The FINAL Relection


“Time flies when you are having fun!” This overused phrase has been used so often I feel that time just flies, fun or not. I began my journey in London a little over nine months ago, feeling like an expatriate from Canada and an adventurer returning home to Britain from the colonies. The similarities and differences between the two countries are abundant but equal, leaving my expectations redundant. I chose my program, Managing in the Creative Economy, with the sole purpose to learn the skills I desired to merge creativity and business and return to Canada to apply them. However, time flew, andI am now reflecting on what feels to be the end, or perhaps, a start of a new adventure. My purpose has changed though the goal is still the same, thanks to what as I have learned in Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship in Practice module as well at the rest of my MACE experience. I have learned in this module the beginning of design thinking, as well as, networking, teamwork, leadership, and a clearer goal for my future. My journey may be over in this module, but every journey has to begin somewhere.

THE BEGINNING

Everyone has a preconceived notion of how they should learn; this is a natural bias that stems from previous learning experiences. I attended structured traditional schools through to my first year of university. I changed schools, degrees, and learning structures when I began my undergraduate degree in photography at Ryerson University in Toronto. I was being graded on what I took away from the learning experience, not the recollection of facts and figures that I would forget the moment after I had completed the test. I felt I was prepared for anything when I stepped into the introduction day last September. I cannot recall exactly what happened, but I do remember feeling caught off guard and unsure how to even process what was going to happen, Design Thinking was going to be a completely different way of thinking and learning. I resolved that the big picture was not going to be an option, and that one day at a time was the only way to even begin to process what was coming.

DESIGN THINKING

As the title of the module suggests, one of the first topics discussed was design thinking. Corrine introduced us to her USER Model as one approach to design thinking. Her model created a four-stage model (User, System, Establish, and Realise) that challenged preconceived notions of what people really want and need.  The USER model also challenged me to stop thinking and start doing. It is one thing to think of ten ways to do something, but it is more effective to watch a hundred people doing the same thing, all in their own way. Through watching people, the USER model helped me comprehend why and how a person acts and interacts, this gave me the tools to better understand what a customers wants, needs, or desires. I first thought the USER model was a tedious chore, but I have increasingly noticed that I actively employ the model almost every day. Every time I commute into London I think about my need and the possible needs of those around me, how each delay affects the user, and possible solutions to the problems I encounter. Even with my new job at a pub, I find that the system as it stands is chaotic and I think about the USER model every time I apologise because I’ve nearly collided with a co-worker, this clearly indicates to me that the USER model is an excellent resource outside of the classroom and can be modified and utilised in almost any situation where the current solution is not effective.

NETWORKING

I’ve often been told, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ I do not remember a time I did not believe this to be true. Every job I have had has been because of someone I know. Even if it was a reference at the bottom of my curriculum vitae, a positive reference is just as powerful as a negative one. Technology has played its part in how we network, it is no longer about the physicality but rather how you utilise the vast tools available to you online. From the beginning of this course we had to keep a blog, this blog, maintain a Twitter account, and post links on Delicious. Each is a tool designed to help us communicate and to develop and maintain our networks. Robert Metcalfe’s Law notes that “the utility of the network is equal to the square of the number of users – so as new members join the network the ‘value’ of the network increases exponentially (Bilton, 2007, p.65).” This further emphasises that it is no longer about the quality of a few but rather the quantity of many within your network. In the creative industry, networking is a resource, and the ability to network is a survival skill. Facebook is a network, it may not be formal, but even the basic social connection keeps people in touch where without Facebook, the connection would not exist. LinkedIn has the same concept as Facebook, but for the professional, it is a digital curriculum vitae for the 21st century. I cannot think of a better example than my father. He has always been technology driven and has been utilising a tool called Act! for almost 20 years now, every time he meets someone new he puts them in as a contact and every time he has a meeting, a run-in, a conversation, anything with a person, he notes it. At last count he has 23,000 contacts, and approximately 1,000 are ‘reliable’ as he likes to say, but 1,000 is still a very large network that can exponentially grow in an instant. As part of an assignment I was asked to find a mentor. I am normally an outgoing and sociable person, but this was not a normal social call. I started where it was most uncomfortable, just like jumping into the deep end first. I have maintained contact with all my mentors and have also continued to find contacts and grow my network to help me complete my dissertation and find work after graduation.

Nadia Niro: owner/director of Galerié Orange in Montreal, Canada.

Nadia was a source of inspiration as I began working on my dissertation, and even though my topic has migrated away from Canadian art, she is still an excellent mentor as I continue to discuss the struggles she and many other artist have. (I found this mentor through her dissertation that she completed at the Sotheby’s Art Institute, where Dr. Catherine Morel, course director of MACE, used to work.)

Julie Lomax: Director of Visual Arts, Arts Council England (ACE)

Julie has a great deal of knowledge about the Art’s Councils structure and its greatest strengths, and the areas it needs to improve on. Knowing Julie is invaluable to my dissertation and to my future career in the creative economy. (I attended an ArtInsight Lecture near the end of January called Understanding the Art Market: Value, Pricing and Developing an Art Business in the New Economic Climate, where I introduced myself at the reception afterwards)

MaryAnn Camilleri: Founder, Magenta Foundation: Publishing for the Arts

MaryAnn is an awe-inspiring woman, she has dedicated herself to identifying Toronto as a photographic hub and has created Flash Forward to exhibit emerging photographers from Canada, US, and UK in a group show that has international exposure. (I met MaryAnn though my undergraduate program and reconnected with her when I interviewed her for a case study about creative management)

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN PRACTICE / TEAMWORK

As the title of the module suggests, I also learned about entrepreneurship practically. I teamed up with Sarah and Vlad to create Kingston Pub Culture (KPC). Everyone in MACE was in the same boat when we began the program, we knew no one and choosing teams was a guessing game. I was lucky to bond with my teammates over a pint and a curiosity of English pub culture. We were lucky to like each other as friends first and teammates second. As we began our journey to create KPC, I was also enrolled in a management class that focused on personal and professional development. I took this opportunity to develop my teamwork skills so that I could effectively work with my team and minimise conflict. West (2004) notes it is not just about listening, but also being open and to reflect on the topic of conversation to ensure that all involved are confident in what they understood.  This was an issue within our group, there were times when assumption took the place of listening and a quick scatter to correct the mistake was needed so we could continue moving forward with our business plan. The other struggle that I had was my assertiveness, I can come off aggressive when I am trying to be assertive. West (2004) and Cottrell (2010) note that assertiveness involves the expression of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions clearly using ‘I’ not ‘you’ style statements. When I would get frustrated that I wasn’t being heard I would naturally point fingers and remove blame from myself. I, however quickly found that by pointing inward and using ‘I’ statements to express myself and ensuring that my thoughts are appropriate in the current situation has become a great asset to my teamwork skills within KPC as well as aiding in my assimilation into British culture.

As for Kingston Pub Culture, the business itself went though several struggles and a few triumphs as well. We hit a barrier trying to find funding for our website, as advertisers and pubs did not to advertise on our site. This was a self-perpetuating problem, as we could not get advertising without site traffic and we could not get site traffic without advertising. However, thanks to Sarah’s brilliant writing skills, we won the runner-up prize with Bright Idea’s. This was soon followed by my designer friend, who had promised KPC a website that would meet our needs, ignoring all my attempts to contact him. I had high hopes for the website and continued to put off making the decision to fire our designer and cut our losses. It was ultimately Sarah who pulled the plug and created our temporary website. This was a steep learning curve and I have since learned that all agreements need to have a written contract, even if it is an email. I had let my emotions get in the way of reality and I should have put a stop to the website problems early and hired a reliable web designer with our Bright Idea winnings.

LEADERSHIP

Leadership

As I have said before, Kingston Pub Culture did not have any significant team problems. We each took responsibility for a task that we excelled at, and worked as a team through everything else. But even in a team setting, one person has to take charge and make the final decision so that what needs to get done can get done. I have an undergraduate degree in photography, so I was responsible for the photographs of the pubs. I was also put in charge of the finances, which had its own struggles. Group tasks included the Trade Fair, promotion of KPC, and pub reviews. Ibbotson was a source of inspiration when I was placed in the leader role because he looks at leadership creatively to ensure that the creativity is nurtured and not hindered, as he states, “most of the skills of effective leadership and the good management are embodied knowledge, not intellectual: charm, decisiveness, compassion, enthusiasm, persuasiveness, the ability to listen, to be firm, to establish boundaries for others, to inspire” (2008, p. 119). Ibbotson acknowledges that a leader needs to be creative to understand the people you are leading and that boundaries are more effective than a set path. Having to take on leadership duties within KPC gave the experience to understand Ibbotson’s theory and to practice it in a forgiving environment. While I learned and practiced my skills as a leader in this course, I also learned that sometimes it is better to concede to someone else and allow them to lead and for me to follow. A leaders greatest skill is knowing their own strengths and weaknesses.

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!

At this point, with classes all over, I feel that this reflection needs to connect all that I have learned and how all my different modules, MACE and Management alike, found a place within Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship in Practice. I have noticed that within this reflection some of my management modules have found a place, just as design thinking has influenced my management modules. Creative management reflects on traditional management skills, but requires a leader who provides direction and boundaries, not a structured trail. I have had the chance to learn the theory as well as had hands on experience to find the connections I desired to connect creativity and business.

FUTURE GOALS

I have learned from experience that it is equally important to live in the moment as well as plan for the future. While I cannot dictate where I will be in five or ten years, I can at least create boundaries to focus my direction.

Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship in Practice has taught me to think more openly and the even bad ideas are still good as long as you learn from it and move past it. I have had the opportunity to speak my mind and also learned the skills on how to do so effectively. I have made contact with people that I would have not been able to prior to this course. The mentor report was by far the most challenging assignment, but the most beneficial to my future career. I want to manage creativity but I also want to make a difference. I have found two mentors that will help me do this, Julie Lomax with Arts Council England and MaryAnn Camilleri with Magenta Foundation. Both these women are working tirelessly to turn creativity in to a sustainable business. I feel that I am still connected to Toronto but now with London as well. I feel that I can maintain my connection with both as an aid to the Magenta Foundation in London, and as a support to Flash Forward. Also, working with the Arts Council to help the Magenta Foundation find artists and funding to continue aiding emerging artists find their niche and an audience. Other than that, it is just one day at a time and working towards where I want to be, but I also know that things happen and desires change. Either way I will enjoy the moment so that time does not fly away without me having fun.

Non-Internet References:

Bilton, C. (2007) Management and creativity: from creative industries to creative management. Oxford: Blackwell.

Cottrall, S. (2010) Skills for success: the personal development planning handbook. 2nd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ibbotson, P. (2008) The illusion of creativity: directing creativity in business and the arts. London: Palgrave – Macmillan.

West, M.A. (2004) Effective teamwork: practical lessons from organizational research. 2nd edn. Leicester: Blackwell.

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A mini reflection on Kingston Pub Culture

At 3:07 pm yesterday (or around then, but a definitive times feels more dramatic), I completed the taught classes for my MA in Managing in the Creative Economy. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and I could see the same in my classmates as they completed their Business plan presentations.

Yesterday was also the day we put Kingston Pub Culture to rest. Our presentation (you can view it <here> thanks to my business partner Sarah) went well for the most part. Once we got to the question and answer portion of our presentation, things got a little rough. At the time I thought we answered our questions well, but looking back, I cannot stop thinking about when we were asked “Why do you think you won Young Enterprise? At the time I commented that a lot had to do with Sarah’s ability to write eloquently, and I still believe that that is at least partly the case, but otherwise I feel I need to reflect (publicly on my blog, of course!) to get to the root of why we won, and if we really deserved it. I will go into this thought more deeply though my final reflection, but I at least want to get my thoughts out.

Kingston Pub Culture was just what its name suggests, a pub guide based the culture within the pub, nut just what pints they serve. The idea came about one evening in the school pub between three international students, a.k.a. the KPC team, and realizing that the way people drink here is different than our hometowns. For one thing, the majority of pubs don’t serve pitchers because they don’t want to promote binge drinking, ordering a pitcher in Canada doesn’t even warrant a second glance from the bar staff. We focused our attention on our fellow students and their/our desire to have a great night out with our friends without breaking the bank. Everything was going, but by the time we won our prize, Kingston Pub Culture was still an idea, and the three of us were struggling to find time to focus on getting KPC off the ground. (On the night of the awards ceremony all three of us had other things we needed to do, but one of us had to go, it was that busy for us.) Other things just kept getting in the way and by the time we were asked why we won, I had to come up with a good answer quick and I could only reply that we had a great writer that could fully express the potential the KPC had.  KPC did have great potential to enter the marketplace and find its niche, but with time as our greatest enemy, time ultimately won, and we were left out of time with most of our prize money left. I’m curious what KPC could have been if that’s all we focused on for the eight months it was in the making. Either way I learned a lot from Kingston Pub Culture, from my group Sarah and Vlad, and from the overall experience that this course has provided me with. Thanks.

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The End is near…(a little reflection)

Tomorrow is it. After 8 months together, tomorrow will be the last MACE Friday. October seems so long ago, yet it went by too fast. I’ve learned so much from this course, the program, the people around me, and the city I’m in. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

I’ll blog more about Kingston Pub Culture’s last presentation tomorrow.

Good luck all!

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The Times 100 People/Things

Every Year, TIME Magazine publishes a list of The World’s Most Influential People. This year’s list is a wide variety of 100 people, mostly politicians, a few media moguls, and an odd entertainer thrown in for good measure. A few that stuck out to me include (with a link to their Wikipedia pages):

Mark Zuckerberg: Unless you have been cryogenically frozen for the past 10 years, this man created Facebook. Its creation has been cinematically publicised in The Social Network and it has changed the way we communicate.

Amy Chua (aka Tiger Mom): Her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has been criticised and praised almost equally. What’s wrong with wanting your child to reach their potential? Is there a cost too high to achieve that goal? Either way an opinion is easy to form and a judgement handed out. I wonder if my mum was a tiger mom would I be much different than I am?

Ai Weiwei: For those of you in MACE, this man has been discussed before. His sunflower seeds exhibition at the Tate has been commented to have ‘drawn the world attention to the vibrancy of contemporary Chinese culture.’ Each of those sunflower seeds represent a part of China that an average Westerner or European would not immediately understand, but though his exhibition he has found a way to create an understanding.

Justin Bieber: There really isn’t anything special about this boy. He is Canadian just like me, so I feel like I have an obligation to like him, but I really don’t. He is the perfect example of marketing success. I think that’s what makes him intriguing. Just like the boy bands of yester year, he is the teenage dream but just like the boy bands will pass.

David Cameron: As you know from above, I am Canadian (insert obvious joke here). I’ve never had a knack for politics, so shamefully I admit that I know more American Presidents than Canadian Prime Minsters. But since moving to London, I have been intrigued by him, a government for the people. If anything he has gotten me to start thinking about politics and how important it is to make an informed decision. I’ve had voting power for 6 years and utilised it 4 times so far but I honestly voted for the first time last week. I don’t know what good an ex-pats vote will do, but it was for the best I hope.

……………..

Now, for the humorous part of this post. As much as people are important and shape our world, our society has become increasingly materialistic. Don’t deny it, think about what devise you are reading this post on…

Joel Stein, of the same Time Magazine, published The TIME 100 Most Influential Things in the World to coincide with the above article. Not everything on the list is tangible, that’s not the point, it is a collection of moments, ideas, websites, and sociological changes that are currently shaping us, with a satirical edge. I have laughed and mocked my way though this list, but two stick out because they are constantly discussed and have been turned into a verb because of their importance in everyday life, and even more so to the Creative Economy, as one of them was an assignment.

6. Tweets
Ending a painful past in which people went on and on in bursts longer than 140 characters. Now they go on and on all day in burst of 140 characters. Much improved. Stein puts a comedic twist to our new obsession with finding exactly we want to say in under 140 characters. Has this made us more concise in our communication or more redundant?

57. Facebook
Stirring up rebellions. Mostly over our privacy.
Ah, facebook, What would my university career be without it? It has changed the way we interact with our friends and keep in touch, the age of verbal communication is nearing its end.

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Website Woes

Kingston Pub Culture is a service based website, so without a website, what is KPC?

I am friends with a very talented graphic designer, Omar Turki in Toronto, Canada who offered to help me and Kingston Pub Culture with our website. Our site was to have a calendar, allow for user-submitted content (such as photos and reviews) and space for advertisements. On top of that it needed to be coded precisely and have a certain ‘cool factor’. Omar was just the man for the job, however, the problems began early on but there was still commitment to create our site, so we continually pushed the deadline forward.

I was responsible for keeping up with Omar, as I was his friend, and we talked regularly, but nothing was getting done. I was asked to purchase our domain from godaddy.com to give him the power to create the site we wanted. This cost us more than hosting with other sites, but with Omar’s promise it was for the benefit of Kingston Pub Culture. He mentioned that time was getting tight as his own paid word was starting to pile up, he asked us to purchase a template to help out with the basic coding then he could modify it. There was still nothing up when I met up with him over Christmas to hammer out details but all we got was this by the first trade fair:

This was the most disappointing attempt I had seen from Omar, he is so talented and even an hour of his time would be exponentially better than anything I could produce in 2 weeks. After constant hounding over every social network I had a connection to him and even an international call later, he was obviously avoiding me. As it got closer to our second trade fair, Sarah made the call, Omar was not going to pull though and we needed something ASAP. Sarah created a wicked WordPress site for us that had the requirements we had for our site with our pub reviews.

Sarah just rocks, enough said. Thanks for pulling this off Sarah.

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Have you ever been asked, “What is the Creative Economy?”

Thinking about defining the creative economy leads me to a new definition every time. Every day I learn more, something new, so my definition of the creative economy is constantly changing. I was asked yesterday at Kingston University Student Entrepreneurs Trade Fair where I was promoting Kingston Pub Culture to write down how I would describe my degree, ‘MA in the Creative Economy’ for Shakers Creative Communications. Surprisingly it didn’t take me long to write something down. Below is my definition for 7 April, 2011.

My handwriting can be difficult to make out on the best of days, and my scribble yesterday was no exception. This is what I wrote:

A ‘MA in the Creative Economy’ is an opportunity to explore creativity as more than a craft. It explores creativity as a viable business enterprise that can integrate with traditional business practice.

Looking at this definition I notice that I would have never come close to this idea a year ago. Even when I was working on my essay to apply to Kingston University, my definition would not be this concise. This was the last line of my application:

“It would offer me the opportunity to prove my ability to bridge the gap between arts and business in a way that synergizes the two uniformly, creating a viable and sustainable creative economy.”

At the time I knew I wanted to find a way to make the arts and business work together cohesively, but looking back I had no idea what I was getting myself into, much less how much I would learn and be able to better define what it is that I am passionate about.

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Overused words

I have just had the luxury of a quite Saturday morning with a cup of tea and The Toronto Star Saturday Paper. I had forgotten how much I miss something so simple. Though my perusal of the entire paper, stocks and sports included, I found this article: List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness that made me  think about the words I use to describe and if there are truely appropriate.

This thought about language began when I first landed in London. English is English, but words we use to describe often differ between cultures. My favourite example is the sweater, hoodie, jumper, and bunnyhug (Saskatchewan slang). They are all exactly the same thing, but depending on where you are in the world, could mean something different, offensive, or have no definition.

This thought continued to fester when I was at a Monkey’s Paw in Toronto. It is an eclectic bookstore that I would frequent regularly when I lived in Toronto. You can see some of the books on my website.  It carries some of the most unusual books. I just picked up Marchall McLuhan‘s Understanding Media: The extension of man from there the other day, something perhaps to get the ball rolling on my dissertation. While I was there I found a book from approximately 1650. The owner said it was more for context but as I began to look though it, it was in ‘old’ English. Since when did English get ‘old’? Or better yet, When did English divide into two camps? Our ‘new’ English consists of ‘epic’ and Google as a verb, my grandmother would be appalled.  I’m starting to feel that some words are overused and Google as a verb is ridiculous. I know I am not innocent in this. I have used viral enough times in the past few months to describe a concept to my Kingston Pub Culture business partners to last a lifetime.

As the article notes the following words to be banned:

  • Viral
  • Epic
  • Fail
  • Wow factor
  • A-ha moment
  • Backstory
  • BFF
  • Man up
  • Refudiate
  • Mamma grizzlies
  • The American people
  • I’m just sayin’
  • Facebook/Google as verbs
  • Live life to the fullest

Some of these words are not used often, some are overused. I would like to challenge my fellow MACEr’s to remove these words from our vocabulary and come up with new ways to describe and express ourselves. Will anyone ‘man-up’ to the challenge?

The list itself has quite a history and you can read all about it here.

Enjoy the rest of your holidays MACEr’s, I hope some of you will think about this and I will see you all soon.

 

 

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