If I could hop into my 1981 DeLorean, speed up to 88mph and visit my past self before my Kingston experience, there would be a hundred things I would tell past Natalie to prepare for. Unfortunately I’m certain my past self wouldn’t listen, but hopefully the future class of MACE 2013 will. Here are my key reflective points for surviving the next year, and making it a success.
Have you had a healthy dose of creativity this morning?
By the end of my first month I was so sick of hearing the word creativity I contemplated changing my major to Law. Personally, I can’t see why I would be here if I wasn’t creative, and a 5 year undergrad in the performing arts should be enough to prove that I am. It’s taken me a while to realise, but I think I finally understand why our Creative Economy Professors seem to use the word like it’s going out of style.
You see, creativity is the key factor to succeeding in both your Young Enterprise experience and the workplace. And exceptionally creativity will make the difference between a thriving YE business and a mediocre one. However, don’t get hung up on the words “original” and “novel”, because you’re business is not about creating the wheel or reinventing sliced bread, and sometimes the best ideas are ones that already exist, with a unique spin to them. Ken Robison could possibly be the best speaker/author on creativity I have encountered, read through “Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative” (2001) and start thinking about what creativity means before MACE begins.
Procrastination is Suicide
In September it seems like you have a lifetime to get into the swing of things.
And if you’re an avid procrastinator (like me), it may be difficult to get the ball rolling in September when your deadlines are months away. However, I guarantee that if you procrastinate from the start, you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary hardships and failure.
One of the greatest regrets “Quanto Basta” had as a team was not beginning the processes of manufacture and marketing sooner. These two crucial aspects of a successful business became the difference for us financially in May, as we had yet to break even by the last Dragon’s Den. Now profit is not the be all end all in the YE experience, but it is a mark on the success of your business. Alas, every failure is a learning experience.
Here is a procrastination test by Dr. Bill Knaus, take it early! And if you’re like me, and score a 30, use the tips suggested to remove those procrastination triggers before they inhibit your success.
Don’t get discouraged.
This experience is not easy, and there will be obstacles every step of the way. From the entirety of the YE experience, designing a product, manufacturing, selling, presenting, working in a team, etc. To debates in Contemporary Issues, projects in Leadership and Management, maintaining your Social Media presence and Networking, and working on the four other modules in your particular concentration, it seems to never end. The most significant obstacles “Quanto Basta” faced as a team were our initial product creation, delegating tasks amongst team members, the creation of our website, and manufacturing. (Most of which I can confidently say would not have been such problems had we gotten the ball rolling in September)
But don’t become discouraged!
I can’t tell you how many people were surprised by disappointing grades (myself included), inconsistent with deadlines, or had near nervous breakdowns at the thought of everything we had to do.
Keep going! The worst thing you can do is give up, if you quit, you’ll never know how far you could have gone, or how much you could have learned. Read through these inspiring stories on not getting discouraged from young people who have been through it all.
Like I said before, you’re not reinventing the wheel. Try to come up with creative solutions to existing problems by having conversations with your teammates, a great way to come up with a product or service idea is just by having normal conversations.
And remember that products don’t have to be world changing, they can just be for entertainment purposes or assistance for everyday tasks. Browse through shops and think about what you spend most of your time doing and what interests you, then bring your ideas to your team table. And if you need any more ideas, check out Steve Johnson’s “Where good ideas come from” (2011) to give you a running start.
There is no I in Team
Working with people from various backgrounds is difficult, however this is what you’re facing out in the job world, and you have to be prepared to find democratic solutions to contrasting opinions. Remember to separate friendships from working relationships, this will help you in the long run. Here are a few Tips on Teamwork from Keith Yamashita who has worked with some of businesses biggest names, Steve Jobs and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. – Ric Ocasek
Two of “Quanto Basta’s” greatest challenges (website creation and manufacturing) could have been easily solved had we asked for help right at the start. There are so many professors and students all over campus, and you will be surprised how many will be willing to help you for a worthwhile project.
Ask for tutorials, ask for assistance, the worst that people can say is no.
Had we asked for advice about our personal website initially, we would have realised how difficult it’s construction was going to be, and would have hired a student or professional to do it right from the beginning.
Had we realised the flaky nature of manufacturers, we would have started hand making our product right from the start, and as such would have had a multitude of selling opportunities before our initial stock was completed at the end of March.
Amanda Palmer has an excellent TedTalk entitled “The Art of Asking“, Watch it! And remember, there is no shame in asking for help, we all need it, and we should all be willing to give it.
Don’t be a big head!
There is nothing worse than attempting to work with a condescending colleague who consistently treats you like you were raised by wolves. This is not the attitude to have in the classroom, Young Enterprise, or god-forbid the workplace. Yes, it is great that MACE consists of a colorful array of individuals with various backgrounds and experiences, but that is a learning opportunity, not an opportunity to exhibit to an international palette your awesomeness. Here’s a fantastic blog about how to deal with these condescending know-it-all’s, if you happen to encounter any in your MACE experience.
And if you are the condescending know-it-all, refer back to There is no I in Team.
Likewise, Speak Up and Often!
If you’re not comfortable with public speaking, engaging with people you don’t know, and asking questions, this is going to be a very difficult year for you. These are things that will be expected of you from Day 1 of your MACE experience, so accept it, get used to it, and take advantage of it.
There are certain character traits that are imperative to a thriving MACE course; inquisitive personalities, imaginative ideas, flexibility of thought, inspired interaction, and motivation and ambition. Now I’m not saying if you’re lacking in any of these areas you should immediately decline your Kingston placement, but you should make an active effort to work on these areas, if not for the betterment of the class, than for yourself. This may be the last time in your life you have a net to fall on, practice working on your shaky points now, and water your growing confidence for the future.
Here are 3 Strategies for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety by Deborah Grayson Riegel that I’ve found quite useful.
And remember, even the most confident people get nervous, they’re just better at hiding it.
And if all else fails, eat a banana and sing a funny song to yourself when you get nervous. It always works for me!
Opportunity doesn’t always knock..
Sometimes the only way to get opportunities is by changing out of your sweatpants, getting off Reddit and going out into the real world to make opportunities for yourself! This is the attitude MACE tries to teach you.
Thinking that successful people are going to throw opportunities at you left, right, and centre is just unrealistic. Likewise, YE won’t hand you all the things you need to be successful in your business, you will have to go out and find manufacturers to work with, create your own advertising to get the word out about your product, and find places to sell. If you don’t take the reins you’re not going to be where you want to be come the Final Dragon’s Den in May.
Robert Magowan of “The Independent” has written an excellent article “Don’t just hope – Make your own career” about the nation’s (and frankly the world’s) recession of jobs, opportunities, and prospects for prospective graduates. His number one way to avoid being swept under the rug of recession? Be braver! And join the thriving movement of student enterprise! MACE is designed to teach you the entrepreneurial skills necessary to go out in the world and succeed in today’s economy, and whether or not you want to start your own business or work for someone else, these skills are invaluable and transferrable through any employment channel.
Of all the lessons learned through Design Thinking, the importance of storytelling has stuck with me the most. I have always been an informal writer, and I have had few negative reactions to my writing style (and even won quite a few awards). So learning about the importance of storytelling and connecting with the audience has given me confidence in my writing and presenting ability (outside of usual dry academic writing). Our lessons on storytelling have really taught us how to connect to the reader through empathy and humor, two aspects of writing I consider imperative to informative and entertaining works. I have even taken our lessons on storytelling and utilized them outside of the MACE modules as well, and it has worked wonders.
Our leadership classes also left a lasting impression on me. Although I’m not entirely pleased with how the classes themselves were conducted, I did find the subject material quite interesting and imperative to success within the creative economy. Especially after our theatre workshop with Piers, the leadership qualities we learned within the module seem blazingly obvious when observing classmates, and individuals outside our MACE group. And understanding the characteristics of transactional and transformational leadership, allowed me to make conscious decisions as to how to relate to teammates when working within a leadership role.
Personally I found the entirety of MACE to be centered around Design Thinking, it was the module that connected the class and connected the rest of the modules, as well as the basis for the majority of our work in MACE and the connecting factor for the principles we learned in our other MACE experiences.
And for MACE 2013, there is no doubt you’re going to make mistakes through the entirety of this process, we all did, and we’re all expected to. Have a look at Mike Greene’s book, “Failure breeds Success” (2013), where Greene explains his fascination with the negative outlooks on failure. Greene believes only through failure can we learn the lessons necessary to be truly successful, which is a truly MACE belief.
And when you’re writing you’re own reflective blog, remember that all the things you wish you could have done, or didn’t do, are irrelevant now. Everything that happens is a learning experience, and no matter where you’re currently standing, everything you’ve gone through (and I’ve gone through) during our time at MACE, has made us all the stronger.
Greene, Mike., (2013) “Failure Breeds Success.” Westminster: PGPress
Groth, Aimee., (2012) “Tips on Teamwork from the Man who Reinvented Starbucks” American Express Open Forum [ONLINE] Available at: <https://www.openforum.com/articles/tips-on-teamwork-from-the-man-who-reinvented-starbucks/> (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Knaus., Bill., (2010) “A Procrastination Test to Uncover Delay Patterns” Psychology Today [ONLINE] Available at:<http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-and-sensibility/201006/procrastination-test-uncover-delay-patterns?page=2> (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Johnson, Steve., (2011) “Where Good Ideas Come From: The History of Innovation.” USA: Riverhead Trade
Magowan, Robert., (2013) “Don’t just hope – Make your own career.” [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.independent.co.uk/student/career-planning/dont-just-hope–make-your-own-career-8574665.html> (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Palmer, Amanda., (2013) “The art of asking.” Ted Talk [ONLINE] Available at:< http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html> (Accessed 18 May 2013)
Penttila, Chris., (2011) “Do you work with a know-it-all?” WordPlaceDiva [ONLINE] Available at:<http://workplacediva.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/do-you-work-with-know-it-all.html> (Accessed 20 May 2013)
Riegel Grayson, Deborah., (2013) “3 Strategies for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety” [ONLINE] Available at:<http://www.fastcompany.com/3004857/3-strategies-managing-public-speaking-anxiety< (Accessed 19 May 2013)
Robinson, Ken. (2001) “Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative.” Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Shah, Dhruti., (2012) “Young Workers: Never forget you dreams.” BBC News [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19464117> (Accessed 20 May 2013)