We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be. ~Jane Austen
The year has passed too quickly and now we have reached the finish line. But have we been racing at all? There could be two types of competition, one with others, and one with yourself. Those who look at studying through marks and grades are usually competing with others, because marks and grades are always relative. Instead, if we stop and look back at how we have paved the way to reach our goals, we realize that what we learned at the end cannot be simply presented by our marks. Hence, I have always looked at my life as a competition with myself, as Snow describes it:
It really is a beautiful world when we can discover that the race is not against others, but against our personal potential.
The MACE course for me has not been an exception. When I enrolled myself in the Advertising and the Creative Economy course, I had a major goal in my mind: to get ready for starting my own company. Design-thinking and entrepreneurship module therefore had a potential significance for me to achieve my goal. Now is the time to stop and look back at the path I have trod, reflecting on my own practice and experience.
I would be therefore looking at how this module affected my personal experience of MACE, both intentionally and unintentionally, and how I can make use of what I have learnt in the future. I would not be able to comment on every single subject of the module, but I categorize them according to their significance to me and reflect on those categories. Although the most significant highlight of this module was the business idea and group project, I would try to look at the course from a more general point of view as we previously have reflected on our WID business project in details.
The Iceberg of MACE: the conscious versus the unconscious
Sigmund Freud in his theory of personality uses the Iceberg Metaphor to describe the conscious mind versus the unconscious. Everything inside human awareness, that is, the conscious mind is represented by the tip of the iceberg, which is the part standing outside of the water, the visible part. However, while the iceberg is floating in the water, a huge mass of it remains invisible, which is referred to as the unconscious mind. Now what do all these have to do with our design-thinking module and the MACE program?
In fact, I am using the iceberg metaphor allegorically to reflect on my experience from this course. As any other learning activity and knowledge process, the MACE program and in particular, the design-thinking module was two fold. On the one hand, there was a visible aspect, the tip of the iceberg, which stood out in the form of lectures, workshops, and other direct teaching practices. For me the ones that were the highlights of the course were our lectures on “Contemporary issues in the Creative Economy” module and those of “Managing Creativity and Innovation”. I have to say; I consider the “Design-Thinking” module more engaged with “situated learning” rather than direct teaching, which I will discuss shortly. Yet, from the lectures we received during the module, I mostly took advantage of “the lean start up” by Rob Fitzpatrick which I have reflected on previously on my blog, and the finance, for the obvious reason that they covered the areas I had less knowledge about and therefore I gained more.
On the other hand, similar to the theory of iceberg, the huge mass has remained invisible underneath. The hidden aspect, that is, “the unconscious” consists of all that are hidden from our awareness, far from our rationality, and those we are unaware of, yet influencing our behavior and decisions. The unconscious of the course therefore, was created and shaped beyond our awareness and will remain underneath the surface. Every single lecture, exercise, or activity has helped building this huge mass. While one can argue that the same thing could more or less happen in any learning activity, I cannot ignore the fact that the design-thinking module had a bigger impact towards our unintentional learning.
Situated Learning Activities
One of key aspects of this course for me was the opportunity to experience situated learning. As a very simple definition, situated learning is learning through experiencing, that is, learning while doing. As Lave and Wenger (1991) describe in their book, learning that takes place within a community of practice have longer effects compared to transferring knowledge in the traditional way, from one individual to another. It also can be remembered for a much longer time, and can be put into practice straight after graduating. Most parts of this module and in particular, our WID business, are great examples of situated learning exercises.
Starting with the WID project, I should mention that for me it was a good practice to start a business from scratch, give it birth and watch it grow. Although I had worked with many teams and groups before, this was a unique opportunity to start a business idea outside of the real-world business context with all its complications. While the product was following a “new product development” format in terms of research, idea generation, screening, testing and prototyping, investment, production, marketing and sales – in accordance with standard NPD process mentioned in Jobber (2009), the simple fact that it was happening within an educational context and was supported by the university made the whole experience easier to go with. As a result, apart from financial reward at the end for our successful business project, my interpersonal skills such as team working and negotiation abilities were improved. In addition, group meetings and brainstorming sessions with all their ups and downs improved my flexibility and patience. I have always had the hesitation of commenting against others for the fear of either making them upset, or being against the crowd. With our business project, I tried my best to practice and improve my commenting issues, and I have to say although not completely resolved, I do feel more confident now.
Moreover, several other activities we had during the module, including observation and applying the USER model, story telling and personas (which we later used in making our AD, thanks to great expertise of Genia and Joelle), the shoe exercise and prototyping workshop (which again was useful when we were developing our WID bookmark calendar), human trafficking project and even our debates for the “contemporary issues” class were all good examples of situated learning. For me they were significant because what I learnt from them will stay with me for longer. And a very distinctive module for me was the “leadership in the creative economy” since not only the concept was attractive, but also it was an extremely engaging class. Although very short, it came with a pack of exercises and collaborative workshops (i.e Piers Ibbotson’s drama exercise and Miguel’s playing workshop) while the unique format of the assignment contributed more to the whole concept.
Creative thinking, as Martin (2008) describes, is “The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each”. This was again, what we experienced when we were working on the WID business idea, trying to keep the problems in mind as a whole whilst focusing on each separate aspect, to make a successful strategy. From that I learnt how the team could come up with a solution instead of compromising for the second the best, and I believe that the exercise will become more vibrant when I start my future career, as according to Amabile (1996) “creative thinking skills can be applied in any domain”.
Blogging and Social Media
Henry Farrell in his blog – Crooked Timber – explains about how blogs are used in education, putting them into five categories, of which one is asking students to write their own blogs as part of the course. Weblogs however, are sometimes criticized in education for just being a “set of personal comments and observations”. But a blog can be much more than an “online personal journal” as it can be the reflection of the writer and his/her personal style. What makes blogging even more interesting is the ease of use. If carried out correctly, it can develop not only writing skills, but also more importantly, the critical thinking. It can be considered as meta-cognition or the process of learning what you learn, or knowing what you know because bloggers have the chance of reflecting on what they write while writing it.
In my case, I had never blogged in english before, and on subjects other than those related to my country and my people. Yet, I discovered new horizons in writing blogs related to the course. Although struggling for the subjects and content most of the time, the obligation of writing blog posts made me stretch out more and meaningfully engage in some activities. I constantly had the question of “so what?” when I was thinking of a subject to write about, as I could not convince myself to write something for the sake of marks and grades. I had to be happy with the subject and the content before I could write one word about it; that is to say, I had to feel there could be a use in what I was writing. Looking back at my posts during the course, I honestly had the “passion of writing” only for a few of them. The rest I really obliged myself to write, and therefore I tried to write on a subject that was either interesting or useful – in my opinion of course.
The reason that my posts are not all directly about the module is because in many cases, I found it difficult to reflect on module titles. Not that the subjects were not interesting, but I just had nothing to add to them or to talk about. For example, I honestly could not write anything about the exercise of being “blind” and “limp” while going to toilet. That just made no sense to me. On the other hand, on a subject like “personas” and “story telling” I found the module’s post comprehensive enough that I could not add anything new to it. Having said that, the more I obliged myself to write – even for those subjects not directly connected to design-thinking module, the more comfortable I felt to write. Hence, I clearly see how I improved in both writing and picking the content, while my fear of writing “useless” things has faded away. And here is one of handy sources I used, with some recommendations and suggestions as well as tools, which I found them practical.
On the other hand, during the course we were pushed to use social media beyond personal connections. At the end, we used them not only as a powerful mean for promoting our business, but also as a way to share and learn from each other. The ever-growing importance of social media and blogging for both organization (i.e. marketing and PR) and individual (i.e. job hunting) was highlighted repeatedly during the course and I have to admit although sometimes I found it difficult to be an active social media user, I cannot ignore its necessity. According to Scott (2011, p.11), “Blogs, online video, new releases, and other forms of web content let organizations communicate directly with buyers”. That means for anyone involved in Advertising and Marketing, it becomes absolutely vital to become a master of the field, and the mastery would not occur without active participation and involvement.
Events and Live Experiences
Finally, during the course, I had the chance to attend many of Young Enterprise events held at the university. Meeting people like myself who succeeded in establishing their own business during or after university gave me the confidence and motivation, which I believe would help me when starting my future career. They also provided a networking platform that I used to gain confidence for initiating a conversation with an absolute stranger and making business links.
Another good experience for me was the Dragons Den that I have commented on before on my blog, concluding, “being rejected by dragons would not essentially mean that your idea is not worth trying”. So I still think that a good idea is worth trying even if the dragons of your life do not believe in that.
Finally, trade fairs were a great opportunity to get feedbacks and comments. It was also good to see how our other classmates managed their businesses as well as another trial of collaboration between team members.
I now go back to my iceberg allegory to conclude this essay. The iceberg is floating and I have benefited from its both “tip” and “mass”. As any other direct educational method, the lectures and seminars contributed to my knowledge. This module however, formed a great part of that “huge mass” underneath the iceberg by contributing to my confidence, motivation and interpersonal skills. I still have the goal that I started the course with, reshaped into: establishing my own company within the creative industries context, and believe that I have all the tools to make the chair now. I have become more aware of how creativity can be a “strategic business process” as Jeffcutt and Prat (2002) describe and I am looking forward to my MA project on “creativity and space” which I consider as the ground of my future career. Even if I end up working in an organization for couple of years before making my dream come true, I have realized that “understanding the climate for creativity” and “commitment to a more creative self” are the roads to success (Mauzy, 2006). It is also an essential entrepreneurial characteristic that helps starting a business and sustaining it over time (Pratt and Jeffcutt, 2009).