creative director with great experience in start-ups. Getting directly into the procedure of participating in teams, knowing people, collaborating and creating market personas (I think Jeff will always stay in MACE’12 people’s minds!) and creating a movie application was really intriguing, creative and introducing us straight to business. As my class mate Anna Neheur mentions to her own blog post about that weekend “What really impressed me about this start up challenge was how quickly everything came together. After all, I had not known these people I was now talking mood swings with two days ago. This was mostly due to the excellent structure and leadership from Eewei”. Her statement expresses my feelings as well. It was really impressive how quickly we started collaborating, knowing each other indirectly and above all, learn what MACE would be about. I think this experience was unique for all of us as none of the students had a similar experience before.

First proper Design Thinking & Entrepreneurship in Practice class was a bit stressing, I would say, as well as confusing. Nevertheless, it was also really amusing and challenging! Having three tutors, learning about the mandatory participation in Young Enterprise Business competition, having to deal with social media networking and learning about the year’s assignments made me think “How am I gonna cope with all these obligations?”. Nevertheless, the positive energy , the excitement and the welcoming ambience that both our Mark Passera and Janja Song created for us, made me smile and think that no matter how difficult this academic year would be, it would be sure that I would gain knowledge, experience and not in a conventional way! Therefore, I was even more enthusiastic about what would be coming next.

Furthermore, as far as the blogging experience is concerned, from the very first moment l learned I would have to submit sixteen posts and I would be graded for them, a big “why” and a big “how” came directly into my mind. I still remember Janja Song’s words at that very first day, telling us that blogging is not as difficult as it seems and that at the end, it will become a habit that we will feel we need to fulfil by writing as a personal documentation of our ideas and self-promotion. After almost nine months of blogging, I can say that now I totally understand what she was talking about! I used my blog as a diary of interesting things and events I saw within the university, but also out of the university, like exhibitions. I also realised what Janja meant about self-promotion through the blog when I realised the large number of people, not related to the university, that are following my blog “brain- power and creativity”, as well as when I saw that my blog has more than 600 views that come even from countries from where I do not know any people. In the same way, I understood how social media co-exist and influence each other, when I started sharing my posts through twitter and facebook and people started reacting more to my blog. Though the year is ending, I now feel the need of continuing expressing my opinion about arts and creativity through the blog. Therefore, I will keep blogging.

 In addition, as the blog had the use of a diary for me, I also shared experiences of mine from my classes in F.A.D.A. For example, the first day in F.A.D.A. was really different in comparison to the induction in the Creative Economy. I was amazed by the building, the workshop and the interdisciplinarity that characterized the core modules. Additionally, from the very first moment it could be understood the context under which research in design would take place the rest of the year in this part of the master course. I found really interesting the different use of my group blog “My ICY COKTAILY” and the use of the Art’s School blog comparing to my own blog and to the use of studyspace in the Business School. But as my background is creative, I felt like sharing my work in the design School in the “brain power and creativity” blog as well. From my classmates’ reactions I assume my posts were interesting for them as well. Besides, one way or another, everyone is creative!

Nevertheless, Design Thinking was a unit much more than social media. There were interesting lectures where we learned things that we did not acknowledged before, like the notion of socionomics through Erik Qualman’s video that became a possible dissertation topic for me personally. In terms of lectures, I would consider important knowledge obtained for any kind of entrepreneurship the lectures held by Dr Christopher Kronenberg related to businesses’ finance. Finance may not be an interesting and creative part of businesses, but undoubtably it is an important one. As this course is much different than any other one, we learned the importance of finance not just in theory, but also in action through the businesses we created under the scheme of Young Enterprises.

Moreover, another unique part of this module were the practical exercises we had to work on during the classes. I would never expect a tutor to ask me to design a shoe in an hour or to send me to a pub to observe behaviours. These exercises made us understand what creative thinking and innovation constitutes in action in the market and the short time we had to prepare for these and the random people in teams constitutes exactly a miniature of the working environment outside the university. We also learned to collaborate and to think differently. For me these classes were also the most important, in terms of self development as this less academic and more business driven approach made me think more of actual work. In this way, I decided to include on my post most of these experiences, in order to remember the good moments but also the difficulties for the future. The most amusing one in my opinion constitutes the design of an innovative shoe. The reasons why I enjoyed it so is that I collaborated with new people, we had to act quickly to find our target and to create one mock-up with no materials basically. It a really stressful process, but enjoyable and it was the first time we would use in action knowledge that was taught to us but also do things from the experience of the start-up. It also, really surprised me the fact that every shoe was unique in terms of both function, but also of prototyping.

Another big aspect of creative thinking is the Young Enterprises. Part of this unit was to create a small company in groups of four or five, create a product, sell it and close the business. This experience can be characterised only by one word: unbelievable! At the beginning I was really stressed and worried about the team, the work and the product. As soon as we concluded to the final product and started participated in fairs, this whole procedure became really fun. My team, button, that creates a bookmark with seeds and instructions of how to plant your own herbs in five easy steps, did not make out a lot of profit, but certainly all the members of the team enjoyed the process, learned a lot from our mistakes and loved becoming “mini gardeners” for the promotion of our product. This part of the unit absorbed a lot of our time and interest. For this reason, many of my blog posts are related to it. We had to do research on the identity of companies through shops and their windows and packaging research, in order to find the identity of our own product.. Apart from m blog where I included our posts relate to what is mentioned above, as well as sharing the experience of participating to fairs and awards and comparing the experiences with the design school fair, I exchanged ideas about our own product through button facebook conversation. There my posts were more related to technical procedures and the green identity of our product, in order to give inspiration to my team.

Nonetheless, as mentioned at the very beginning, in my blog there can be found posts related to many things that are not related directly to the design thinking class. Amy blog was my diary. Therefore, I included every interesting experience of mine that in my eyes was worthy to be shared and would make people more educated. In this way, I would categorize my posts into three categories: the experiences in class of design thinking, the experiences in the university and exhibitions. The first part is related to the interactive exercises we had in class and the creation of the Young Enterprises companies. These experiences were the most different and educative ones of this module . They were worthy sharing because not a lot of universities give so practical approaches to their students and to my own point of view, it’s these experiences that make us more ready for the real business world. The university experiences were also important for me as indirectly, I used in practice many principles of design thinking, leadership and innovation. For example, working on a team and building a final product in my communication design class was exactly like practicing managing a team as I had to do also during the practical exercise’s of the design thinking classes. As for the other experiences I shared, like the the first aid volunteering classes or the job start experience seminar organised by the employability centre of Kingston University , for me were really useful and beneficial. Thus I wanted other people to learn about these subjects and also document my experience, in order not to forget. For example, posting on my blog the amazing advertisement of the heart foundation including actor Vinnie Jones, will make both me and other people and other people remember how easy and important CPR is and additionally understand the power of good advertising.

Another large part of my posts is dedicated to exhibitions. Our course director Catherine Morel, always informs the class about interesting exhibitions, events and fairs. I chose to write about them as they are my personal interest and I think people get really educate and become more open minded through them. Yet, through the contemporary issues module I saw another part of the galleries and fairs: the business. In this way, my posts related to exhibitions include a critique of them in terms of successful businesses. My favourite were Moniker art fair, the Klein and Moriyama exhibition at Tate Modern and the light show at Heyward Gallery. Three totally different events that managed to attract large audience and had really good curating.

To conclude, going through all my blog posts I realised that each part of MACE classes is connected to each other and has a reflection not only to each other, but also to the way I perceive things now. I think this is the biggest side effect of Design thinking to me. Another important thing for me personally is that Design Thinking helped me identify the role I want to have in a team and so, in the professional field, which was my first aim when I joined this Master course. Also, through the business project and the exploration of the creative industries I realised that I don’t want to run my own creative business and that I would love to work for a museum or a gallery. Thus, this module helped me to set my goal for my future professional search.

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