REFLECTIVE BLOG-ESSAY

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There are 4 things I would like to reflect in my final blog, 4 things that made my stay at Kingston University memorable and useful, 4 lessons that I will implement in future.

 Collaboration/Networking

 “More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.”- Peter Drucker

One of the reasons I have decided to do my MA was the opportunity to build a wide network of useful contacts and simply collaborate with interesting people. Why do we need to collaborate? My answer is simple – because you never know what kind of help you might need and knowing the right people makes life easier. If this answer is too cynical, there is another reason for networking – it was determined that networking is one of the vital skills innovative people possess. However, networking might have different motives and intentions, and that is something that distinguishes selfish networking from innovative networking. Unlike chasing self profit like boosting career or accessing resources, innovative entrepreneurs look for opportunities to enhance their knowledge and extend experience. It is known now that creativity is about connecting existing things in a new way instead of inventing brand new things. Creative people know about it and intentionally look for networking which allows sharing information and exchanging ideas (Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen, 2009).

Networking is also about diversity. Knowing that, a lot of academic assignments are now based on team work which is aimed to encourage collaboration and exchange the experience.  Working with people from different backgrounds is great, however the diversity of people is not enough to be creative and work productively. There should be a common passion all team members need to share in order to get started and progress later. The problem is hidden not in the difference between business and creative suits people. All conflicts arise from disbelief in what you are doing. After some time you can get on or negotiate with the most complicated person in the world. However, it will be impossible to work together on the project if there is no common belief in it, trust and accordingly motivation. That is something I found out through working in a team this year. The lesson I have learned – choose people who share the same interest and are as enthusiastic about what you are going to work on, as you are. And only then, look at their background, experience and skills. That is why nowadays employees are first of all looking for people passionate about the work they apply for since it is always easier to teach people and help them develop certain skills than ignite their passion and intrinsic motivation (Workshop on Pitching Yourself with Susie Galbraith of BLUEDOOR).

 

Social Media

 “Ideas that spread, win”- (Seth Godin)

According to statistics

– A corporate user receives and sends on average 156 messages a day (WARC, 2011)

–  1 in 5 couples meet online

–  1 in 5 divorces are blamed on Facebook (Youtube)

–  the average European spends 11 hours per week on social media (WARC, 2011)

–  Over 829,000 videos are uploaded every day  on Youtube (www.businesstocommunity.com)

These numbers are startling just as social media itself, the use of which I started to discover during this course.

Social media is a quite new phenomenon which has already revolutionised advertising, marketing and many other industries. As recently as back in 2005, the Internet was remaining full of messages which did not have any meaning or exact purpose, and there was a lot of talking without trying to be heard. The appearance of such social networks as MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube have changed the content of the online world and shaped a completely new meaning and applications for the Internet. The way people and companies interact with their customers has changed and will keep on shifting with the further social media development (WARC, 2011, TED, 2008).

Our small business project gave me a good chance to experience the opportunities social media gives to develop a business. Through using such social media platforms as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter I tried to build our product awareness. Lisa Mayer’s workshop on Social media was of a great help as I obtained a better understanding of how social media works. Further are the main ideas and lessons I have learned:

>  As a global tool for sharing knowledge and exchanging information social media brings a lot of new opportunities for entrepreneurship. It makes networking and spreading ideas as easy as never before.

>  On the other hand, now that anyone can speak out and share experience, quality, customer trust and needs are becoming the priority (WARC, 2012).

>  Social media is effective only if used skilfully. The following points are important to remember while organising social media campaign: defining target market; using brand personality and identity/being genuine – honesty is important to win customer trust; engaging content – igniting relevant conversation instead of a boring one way communication (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/223449, Lisa Mayer’s workshop on Social Media, classes with Mark Passera)

Dreaming & Working Hard

“And, when you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”-
Paulo Coelho

Having a dream can be a great driving force. It is true that sometimes we simply do not dare to dream or believe in our dreams. Without a dream there is no chance to reveal our unique calling. Meeting inspiring people is the best thing that can probably happen to a student who has a long way to go towards his dream career. This year we were lucky to have a lot of great guest speakers who served us as a great example of being a successful entrepreneur in a creative field. I will mention just a couple of them who left the greatest impression on me.

Wayne Hemingway presentation and speech on creative career day made me believe that anything is really possible if we dare to dream and work hard on it. Wayne Hemingway is a famous English designer and a co-finder of fashion brand Red or Dead.  His story of success started with a small market stall in Camden back in 1982, when he and his wife had no money and just decided to empty their wardrobes, and sell their clothes. Later they started buying used clothes and shoes at incredibly low price, remade it and sold at 20 times higher price. By the end of the first year in the market they already had 16 stalls. After Wayne started designing his own style clothes while his wife was responsible for sewing it. Soon they received a huge order from Macy’s, a big store in the USA.  Now Hemingway Design specialises in designing a wide range of things – architecture, clothes, furniture and so on (Wayne Hemingway presentation on Creative Career Event).

We also had a great class with Rob Fitzpatrick who I believe has inspired many of us and gave a lot of valuable advice on starting up a business. It was him who encouraged me to pay more attention to blogging as a great tool for marketing your business. These are the main ideas and lessons I have attained in regard to blogging:

> Blogging needs practice and regularity just as any other job

>  Blogging helps to analyse and understand your business better as every next blog is a chance to test your ideas

>  Blogging needs time to develop and create traffic

> A blog with good content will eventually pay off  (Rob Fitzpatrick, http://thestartuptoolkit.com/blog/category/featured/)

After all it means that explaining is not enough, examples are necessary to illustrate things and motivate. That is why meeting people from creative industries who managed to go a long way to make their dream come true, will stay with me as the most vivid memory and the best motivator to keep on working.

Although dreaming is useful, but might be not enough to make things happen. Hence, working hard, experimenting and sometimes failing is crucial to reach anything. We might be working in the wrong direction, however, that is the only way to find what works and what should be changed. Our actions are a direct testament of our thoughts. Therefore, as long as we want something and keep on working towards it, the right circumstances, events and people will be there to help us.

 

Creativity

 “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” Steve Jobs

There is still no exact answer where creativity comes from, what fosters and kills it. Since all my modules during the first year were mostly related to creativity topic I would like to sum up what creativity became to mean to me.

 Creativity is a collective process. It is not individualistic, but a highly social process. It flourishes as a result of individuals being imbedded in systems and networks. Therefore, I think it is wrong to associate creativity only with individual talent. Creativity should be understood as a whole process.

Informative It is said that creativity is not an inborn quality, instead it can be developed as a result of fostering the following skills – networking, questioning, observing, experimenting and associating (Dyer, Gregersen and Christensen, 2009). There is a common element in all of these skills – all of these skills require excellent information management. Possessing information, data and various experience is crucial as it shapes a ground for developing associations, connecting ideas and thus generates creativity.

Creativity is a hard work, passion, curiosity and courage. Unlike many people think creativity is not easy, it requires a lot of work and persistence. As Thomas Edison said, ‘The only difference between me, that’s supposed to be lucky, and the fellows that think they are unlucky is that most fellows try a few things and then quit (Bilton, Cummings, 2010). However, passion and genuine interest makes work easier. A lot of successful entrepreneurs started their businesses just as a hobby, simply out of interest. Finally, curiosity and courage build creativity. A desire to understand and not being afraid to try and fail is something that is typical for creative people

(Seth Godin, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPuYqH_zPJg&feature=related).   

 Now I am happy to understand better what creativity is about, as I know where it might come from, where to look for it and how to generate it.

 My Future Plans AFTER ALL

As I am a part-time student, unlike most of the students on my course, I have one more year ahead. Therefore, I believe, many things which will inspire and direct me after leaving Kingston are still going to happen next year. At the moment I have highlighted the topics and areas I would like to study and work on more. These are social media – my next step is getting hands on experience in that area. Probably as a result of our academic blogging, I am now starting to work on organising my own blog and later web site. Apart from that, I have started to think on my own business. The lectures we had, but most importantly the guests we had, have given me certain confidence and inspiration to start my own business. I already have a couple ideas about the business. Therefore, my next year together with my academic commitments, will be devoted to the further research of the business idea I have. To make the idea work I will use the lessons I have learned and talked about before…

Collaboration/Networking – finding the right people and building relationships

Social media – developing my own web site, blog, Twitter, Pinterest etc

Dreaming&Working Hard – never stop dreaming and keep on working towards making it true

Creativity – staying curious, hungry for everything new and just keeping my eyes open

 

 

 

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COMING BACK TO SHOES!!! (Not only for girls)

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Probably you remember one of our first classes when we had to come up with an idea of shoes …so my very first blog was about shoes prototyping…today I am coming back to the shoes topic, this time REAL shoes…RED SOLE shoes. I guess now everybody understands who and what shoes I mean.

So, probably I do not have to spend  your time reading a long and boring blog about how great , beautiful, exclusive and so on Christian Louboutin shoes are.  Just go and see it yourself at Design Museum (till 9 July only). It is really worth it not just because of a vivid collection of shoes, but also because of the way the collection is presented.  Unlike many other exhibitions, this one has a unique spirit and atmosphere created by music, lighting and design.

These are a couple pictures I managed to take.

I believe Christian Louboutin’s work can be a great inspiration for some of us. Apart from that it is one more example of a successful  business story based on everything we were learning about and discussing throughout the year – storytelling, brand development, design and plenty of creative thinking….. you will find it all there!!! http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2012/christian-louboutin

PS pictures are not allowed, however…

Looking back at our team work…

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Working in a team is not easy. That is especially true for me as I am that kind of person who likes doing things individually without being directed. I also don’t like listening to what others tell me to do. Sometimes I prefer doing a bigger part of work instead of sharing it with someone. Thus, I feel sure that it will be done in the way I would like it. And I believe I am not the only one like this. If we do things on our own we can have more control over it; we do not have to depend on anyone. However, the reality is that there is no future for solely individualistic work. Even if you run your own business, you will still have to work and collaborate with other people – your partners, employees, customers and so on. So, it would be more sensible to learn how to work with others effectively instead of trying to do everything on your own and in your own way.

There are a couple of things I have learned from working with my team.

Every person is special and it should be our own interest to recognise that unique difference and accept it. I strongly believe that there is something we can learn from everyone. It is just very important to find out what this person is really good at, what he/she would be happy to work on and what would motivate him/her.

Sometimes it is useful to forget about your own understanding of things, and simply listen and try to understand the idea someone else is trying to communicate. There might be something good, if not completely good then something that can be changed and become a GOOD/CREATIVE idea.

If there are difficulties (and they will always be there), we still have to stay positive and keep on working hard. Instead of wasting time blaming someone or complaining, it could be better to look for new opportunities and ideas because this is where the solution for the problem lies.

Trust and respect whatever happens. If there is no respect and trust in relations between team members sooner or later the team will collapse.

If I ever have a choice of team members, I will try to choose nice personality in first place. I would say it is even more important than their experience. By the way those who have ‘a lot of experience’ are sometimes hard to work with because they are so smart and good…at the end too good. So, for me it is much more important to work with a mature person who is hardworking, not afraid of challenges and POSITIVE than someone who has great skills, but feels so proud of it and will never go extra mile to help others. But again, it is possible to get on with everyone if you really want it. Treat others in the way you would like to be treated, and one day you might be surprised by what results you get together.

Unique Stories Happen in the Market

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Although we live in a time when more and more sales and deals are being done online without leaving your house, trade fairs and markets still exist. It might be explained in many ways such as the possibility of collaboration and expanding the web of useful contacts, easy access for putting and testing your product in the market and so on. Also, I think a trade fair is a unique place where new great ideas and talents can be found.

I am not sure whether all of you have attended creative career event a month ago and heard a presentation by Wayne Hemingway. It was amazing. Wayne Hemingway now is a famous English designer and a co-finder of Red or Dead.  So, his story of success started with a small market stall in Camden back in 1982 when he and his wife had no money and just decided to empty their wardrobes and started selling their clothes. They also remade old shoes and clothes and sold it. By the end the year they already had 16 stalls. Later Wayne started designing his own style clothes while his wife was responsible for sewing it. Soon they received a huge order from Macy’s, a big store in the USA.  Now Hemingway Design specialises in designing a wide range of things – architecture, clothes, furniture and so on.

You may check Wayne’s story here

 

….and some of his work www.hemingwaydesign.co.uk

Coming back to trade fairs, our experience at Kingston market was really good, our team managed to sell a couple of plates we produce in just one hour. Being in the market is also very useful in the way that you may see people interested in your product, hear their feedback and find out what might be improved, what people really want. For those who did not win any prizes including my team I would like to encourage you and say that plain people in the streets who looked at your products and shared their positive opinions with you are much more important because it is them who might buy your product in the future!

Creativity + Technology = !

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Creativity. CREATIVITY. C R E A t i Vi T Y….After many discussions about creativity we had on the course I have to admit that today it has really become a driving force helping many industries to innovate, survive and stay competitive. Just imagine how boring advertising would be if it was all about getting direct mails or annoying leaflets and posters screaming ‘Buy 2 4 1’. Luckily, creativity exists and today advertising is much more than simply selling, it might be even seen as a certain form of art. Advertising through social media is a great progress in the world of marketing. People even might not notice being targeted by advertising since social media makes it so naturally. We just get involved in interaction. Now almost every second person in the UK has a smart phone in their pocket which means that most of us have a great access to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn 24/7. Many brands have developed successful apps which are now on our phones. The whole marketing communication process is becoming more integrated and engaging. So, the development of technologies stimulates creativity and I think it’s great, it brings more opportunities for us.

Here are some examples of successful and creative ways of engaging and interacting with customer, and something that makes their experience enjoyable.

Wrangler – just check their home page, I think they made it really interactive http://www.wrangler-europe.com/wrangler/

Starbucks at your fingertips, no matter where you are     mystarbucks

Using QR codes in the Garden http://www.longwoodgardens.org/UsingQRcodesintheGardens.html

Kinectshop

T-Mobile Wedding (more than 25 mln viewings on Youtube)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kav0FEhtLug

Ford ‘C-Max’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI3s3oa3yEE

What leadership is about….

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The class with Piers was really amazing full of useful practical examples and fun at the same time. Inspired by the class I got his book The Illusion of Leadership from the library. It is a very good book where a lot of thought provoking connections between theatre and business are made.

Here are just some ideas regarding creative leadership which I found crucial and most interesting in the book.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention: if we are not working against some resistance, if we are not up against some sort of boundary then we are not creative.’ (P. Ibbotson, 2008)

‘The details of language, expression and personal charisma are extremely important in creative leadership.’ (P. Ibbotson, 2008)

‘Creativity flourishes at the edges of things. It needs boundaries and it needs constraints.’ (P. Ibbotson, 2008)

‘Management is not science, but art. It is art in the sense that it needs to be practiced with the full self: with heart, mind and soul aligned.’ (P. Ibbotson, 2008)

‘Like any work of art, the illusion is created by the practical skill with which the artist handles his or her medium of expression. In the case of the director, that medium is your physical self and other people and their ideas.’ (P. Ibbotson, 2008)

I found these ideas really interesting, however, I am still not sure whether words, gestures and stories we make are enough to lead people.

It is true that what you say and how you say is very important, but to do it in the right way a person should be genuinely intelligent. For me intelligence means something completely different from just being smart and knowing a lot of things. I associate intelligence with emotional development and knowledge, wisdom, understanding and respecting others, morality. So, for me if the leader has no intelligence and has nothing to share with others, then no matter how creative his way of communication is, it will not influence or motivate me.

Also, I think it would be quite useful to start thinking about spiritual leadership nowadays. I don’t mean anything religious by saying spiritual. Person’s spirit is a major driving force and motivator. Many people nowadays work without understanding or feeling the meaning of what they are doing and why. Apart from money and holidays people need a sense of meaning and fulfilment at work. Therefore developing and maintaining certain ethics and values is extremely important for the company. Apart from directive, supportive behaviour is crucial within organisation. At the end of the book Piers mentions the skills and qualities effective leader should possess. Charm, compassion, enthusiasm, patience and thoughtfulness encouragement, ability to be firm, listen, inspire and induce feeling in others are ones of those skills. These are great qualities which basically reflect the meaning of spiritual leadership.

To sum up, it is still quite hard to determine creative leadership. Does it exist at all or it is an illusion we can create by telling nice stories to our followers trying to engage and motivate them in this way? Since when we started putting a word ‘creative’ before leadership? Everything could/should be creative nowadays. I the only thing I am sure about is – nowadays leadership should be approached from a more holistic point of view where strong organisational, creative and spiritual practice would be incorporated.

SOCIAL MEDIA GURU NEEDED

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I have recently checked our group’s product page on Facebook, the statistics page does not look significant really. So, it is obvious that creating a nice page for your product on Facebook is not enough to make people know you and specially follow you. Communicating through social media should become our every day job to get any results just as blogging. First of all, it should be regular and it should be engaging. However, now that it is time to advertise our small businesses, I started thinking seriously how it could be done in a really effective way. We spoke a lot about promoting products through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging. However, once it is time to sit and do it I still have a lot of questions and confusion about how it should be done. I wish we could have a speaker or someone who could explain or give us the concrete tips on marketing through Facebook, for example. There are certain small techniques on advertising through social media which are much more than just putting pictures, videos and comments on your page. So, I tried to do a brief Internet research and here some of the tips on promoting your brand with social media we could use.

  •  Real interaction with visitors. Not participating in comments could be the direct way to kill a community.
  • Finding potential customers. A quick keyword search can help us find prospective customers who may not be aware of the company but could nonetheless benefit from the product.
  • Avoiding agressive promotion. Social media is a specific way of advertising, therefore people on social networks are not looking for sales pitches. So, if we put a traditional ad we risk to be simply avoided.
  • Using recommendations and addressing questions. It was determined that asking for recommendations triples comments.
  • Using humor. Humor is the best way to provoke empathy, we discussed it a lot earlier.
  • Giving people a story which has nothing to do with the business. Nowadays there we can see more and more campaigns which don’t even look selling or pitching the product. It’s all about making people talk about you, the story you made.

 

These are just some basic tips, so if anyone has experience of dealing with social media please let me know I would like to hear from you 🙂