This is an Essay



Lean start-up and design thinking are two concepts that are helping organisations to do business in innovative ways whilst still adhering to some of the more critical aspects of business planning and management (Ries 2011; Stokes & Wilson 2006). The premise that having a great idea, writing a business plan, and finding investors is the path to success is no longer the case as “new research by Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Ghosh shows 75% of all start-ups fail” (Blank 2013: 1). This essay provides a number of examples that illustrate how these two concepts are helping today’s organisations that are faced with more competition, external pressures, and constantly changing demands and needs from their audiences. Finally, these concepts are applied to personal experiences as a creative/entrepreneur in terms of the impact lean start-up and design thinking can have on business development.

Lean start-up

The concept of lean start-up consists of a series of principles designed to help entrepreneurs take those great ideas and good timing and turn them into a viable, sustainable business (Ries 2011). Five principles that offer advice on business innovation include looking at entrepreneurship as management of uncertainty and change, validated learning that comes through the process of actually running the organisation and managing this uncertainty, a build-measure-learn process that involves learning from the customer and how they react to what is built, and innovation accounting that continually measures and assesses progresses and helps to set new milestones (Ries 2011). The principles have their origins in the concept of lean manufacturing processes that were started at Toyota decades ago and that still focus on removing any waste or inefficiency from the operating environment but that have been adapted for the entrepreneurial environment (Ries 2011). In order to identify any inefficiencies even in an organisation in its infancy, there must be ongoing measurement and learning processes applied to each aspect of the organisation (Ries 2011; Martin 2007).


There are a number of new organisations that have found success by applying this lean start-up concept. The first example is an ecommerce start-up company located in India called Urban Ladder that began applying the Lean Start-up principles (Rammohan 2013). They began with a landing page to learn what customers need in terms of types of furniture, how they felt about buying furniture online, and what they were unsure about in buying furniture online (Rammohan 2013). This, along with a more involved survey, was done so they could apply the validated learning principle and determine how best they could serve their potential customer base (Rammohan 2013; Ries 2011). This enabled them to only focus on those furniture categories that were most in demand from their prospective customer base, allowing them to keep the organisation lean rather than trying to offer every type of furniture category possible, which would be costly and inefficient (Rammohan 2013). The furniture company went as far as to very specifically define their customer segment as families in urban cities that are digitally savvy, have just recently bought a house and make one lakh per month (Rammohan 2013). In this way, it was understood that lean start-ups are about focusing on first finding the right audience and supplying them with what they want, so they realised that social media platforms could help them reach this target audience as well as gather new knowledge. This allowed them to expand their knowledge and validated the learning principle while also allowing them to measure their results through targeted ad campaigns that offered a significant number of analytics (Rammohan 2013; Ries 2011).

There were many examples of where this company tested various strategies to help them understand what worked and what did not. Since they were focused on great service, their lean-in principle of measuring results and studying their customer base revealed that customers were unhappy with the third-party delivery service they started using to expand into new cities (Rammohan 2013). Despite losing 30 per cent of their revenue by getting rid of this service, their customer satisfaction increased and they ended up with a growth in repeat traffic of 30 per cent (Rammohan 2013). This included testing out temporary offline shops, pricing, and ad campaigns each of which taught them more about their audience and provided a way to refine their strategies to maintain a sustainable business while trying new innovative practices before fully implementing them (Rammohan 2013).

Another example of a lean start-up is Dropbox, a cloud storage company that applied the principles to grow its customer base from 100,000 users to four million users in just 18 months (Kennett 2011). Because of a tough competitive environment, the leaders knew they could not wait to launch their product until it was perfect because they did not know when that would happen and by then it may not have been relevant to the market need (Kennett 2011). However, in applying the lean start-up principles, they took what they had to market in the form of a video demo to get comments from their audience and advice from them on how the product could improve, which helped them to understand their customer base and get attention and engagement from this audience (Kennett 2011). This assistance from their own potential customers provided a way to innovate and speed the product development process to the point where it could earn them revenue since it had been transformed into a product that customers really wanted (Kennett 2011). This illustrates the principles of validated learning and it also shows the value of getting help with innovation from the very people that will be using the product, creating a more efficient product development process (Ries 2011). Additionally, the company also turned to social media and viral marketing to create a low-cost, highly effective marketing campaign that also delivered measurable market and customer intelligence (Ries 2011).

Design Thinking

The next concept is design thinking, which involves getting emotionally involved in what a specific problem creates for a consumer or business, using creativity to solve it, and applying rational business principles to ensure the solution is developed and brought to market in a timely and efficient manner (Brown 2009; Fraser 2012). Design thinking has a specific process that businesses can follow in order to solve a problem that also can be applied to the organisation’s overall development and implementation of its strategy (Plattner et al. 2010; Martin 2009). This includes defining the problem, researching it, creating ideas for solving it, developing a prototype, choosing the best solution, implementing it and learning from the entire process to determine if it worked or did not and why so that the entire process can be revisited (Plattner et al. 2010; Martin 2009; Visocky & O’Grady 2009). Because of the creative nature found in the design process, there is more flexibility that allows for innovative solutions whilst still retaining the formalised business framework that can assess, measure, and set boundaries and timelines (Brown 2009; Fraser 2012; Martin 2007).


A prime example of design thinking in action is the American inventor, Thomas Edison, who designed products like the light bulb that illustrated how the product is often just a vehicle for something much bigger that was being explored by the designer (Brown 2008). As one article noted in explaining how Edison was a prime example of design thinking, was that “he was able to envision how people would want to use what he made, and he engineered toward that insight” (Brown 2008: 1). Edison’s thought processes are an early example of how design thinking can be utilised for developing innovative products that respond directly to consumer needs rather than making existing products look better (Brown 2008).

A more recent example of using design thinking was that of IBM who used design thinking to deepen its customer engagement by rethinking the trade show experience in its presentation at thousands of shows around the world each year to differentiate itself and get closer to IBM’s customer base (Liedtka et al. 2013). The organisation undertook a significant research project on human interaction that it then translated into design criteria that the design team at IBM used to create a collaborative trade show experience between the company and its customers (Liedtka et al. 2013). Other companies have also faced the threat of commoditisation, including P&G, who turned to design thinking to create new products that were customer-centric and included working outside of the organisation in order to find the types of design ideas that could position the company as separate from the rest of the consumer product marketplace (Chiranjeevi 2009). P&G relied on its leadership to push the innovation design concept through all layers of the organisation in order to get everyone in the company, including those beyond product development, to look at a bigger picture and one that satisfied the customers’ needs (Chiranjeevi 2009). These two examples illustrate that even larger organisations can take an entrepreneurial approach to business strategy.

Conclusion – Self-reflection

In looking at these examples and how it has impacted me as a creative entrepreneur, it was important to consider how to incorporate the idea of design thinking into my own business development because it allowed me the freedom to be creative whilst still having a formal framework to work from in terms of the traditional components of business. However, I took more time on research and studying the target audience, learning about what they want, what they are interested in, and what they need from a product or service. From the teamwork we had in this year, since all of our team members come from Asian Countries, which are Korea and Taiwan. The advantage is our cultural backgrounds are more similar to each other, which made the working process more efficiently. On the other hand, sometimes it is lack of diversity when it comes to discussions or brainstorming. Fortunately, we all came from different professional backgrounds; each member has tried our best in order to find the niche to fill in during the procedure of design a business: from identifying problems, finding solutions, design, to manufacture, advertising and marketing events. The most we have learned from it is “how to communicate with people”, not only to the customer, but more importantly, is to communicate well within a team, and try to be more understanding to each other. I also focused more on being observant and using the customer insight in developing our business around customer needs learned about directly from our customers. It was a new experience to ask them directly for their ideas on what they want from a product, which made the entire process more creative rather than just focusing on what the competition was doing. At the same time, the lean start-up principles furthered my focus on learning and measuring all aspects of the business, which can be facilitated today with so many online analytical tools. Both concepts, including their principles and processes, have helped me look beyond just following a business plan and look more toward customers and potential customers for ideas, brainstorming sessions and feedback and analysis, which has helped me think differently about what I am creating and operating. This makes it easier to see change coming and embrace it as a way to keep developing better solutions that excite customers because it is exactly what they are looking for from a company.

Future– Blue print­– Fashion

We are now live in a capitalistic /digitized society, when everything is accessible and nothing is really “new”, silhouette and the fabric becomes the most important part of the apparel. Furthermore, the more virtual the world is, the more demand for the process behind the products. Therefore, I hope to use the design thinking and lean start-up that I’ve learned this year, creating a fashion business that based on the sustainable/transparent process, and manipulate the form of silhouette/fabric, combined the off-line/ online store to share different functions together in order to generate a new experience for the audience.

At the end, many thanks to everyone who appeared in my life this year; we had a wonderful one.




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Visocky O’Grady, J. & O’Grady, K. (2009) A Designer’s Research Manual. London: Rockport Publishers.


Up-coming Clerkenwell Design Week


Clerkenwell’s annual celebration of all things design is early upon us once again.

One of the reasons that make a Clerkenwell Design Week stand out from other design exhibitions/ design weeks is it hidden in  the West London, which is the most charming and mix-cultural region in London. Besides, the visitors have to follow the “map” to find the exhibitions and events, produce a feeling of surprise and fun. It is part trade fair, part marketing blitz, but it also packs in a fair amount for the interested observer. For the uninitiated visitor, much of the appeal lies in getting to tromp around some fine buildings normally off bounds to the public. This year there are 3 primary zones to visit: The Farmiloe Building、The House of Detention and The Order of St. John, mainly surround Farringdon station, Clerkenwell road and St. Jon street.

1) House of Detention:  a Victorian cellar, to provide avant-garde designers a stage to take off.

2) Farmiloe Building  is a warehouse transform into a platform for name-brand designer.

3) The Order of St. John has abundant of historical past, it is also the most interesting part to see how the curator manipulates the space.

Clerkenwell Design Week creates a content that finds itself a niche pool differentiating from other design weeks/festivals, it’s a progressing process that indicate the trends  from nation to city—from the city to the creative city, eventually, the essence would be cultural initiative.




a Day in Harrods



Harrods is one of the world’s largest and most famous department stores, a must-go in London for people all around the globe.

The motto of Harrods appeals to me at the first sight: Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All Things for All People, Everywhere. I think this is how Harrods stands out from the world, and points out its core value: customer service.

In my point of view, a good customer service can be interpreted into 3 facets:

1. Empathy.

As we learned from the course, put yourself into other’s shoes is crucial when you design a product or service. It’s not creating something that people need, but creating what they want.

2. Humanity.

In an era of digitisation, the warmth of humanity makes the differences from buying online.  We need to communicate, see the smiles of each others in person.

3. Knowledge.

Knowledge is a hidden treasure within yourself. Being professional is a performantivity. Sell yourself, sell the brand, and sell the benefits.

All these 3 elements produce TRUST, and with trust, we start a long-term relationship with the customers.

A day in Harrods, I met a husband looking for a gift for his beloved wife, a mom tried to meet her daughter’s satisfaction, and  a Chinese businessman “collected” name-brand bags and kept saying “oh my god this is so cheap” on a £1495 bag.

Those experiences made me realise, eventually, we are selling a dream, a social status and a desire, not only a product.






Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined


We seldom think of how we were influenced and formed experiences by architectures when we actually inside the buildingthis spring, Royal Academy of Art presented the exhibition—Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, with architects from Ireland, Portugal, Chili, Japan and China, interpret and invite the audience to reimagine the public/private relationship between us and the architectures.

When entering the space created by Grafton Architects, we will anchor ourselves in different ways. The giant cement hanging above to crop the light into cuboid, these two opposite forces: lightness and heaviness drag and dance together, creating a exploration of tangible and intangible objects.


Photo (c) Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photography: James Harris.

Chinese Architect Shiao Dong Lee made a maze by timber, attempting to disturb our sense of direction, the architect wants us to forget where are we, and the only thing we know is we are now in a forest. The timber made me think of the curtain in ancient China, walking through the dream as the reality.


Just turned into another corner, all the colours were runing into my eyes. The installation by Diébédo Francis Kéré invite the audience to co-create the works by adding/twisting colourful straws into the organic installation. At the beginning, it’s a white room from a decreasing space then gradually expand as the entrance. It’s like the path of winds, entering the room, fulfill every corner, and fly away from the window without making any sounds. For me it’s a metaphor of life, we enter into the world and live in different places, at the end, we all have to go to an unknown exit, the same road as the place we started our journey.


Pezo von Ellrichshausen, a duo team from Chili built a “fort” comprised of basic architectural language: cylinder and cuboid. We couldn’t, see what it look like inside when we’re standing around the building. Therefore, there’re three different experiences that obtainable: First of all is the communal experience when observing the architecture with others from outside the building. Second, there’re two ways to enter the fort, the audience can choose to go from slope or stairs to encounter different spaces. Thirdly, when finally achieve the highest flat, we can observe the whole RA’s building in different ways, from the roof, the sophisticated ornamement and the people on the ground.



Photo (c) Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photography: James Harris.

The work in the end of the exhibition is from Japanese architecture Kengo Kuma, this is the only installation that set in the dark; The glimmer of light make people feel they suddenly are placed in the cosmos. Moreover, it’s the only work that spreading aroma: the smell of bamboo and tatami. Besides spaces, the trigger between memory and us is olfactory, connecting ourselves with the past. In the spaces full of euphemistic oriental symbols and gestures, we naturally contemplate the differences and similarities of our own cultures, within the context of the West and East.


Photo (c) Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2014. Photography: James Harris.

In a digital world, create new experiences and explore our sense become even more vital than ever before. Sensing Spaces: Reimagine Architectures demonstrates how an exhibition can naturally “re-open” our variety of senses, the way it was formed and shared, even participated within the architectures. This is not only about the architecture itself, but also contain the contact point of different cultures, where we are/ who we are in the contemporary world.


Our Advertisement! Uneed Me:)

Uneed me” is the other version of our package design, targeting the younger customers since the former one is more for professional people and business places such as hotels and restaurants. First of all, “U” is a euphemistic refer to the shape of the toilet, which makes the customer know it’s a hygiene product at the first sight. Besides, the smiling face presents a friendly approach that conveys a message “whenever you need me, I’m always here for you”.

Special thanks to Aei Onvipa, my best friend who supported me to shoot this advertisement together. I really enjoy the interaction and thinking process between cross-disciplinary people. For me, being creative is to create something new together from different minds and paths. This is a precious experience for me, thank you the universe.:)


Taking Shots: the Photography of William S. Burroughs


For celebrating 100th birthday of William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), Taking Shots is the first exhibition worldwide held by the Photographers’ Gallery to focus on Burroughs’ vast photographic oeuvre and offers the insights into his artistic and creative processes, in order to salute one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century. At the same time, the Photographers’ Gallery also presents 2 other gurus: Andy Warhol and David Lynch’s photographic works, enable the audience to observe these three artists in literature, movie and pop movement, how they frankly recorded and depicted the world.

Photography: “Catching the intersection points between your inner reality and what you are seeing”— William S. Burroughs


Shooting is a research method for Burroughs, which helps him to create his characters in an aesthetic experiment. The relation between photography and time is intriguing, since the photography disturb the essence of time–keep flowing and floating.


The most interesting part is we usually only see the world from the surface and the outcome, like,  how successful this figure is, how to achieve their goals, etc., and we never know the process and the thinking behind them.”Taking Shots” demonstrates and reveals how those details and small things in life can transform a person in their work. In other words, actually everyone is the same, the differences depend on how we collect our thoughts and produce them into another form– creativity comes from ordinary life.