MDI, reflections of first semester

Over the past semester, I’ve been working on a number of client projects and exploring what excellence is within innovative practice.    As I reflect back over the past few months, the one major take-away has been how we work as a team on client projects, communication, application of strategic principles through design methodologies, otherwise known as design thinking. 

Broadly speaking, the challenge for myself has been people management.  I have noticed that my cultural experience and expectation of work-ethic practice is not always manifested or shared by others.   It is therefore up to myself to reflect more on how I can improve and share ambitions with others to ensure good working practices, and ensure we all get something worthwhile from the course.

From a client project point of view, we’ve explored all aspects of project development; scoping, requirements gathering, client interviews, stakeholder mapping, gathering research, generating insight and pitching; however in the upcoming semester I would like to explore more design methods through artefacts, like service design and service blueprinting. 

From a course point of view, I would like to explore more disruptive startup thinking; what is disruptive startups, what do investors look for in startups, and what are the challenges and opportunities therein.

There’s lots I’ve enjoyed, some that offer pause for thought and others where I’ve felt that we need to improve; but above all, this course has reinforced my own desire to explore innovational practice through design thinking, and remain resolute to my ambition to return to London armed with innovative practices that will see me better positioned against my contemporaries within the mobile app space world.

MDI, week ten and eleven

Covers: 19/11/2017 to 01/12/2017

Week 10: 19/11/2017 to 24/11/2017

During this week our teams split into 3 groups to produce and iterate design briefs, furthered our primary research and secondary research.  A small team also looked at past research in a summarised fashion. 

One of the main aspects of this week was gathering, recording and crystallising the research together.

Week 11: 27/11/2017 to 01/12/2017

During this week, our teams were in a rush to get our work together into a document, especially during the Wednesday and Thursday night so that the project would be on the deadline of 01 December 2017.  I was incredibly disappointed with the high number of individuals whom would leave early with no mention of whether they’d return.  Why they didn’t feel it was important to ask whether they could help was also very disappointing, it felt a lot like if their work was done, they’d leave.

I was also left frustrated that the people who’d champion an activity and raise areas where they were blocked on, would leave and not make sure the activity was a success or even fulfilled their original hypothesis.  

Further to this, there was work produced where I had to take more and more jobs myself; and totally mis-judged just how much editing and work that was needed to be corrected to make the secondary research more linear and logical.   

There was a number of artefacts (works) produced where I had to actually correct and check the work produced.  An example of this was the executive summary; it was a very poor representation of what the four week project we undertook and didn’t even mention why we were doing the project in the first place.

A further example was a summary of research differences was factually incorrect; and with multiple people leaving and left a skeleton crew behind really made everything quite uncomfortable and tempers were very high, especially as this document creation lasted well over 12 hours and lasted until mid-night.   

In our short presentation, I was able to summarise a position of our research basing this upon the actual outputs (design briefs), however a response back from our lecturer was the work produced seemed quite heavy and didn’t reflect or crystallise the full body of work.

To resolve this, the lecturer suggested drawing an outline of the contents and edit the document.  I was ready to draw such an outline with another team member; we however focused on doing easy-win edits and a further reflection will be undertaken next week.

During the weekend I thought it might be useful to go back to the basics, cut it down to basics; and position the whole project to the actual audience consumers: (1) the University whom want a briefing document, (2) the client and (3) the graduates whom will be consuming the outputs.

To me, this project whilst did highlight a lot of inter-personal and project management issues, that I’m confident will be improved over the next semester.

MDI, week nine

Covers period: 13/11/2017 to 17/11/2017

Some activity dates may be incorrect, but the activities were undertaken during this week.

13/11 – Covered subjects related to Design Innovation.  We helped create briefs, this was due to the nature of one of the deliverables: Create briefs for Undergraduates.

14/11 – Continued project work, continued to undertake secondary research work on current client project and working with teams and documented project work.  Teams also helped create more briefs for one of the deliverables.

15/11 – Continued secondary research, the amount of research is quite large; and requires further categorization. Other teams move to primary research, which is another deliverable for the project.  Another team looks at, and reviews the briefs we created, a task where all teams documented briefs.

16/11 – Covered a topic relating to Business Innovation and continued to compile secondary research, we have almost all teams now working on primary research as we wrap up secondary research.  I continue to document all wall data and also help out a colleague with a Trends matrix. 

A trends matrix documents different categories of a theme (ie: tourist) and then splits it into past, present and future.  The idea with a trends matrix is that it gives a 40,000 foot view of what our secondary research is pointing to, this should identify given trends and also themes.

17/11 – We all created an executive summary of our secondary research, this was a good exercise to see if all teams were on the same page; however it did cause a net issue which was that it was ‘written by committee’.  In addition, whilst we had a state of research, we perhaps lacked a clarity of what that state was in the document.  We have taken the issue to heart and will endeavour to re-write the document, and have a state of secondary research; which I believe should be signed off by all teams for it to progress.

We also started to create a timeline for trends in higher educational faculties; this may further crystalise our secondary research, however I have some mis-givings about this process.  We already have 1 trends matrix, why is another needed? 

MDI, week eight

Notes from 06/11/17 to 10/11/17

06/11 – Today’s business & design innovation session, looking at the topic of market research.  Market research is aimed at making informed decisions. It is the collection, analysis and communication of information to assist decision making.

Market research is considered important for understanding the market, customer needs, geographical locations of customers, whom your customers are, and the general marketing environment.

Market research is made up of Product research, Price research, Sales research, Distribution research; See the 4 P’s of Marketing

Market research can be expensive, especially primary research; buying lists, mailing lists, using third party companies.

A critique that the content seemed more suitable to established, big companies rather than small, starting-from-zero companies, startups; and how they’ve changed the equation to be about building sales funnels and using early adopter models to get a customer base quickly; and scale faster this way.

Market research will often end up into a proposal with findings, and sometimes recommendations (although some companies may not want this) and a proposal should cover things like approach, method, estimated timings & costs, as well as other factors.

A further discussion on sampling customers, whether one can avoid bias in sampling or customer surveys; followed by marketing ethics, codes of practice were also covered.

07/11 – Received new client project brief and we had a discussion on what kinds of secondary research we should collect on the company, brief so that we have a scope or state defined.  I did some background work on who the company was and main competitors in a Google slide.  I have some small ideas on whether we can use agile sprint planning to really help with identifying stories early.

08/11 -Further secondary research on the company’s background and research the brief against PESTILE forces.

PESTLE analysis answers 6 key questions:

Political – What are the political factors that are likely to affect the business?
Economic – What are the economic factors that will affect the business?
Sociological – What cultural aspects likely to affect the business?
Technological – What technological changes that may affect the business?
Legal – What current and impending legislation that will affect the business?
Environmental- What are the environmental considerations that may affect the business?


09/11 – Was at a conference.

10/11 – The MDI residents of practice came in and really helped us get our ideas from Google documents to the walls; I found this very visual, immediate and more rewarding.

MDI, week seven

Notes from 30/10/2017 to 03/11/2017

30/10 – Today we’ve been reviewing some of the ideas we’ve been generating for our current project “How can we drive positive change in Cyber well-being for teens using Fun Theory or Nudge theory“, and attempting them to move them from ideas into pre-prototypes.  I feel it is important to get to prototype’s, storyboards, wireframes as this really crystallises the idea.   

My idea is produce a small card game aimed at 8-14 year olds. Still currently unfinished as the mechanics and the player’s means and motives needs more work.

Further to this, I helped out a colleague with her ideas relating to raising awareness and a product on seeing the consequences of your actions.  Both ideas sit in the realm of guerrilla marketing and am hopeful that this will be produced into a prototype of some kind.

31/10 – Play tested a game for Raising awareness in Cyber well-being for teens; however upon a lot of play testing found the game ended up being a memory game, and not actually addressed the brief.  We also looked at the pool of ideas and tried to pick out whether to use one idea, or multiple.

01/11 – Collected together all our work and tried to evaluate them, and our own processes.

02/11 – Further presentation creation work help structure for presentation creation

03/11 – Put together and finalised the presentation, checking the copy, the flow, etc.

The Psychology of Selling (2005) Book review

The Psychology of Selling BookA very poorly written book about sales.

I read the book in about 1 day, its a pretty worthless book.  It has very little to do with the Psychology of Selling at all.

I was very excited by the chance to read “Psychology of Selling” through my local library, and I was very excited to read it given Tracy’s background and name recognition in the industry.

However, having completed the book in practically one day, I felt the book was incredibly lacklustre. The book was more about self improvement, a self-help book dressed up as a sales book.

It wasn’t even about psychology (where are maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs?), or even sales. Its not even pop-psychology and I would definitely not recommend it as either a sales book, or a self-help sales book. There are better books on the market.

When you compare “Psychology of Selling” to “Spin Selling” by Neil Rackman (An actual Psychologist of 25 years experience), you’ll agree that its night and day in comparison. Rackman methodology goes through different ideas, methods and techniques and explains them; whereas Tracy gives a passing reference to an idea, dresses it in so much new age self improvement jargon that you may even forgot this book was meant to be about Psychology of Selling, not Psychology of self improvement.

Yes, Tracy does cover the 80/20 rule, covering that through prospecting, building rapport, doing a thorough needs analysis of your product/service and the customer’s needs can help identify and turn prospects into winning sales.

Further, Tracy states to set goals, daily, weekly, monthly sales; stay on target, achieve your goals, use vision boards, plan your calls ahead, and look at the reasons why people might buy your product (is it out of fear, greed, prestige, etc); but the problem is Tracy doesn’t give you actionable items to do, except to set goals.

Whereas Tracy argues that the best time to make a sale is right after a sale, and that prospecting via the phone is not a luxury, but a necessity; he seems to categorize the customer as somebody to be sold to; and forgets something that Rackman and others (including New Rules of Marketing author David Meerman Scott) in his book “SPIN selling” readily identified some years ago, and that is — the customer has changed, and the old ways of selling are dead.

Customers are sophisticated, and the way business target, market and reach them have changed; so has the way business sell to them. The image characterised by Tracy as a Business person whom is trusted, is dressed for success and uses buzzwords mis-judges the customer. As many authors have noted, some customer-business relationships demand trusted partners, and the journey of a customer should be explored.

As a final note, I want to state that I felt that this book really missed a lot, it felt like another self-help sales book, there was very little useful in this book and would not recommend it to anyone serious in getting into sales at all and would recommend SPIN selling, New rules of marketing and PR and other more seasoned, tactic-based sales books on the market.

Link: The Psychology of Selling (Amazon)

Editor’s note: Link is not monetised.

MDI, week six

Notes from week six, dates: 23/10/17 to 27/10/17

23/10 – Covered emotional intelligence issues on the differences between a team, group and what an individual can do to be an effective team member. As research, we got a few papers to review in the subject area.

24/10 – New client project started on Cyber well-being for teenagers using ‘fun theory’ vs ‘nudge theory’.  Our group stated the brief back to each other, to ensure consensus, and started researching, interviewing people who ran a cyber hackathon on the same subject to get a good understanding of not only the problem statement, but also what kinds of answers were returned, what design methods they used to garner ideas.

25/10 – Continued client project, further researched existing answers from cyber hackathon using a pass-fail evaluation to try to evaluate ideas; also used “learning cards” to capture (1) our goals for the day (2) what we learnt and, (3) what we will do next.

26/10 – Continued client project, further researched existing answers; but we now need to move to actual producing ideas, storyboarding them and trying to make it either fun or nudge theory.

27/10 – Continued to refine ideas, picking out our strongest ones and move to storyboarding.

MDI, week five

Notes from 16/10/17 to 20/10/17, Week five

16/10 – Today we had a lecture on what individual learning, self-directed learning, looks like and what a Master degree level is expecting in terms of deliverables.

At a high level, a discussion on the exploration of critique, methods of learning, alternative modes, mental models, the relationship between divergent and convergent thinking.

Further, we looked at what a Master degree level would be expecting in terms of deliverables using Bloom’s Taxonomy (6 cognitive models of thinking) as a guide.

This was broken down as:

  1. Remembering
  2. Understanding
  3. Applying
  4. Creating
  5. Evaluating
  6. Analysing

It was described that a Master degree would expect the first three items by default; and would not be marked, whereas the last 3 (Creating, Evaluating, Analysing) should be aimed at, demonstrated at; and would be scored.

Further we looked at how we perceive, process and organise information; a VARK model was introduced as a multi-model to score learning activities against four scores/types of learners.

We also looked at Honey and Mumford (1982) learning styles model of Activists (Feeling), Reflectors (Watching), Theorists (Thinking) and Pragmatists (Doing)  and their relationship with each other.

We briefly compared Concrete experience vs Reflective observation vs Abstract conceptualisation vs Active Experimentation.

In a summary, this lecture was multi-fold;

  • Importance of reflective learning“: Emphasised the importance of documenting, and reflective self-directed learning and how we approach this towards our Master degree
  • What gets scored“; what our lecturers are looking for in our Master degree papers and documents and the levels of reflective learning, experimentation, etc being documented.
  • Empathy“; Understanding and empathy for other team members and identifying the divergent thinker vs convergent thinker within our team community and how one type of thinker can inform the other where appropriate.
  • Don’t wait“; At a Master degree level, do not wait for lecturers to fill in the gaps; I feel this will be important for us as a team to book guest lecturers, and even better would be on-site visits to companies to see how they approach the same problems that we as MDI students are approaching.   I am wanting to push this forward, and will raise it in our next unpack meeting.

17/10 – We did an unpack of our 5-day design sprint, reflecting upon what worked well, what didn’t work well and what can we can implement to make things better (how might we …).   

We also started to wrap up our documentation and following the unpack, I wanted to try out a basic, low fidelity Kanban board for the rest of the week to show visually the progress of work being done; but also helps my upcoming semester 1 assignment.

17/10 – We did an unpack of our 5-day design sprint, reflecting upon what worked well, what didn’t work well and what can we can implement to make things better (how might we …).   

We also started to wrap up our documentation and following the unpack, I wanted to try out a basic, low fidelity Kanban board for the rest of the week to show visually the progress of work being done; but also helps my upcoming semester 1 assignment.

18/10 – We continued to move our presentation and project work from note form into a report that we could hand in to the client and our lecturer.

19/10 – We finalised our report, however the amount of work, time and effort required and spent was perhaps under-estimated; I believe in future, in set-up stage a fair percentage of time must be allocated to how we ensure designers and all other members of the team are not overwhelmed.

MDI, week four

Covers 09/10/17 – 13/10/17

Regarding our client project with a utility company.

This week we’ve been doing exploratory work on what the user needs might be, customer segmentation, but also presenting back single product and marketing ideas back to the utility company in order to formalise a specific finalised presentation which we will be undertaking on this Friday; this is part of a 5-day “design sprint”.

09/10 – We did a presentation on our ideas on specific product ideas and marketing ideas back to the client, however our feedback was that we should focus more on the task of innovative ideas on how to make their 5-year strategy more customer engaging.

10/10 – We worked with a global modern furniture company in a challenge to explore what makes a great learning space and what research topics can be garnered from this.

11/10 -Worked hard on getting deliverables done, ready for a further client briefing and for reflective study purposes. We spent time actually doing customer engagement with the general public from Newcastle City Centre shopping centre; recording opinions, getting insights and reporting back stats so we can further align our deliverables.

12/10 – Further refining our deliverables and also identified what customer insights we retrieved from the public facing arena.

13/10 – Final presentation of the deliverables we created; wow – we did so much over the past five days; a lot to unpack: sales material collateral creation, USP generation, creating selling proposition, analysing business plan, talking with customers, strategy planning.

I’m confident that this will continue on into our next projects too!