Reflective Essay: MACE vs. Jim Morrison

“…Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel

Yeah, we’re goin’ to the Roadhouse

We’re gonna have a real

Good time…

…The future is uncertain and the end is always near…”

This quote originates from The Doors’ song  The Roadhouse Blues and probably just emerged from one of Jim Morrison’s drug excesses, having no real deeper meaning. However, for me those lyrics are a pretty and very to the point universally applicable metaphor for anyone trying to reach a goal. And honestly who doesn’t?! “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel” really implies to keep focusing on your objective you are trying to achieve, while there are so many dangers lurking in the unknown, on the side of the road, hazarding the successful reaching of the goal. Whereas “Yeah, we’re goin’ to the Roadhouse, we’re gonna have a real good time” beautifully describes the relaxed, safe and joyful feeling, you have, when you reach that goal. But until then you need to carefully pay attention and keep focusing on getting there. I guess any student, entrepreneur or manager can feel Jim Morrison here. At least I definitely can, with aiming to achieve  the overall goal of successfully finishing my MA degree this year, aiming to develop myself and further skills for my future career, while not being distracted too much by attractive internships, jobs, collaborations and of course all the tempting leisure activities London has to offer. However, the main challenge during the last months was to keep focusing on the overall goal and to not getting lost in one class. It was Design Thinking & Entrepreneurship that seduced me to put most of my energy into the small business we had to start and run during the year. As it easily could have been a full time job, this task was definitely the most challenging from all classes, however also one of the most exciting experiences and effective hands on tasks. Moreover, when I think about it, it really was the heart of my studies, where all other classes could be applied to, adding value to me, the student learning, and the business’ success.

“The future is uncertain and the end is always near” is then the quote that adresses two main factors that accompanied and challenged me on my way to reach the goal, and most likely will be increasingly omnipresent in my future as “The future is uncertain” with change being an ubiquitous and current issue especially in the creative economy (Puccio et al., 2011),  with accelerating pace of technological progress and innovation in any field. Everyone has easy access to the Internet, providing endless information, advice, inspiration, free available expertise and research possibilities for innovation to prosper and sprout, whereas “the end is always near” embraces the fact of the limited time one has to achieve a goal or finish a project. Time usually flies and “the end”, in my case deadlines, regularly appear in the calendar way to early and always entail pressure and some sleepless nights.

Accordingly,  both time and team management as well as creativity as a tool to successfully handle change have been crucial on the road and I want to discuss how the module and the MACE program provided opportunities to both increase awareness and understanding of those issues and gain skills and tools to handle them, in the following.

Time management:

As my background is in Fashion Design, I had been working on various projects in different companies, where the planned time schedule never worked out and usually everyone worked their asses off until the last second, especially when it comes to fashion shows. The week before the show no one really sleeps, red bull and coffee are being delivered at 4 am to be able to survive the somnolence and stitch some more buttons on the jacket where sleeves and lining is still missing, hanging next to the dress which should have been fully embroidered with chains yesterday and the pants that don’t fit to any outfit yet. So, after some working experience I couldn’t help but wonder: Is it really possible to manage a creative project that big and time limited in a way that the last days before the deadline are not a total back breaker job both psychologically and physiologically?

At the beginning of the Kingston University’s MACE program, when we were briefed about the start-up task and asked to self-responsibly build teams, appointing a leader and defining roles within the team, to then develop an innovative product, create a prototype, test it,  develop a marketing strategy, executing it to finally sell the product, making profit, I knew this would end up in a time management challenging project and I was curious if and how the classes would help guiding and teaching us through it. Looking back, I can say, most helpful were small spontaneous and very time limited in class tasks  like the shoe prototyping task in the very beginning of the Design Thinking & Entrepreneurship module, which reminded me of the importance of prioritizing in order to achieve an aim of a task, as well as quick decision making and team guidance. Moreover, I really liked that my Managing modules also added value and academic expertise to this challenge as we extensively addressed time management in the Managing People and Organizations module, where we were introduced to career action plans, which I could transfer to creating a business action plan for our small start-up CUFF’D later.

Team management:

Managing a team of people with backgrounds from both business and creative industries was the next challenge and joy for me of this module. As I was appointed as the Managing Director for CUFF’D I set myself two goals: First to aim after Belbin’s (2010) leadership theory, focusing on the delegation in fields where strength is missing and second to develop my team to their fullest potential, while steadily encouraging the heart by “recognizing contributions and celebrating achievements” (Kouzes and Posner, 2002).

The team consists of one graphic designer, a marketing specialist, a finance expert and me, a fashion designer with working experience in communications. All of us come from different cultures, are of different ages and didn’t know each other at all. As a result, in the beginning we had some difficulties to understand each other’s thoughts and first discussions and brain storming sessions were more exhausting than efficient. However, as I got to know each one better and understood their way of thinking and expressing themselves I was able to delegate those sessions better, trying to remove all constraints and misunderstandings by brokering and “translating” thoughts in order to create a positive environment where creativity can prosper and individual passions and worries can be addressed and worked out. As a result the team started to function amazingly well, we trusted each other and built some kind of special unity with common enthusiasm for the business and the product, which increased motivation and endurance in challenging situations during the whole time period of running the business.

As speaking of motivation I would like to go more into detail on what I’ve learned about it, because I believe that motivation really is one of the most important things to (take) care about when aiming to develop a viable business with a working environment, where people can reach their fullest potential, thus increase efficiency and most likely performance and success.

Motivation is something I am constantly thinking about, especially when it comes to decision making. I always ask myself:

Do I want to do this?

Would I be motivated doing this?

What would motivate me?

Am I enthusiastic about this?

Those questions help me figuring out to decide on whether to take a specific job or internship, to use my energy for a project or just to decide on a topic for the next research paper. I really trade those decisions against my motivation and enthusiasm and I think people might do this more and more as for many time will become more and more important than money, so people will think more about the value of the work, task or project itself in relation to the time and energy they will spend on it , whereas money will only be of value for motivating people to a certain extent. In fact research (and I think Dan Pink really makes a point here) shows that in today’s world, where everything moves so fast and people are overwhelmed with supply and commerce, monetary reward will only work as a motivational tool for simple straight forward tasks, however when it comes to more cognitive tasks money won’t be enough to fully motivate people, and especially when they are paid enough to not worry about money as a basic need. Then organizations and managers need to think of other strategies to motivate their people. This might include autonomy, higher amount of responsibility, creative freedom and flexibility regarding working hours, tasks, holidays, etcetera.

As for me I can say Pink’s theory really applies to me, as those are facts that are highly important to me and I always weigh them for any kind of decision making, because I feel life has so much to offer and there are millions of opportunities and worlds to conquer, so I  don’t want to waste my time for something I am not enthusiastic or motivated about enough.  After having realized and researched more extensively about the factor motivation of people for increasing performance and efficiency, I think my awareness of its importance also influenced how I tried to organize teamwork and tasks at CUFF’D. So, here again I had the hands on experience, which was further supported by other modules such as Managing Creativity and Innovation or Creativity and Leadership, having drawn my attention to current discussions and relevant theories about it. Really interesting for instance is Glück et al.’s (2002) discussion on freedom and autonomy as factors that increase creativity at work, entailing more creative approaches to all tasks, increasing the likeliness of innovation and good performance, which has been further developed by Amabile et al. (1996) adding motivation, recognition, personal reward and encouragement as crucial factors for reaching employee’s full potential and high performance. Accordingly motivation is highly important, however creativity, too.

Of course I read a lot of theories, heard discussions and lectures on the topic of creativity, its management, how to foster it and what stimuli influence results and outcomes, but reflecting on the last months, creativity was an omnipresent and crucial skill for me personally and in practice, running CUFF’D, too. We had to face challenges like procurement problems, as we sourced out production, loosing power of time and quality to a specific amount. Thus we were confronted with delays and not up to standard products from our manufacturer, which required quick and efficient problem solving decisions, where creativity was needed and helped the team to positively handle those challenges. Furthermore as we had a very limited budget and barely any funds in the beginning we needed to be creative in all operations, like the development of affordable marketing strategies where our social media classes and networking advice were of high value and viral marketing played an important role.

Summarizing, I can say that the last months were predominated by the hands on module of Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship, where I could apply other module and theories and skills learned in my specialty modules which was of good value to reach the subordinated goal of successfully running CUFF’D and finishing my MA degree to my satisfaction. However, furthermore the class really also impacted on my primary goal of developing further skills for my future career, whether I will go for Entrepreneurship or a career in a big fashion house, by not only increasing certain skills like team management, design thinking, the importance of creativity and motivation, networking and very crucial social media!, but also it further increased my confidence that I will be able to handle any challenges and no hazards on the road to my goals could ever really harm me, as I am prepared to focus and confident to reach any objective.

So, yes” the future is uncertain and the end is always near”, but so what?! Roll up your sleeves, get the right people, foster creativity, trust and enthusiasm, risk something and any challenge will be manageable and will definitely increase skills and confidence, so hands on people, just do it! 


Do It!

The most valuable experience during the last 8 months was definitely to acquire the skill and understanding of the importance of just doing it. If you have amazing ideas and I bet there are many, probabaly too many people out there having incredibly amazing ideas, you need to test them as soon as possible. Most important really is to be able to test ideas and concepts, rolling up the sleeves, going out and start execution. This really is what the last months taught me and my awareness and understanding of how important it is to get in touch with consumers increased highly. I am a person who is addicted to perfection and top quality, I don’t feel comfortable presenting products, designs or new ideas at an unfinished stage as I know from experience in the fashion industry, that presenting products or designs at an early stage to people who are not involved in the design process, can be really dangerous, as they can’t imagine the potential of the product. They can not look in to your head and see what you imagine, how the outcome might look like. However, I learned that yes probably be careful with presenting unfinished ideas to investors or managers, but let your target consumers test your new product and you will see that they are of high value for success. They see the idea you have been working on for weeks or months the first time and will direct your attention to SWOTs you didn’t think of. Furthermore, the figures  and stats you will get from the testing phase can be highly valuable for presentations for potential investors. It gives your idea credit and proof of potential. I made the experience of testing a new product in a very early stage with a prototype made of sample material and low quality manufacturing. And although I was afraid that the lack of quality and design at this stage  would have immense impact of how consumers perceive the produt, I  just can say, it was the best we could do in the beginning. We safed a lot of time and money thinking how the product would work best in action, what type of consumer might prefer which material and so on. Really just test it, execution is the tool to success!



The future. This is what we should care about most. What is it, that our consumers want in future, how will technology develop, what will be the next big thing and where should we invest. Hmm, if anyone has a safe answer, please feel free to comment. I think of course being able to adapt to change and technological progress is a highly important skill, organizations need to foster. However, going more into detail and when thinking of all the social media platforms and what people like or don’t like about it, I think one essential trend is co-creation. People = consumers want to be part of a product a service or anything, they want to have a voice and want to be heard. And as commerce is challenged more and more with new businesses and innovative start-ups growing and appearing anywhere, organizations need to make sure to keep their consumers loyalty and satisfaction. Therefore, considering co-creation in any process might be of value for any organization. Taking the example of social media platforms, pinterest bases its success on giving consumers the power of deciding what content is most important and what topics (images) go viral. The consumers curate the content on the platform, whereas the company itself rather provides the environment for the community to do so. Then looking at facebook, which indeed is probably the most popular social media platform at the moment, but frankly I am not sure how long this will be the case. The facebook communitycontinuously is blaming the organization to have too much power over both the consumer and the layout  of the platform. Too less freedom of creating, developing and power of decision making is given and too much authority on the company’s side. I think, if they don’t change their strategy radically, give it a few more years and either someone else will come up with something similar, providing the freedom and autonomy, people prefer. Accordingly, I think co-creation is something organizations need to consider as a valuable tool in order to increase performance, attraction and consumer loyalty and it really is a concept which can be exploited and further developed in infinity. Think about it.

Freedom => Creativity => Innovation = Success?

What makes a company successful nowadays? Most people would probably say it’s having creative resources. They will ensure you are able to develop innovative concepts, products or strategies, so you stay competitive. But how dou you foster creativity, what is needed to nourish innovation? Researchers like Amabile & Griffin or Glück et al. found that freedom is crucial for creativity to prosper.Thus, companies should build an environemnt where creativity is encouraged and employees perceive themselves free in generating ideas and power of decision making. However, if I think about brainstorming sessions, alone or in a team, total freedom of generating ideas is definitely fun, because you can come up with the wildest and craziest ideas, but it also never ends. When I start divergent thinking it will never stop, because I have millions of options. So, from my experience freedom is highly valuable and essential at the beginning of the process, however some structure or constraints are needed to direct thoughts and ideas in order to find an ending. Accordingly, in my opinion and from personal experiences, I indeed like being free to choose where I want to start and going crazy for a while, because when you loose yourself in ideas you start becoming highly enthusiastic about some ideas, developing them further and in random directions, increasing the chance of innovation. But as there are endless opportunities to develop those ideas further, some limitations help focusing and guiding those ideas, which helps inducing an end of the process. Therefore, organizations might need to just find the right balance between total freedom and limitations to generating ideas in order to reach full potential and high performance.



Glück J, Ernst R, Unger F., 2002, How creatives define creativity: Definitions reflect different types of creativity, Creativity Research Journal, Volume 14, Issue 1, p. 55–67

Young Enterprise

Last friday we have been lucky to be part of the UK Young enterprise finals in London. The best start-ups gather from all over the country to show what they have been working on the last months or year. We, the four girls from CUFF’D had been working our butts off for the finals. We have been announced to be one of the final five teams one week before the event. The criteria we have been judged on consisted of 4 parts. First each team had to hand in an investment proposal report where numbers, figures, plans and strategies should convince judges and possible investors that you are a viable business and worth investing in. Next was the event. During the whole day the teams presented their business at a small fair in London’s Guildhall, where fair stands as well as selling strategy was judged. Finally, the teams had 4 minutes to pitch their ideas and business strategy to the panel. Overall the experience was overwhelming, from the preparation week with highly valuable mentors to the event date and the final awarding ceremony. We were lucky and are thrilled that we won the best invetsment proposal report, however most valuable was definitely the opportunity to pitch the business idea to top-class jury, getting advice from senior partners of well-known investment companies and learning from this great experience. I can jsut say, everyone who crosses Young Enterprise, don’t hestitate,  take part and start something!

Motivationnnn No. 2

Helloo again,

as I was lying sick in bed today, waiting for my teammates to call, because we are taking part at a competition with our small start-up and today was the award giving ceremony for the selection of the two teams who will go to the national competition, I caught myself hoping we please might not win.  Why? Simple. As it it was not enough to have 4 assignments left, deadlines within the next 2 weeks, a dissertation that is waiting for progress, interview transcribing, a wedding for my best friend to plan and dresses to design, my body just shut down, says hanna, sorry i have a break i switch on the headeache now, have a kitkat.??!? what, noo, I cannot afford lying in bed stuffing myself with chocolate.  BUT, then the phone rang, and congratulations, won. Yeah?! The very first second this little mean panicing feeling started to arise, but then as I realized there will be tons of work, now and I can’t just make it go away by avoiding, being sick and panic, I suddenly got this adrenalin kick, bäämm, motivated, let’s do it! And I said to my stubborn body, you make a break, I take some pills and have a cold shower, and what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. It has to be done. So, when I was taking the shower, I wondered where this motivation and power so suddenly arose and made me think of yesterday’s blog post. Motivation in this situation cam from the competition. The fact that we were given credit for the work and sweat we put into the business the last months by being honored pushed the drive in me even further and sparked the feeling of fun for improving the business, creating something cool for the next competition. The act of taking part in a competition is exciting and thrilling. When you are not awarde, yes, it can be very dissappointing and demotivating, butas soon as you are over first dissappointment it can be even more encouraging. From my experience in a different way than an award can encourage you, as not winning encouraged me in a more tense and challenging way, as I tried to figure how I can improve my project, what is important to learn for doing better next time and it definitely made it harder to be relaxed at a next competition, but it always made me rethink my ideas and finding new ways or even more extrem solutions. Now, being awarded just raised my enthusiasm about the project. It gives you a feeling of safety and so, it definitely increased my tolerance for risk taking and pushed my motivation. This whole emotional bomb and analyzation of it just mademe remember that competition and rewarding is a highly valuable tool of motivating people, especially if they are given the chance to create or do something they are really interested in, something they want to do. And I ran into this amazing company StyleCaster Media Group from NYC, had the honor of talking to one of the employees and if I think of it, this company really tries to provide this environment where motivation and enthusiasm have no choice but prosper.With slogans like “Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshiped” and the common attitude of encouraging every employee to try something new, do things different and do what you are excited about, as long as they can make it fit for StyleCaster,  the organisation creates huge space and opportunity for motivation and enthusiasm. And my unimportant opinion thinks that this will be crucial for any company in the future to succeed in the long term, and especially for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Having motivated and enthusiastic people! Find ways of pushing their motivation. Be it by doing fun internal competitions or games or just let them do something crazy!


Motivation. How?What?Where?Why? Motivation doesn’t softly fall down on a fluffy light rose cloud from the sunny light blue sky, does it? For some it might come heavy and very fast in form of a big stone on their heads. At least when you realize you are 30, still at university sharing a house with six freshers, again begging your dad to support you another year, because your grant is not nearly covering your living costs not to mention the student loan from your year abroad during your undergraduate studies. Puuuh Motivation, here it is! But what about everyone else, us?! If you don’t find yourself in an extreme situation or condition, what motivates us, and how can businesses find efficient ways to motivate us in order to achieve objectives. Most people might say money, give them money! Because money rules the world?!? That is what is common and familiar to us. Monetary reward or one step up on the hierarchy ladder. And I guess this is what worked for a very long time very well, because companies had very clear and strict hierarchies and rules. So the better your results on given tasks, the more likely you might get a reward or be considered for a better job position. But can this reward system still be applied for todays business strategy concepts and is this what really motivates employees? Dan Pink looked behind the cloud of motivation and research shows some pretty interesting facts. Summarizing, he figured that monetary reward works very well for organizations focusing on simple straight forward tasks. But, as soon it comes to more complex and cognitive skills, at some point money looses its power as motivator. This point is reached when you pay your employees just enough so that money is not an issue to them anymore. But what then? Now, that money is out of their mind, they can entirely focus on their work. Perfect! But you also lost your motivation tool. From this point on more money doesn’t entail better performance. So, what do they want? Simple: Time to do whatever they want to do. Freedom. Responsibility. Power of decision making. Opportunities. It is just amazing how some research shows that giving employees one day the freedom to do anything they want with anyone they want in the company,  increases performance extensively. It enhances motivation, thus creativity, thus new ways to solving problems, to innovation and to a better workplace atmosphere. And I think this can be seen anywhere, today. People want to be able to try something new, something else, they want to be part of different things and they want to create, to interact. They want more power and authority of what they do. So, let them. I think giving people the freedom to be creative and be part of something new or -“else” is an amazing opportunity for any business. It could open doors to an unbelievable environment for creativity and innovation to prosper. So, have some faith and curiosity and just let them!


It’s already late April 2012! WOW it’s about time to be back and start blogging again. Time has been running in the last months, so fast, I didn’t even manage to write. The main reason is CUFF’D, the lovely business 3 colleagues and I started during our Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship class end of 2011. We had the opportunity to attend a big variety of interesting lectures, competitions and events, which especially helped me to get a broader view of the whole start-up “thing” and to learn how to find the right sources, what to focus on and how important it is to network. Networking will be the heart of the post today. I think it is the word I heard the most during this course. Make sure you attend events, always have a business card or smart phone 😉 with you. I often decided to go with the smart phone, as I realized how common QR codes are already or connecting via social media. Besides the participation at specific events like the WestFocus Bright ideas competition, the most efficient way of networking for our small business simply was going out. Be it dinner or parties, going out having fun, has proven to be the best tool to get in touch with interesting professional contacts. Of course, I think you can influence on how effective going out can be for networking. From my experience, just think about what kind of people you want to get to know. Is it your target customer, potential investors, press,..? Make sure you think about that first, then pick a place and make sure you are prepared. For instance for us, we as CUFF’D, a very small business, selling fashionable leather bracelets with a wallet function in order to guarantee all the life loving ladies a fun and careless night out by having all their essentials save with them in the cuff, going out, wearing the product and enjoying the night, proved to be a very successful networking tool. Just by having fun with friends in a club, laughing about gossip over a glass of wine in a crowded restaurant, having some after work beers at pubs in chosen areas or just by going shopping in the right shops, showing off the product, we attracted people’s attention and because of the “unprofessional” and chill environment we got to chatter with people about the product in a very relaxed way. A lot of them even came to us when seeing that we took a credit card out of the bracelet while paying or similar. So, my advice for tonight: Go out, enjoy, attract some attention (preferably positive ;)) and be aware what impact your awareness, attitude and behavior can have. The other very helpful and successful networking tool is social media. Twitter and Facebook helped us to not only reach customers, creating awareness of the product and getting feedback on it, but also it to be seen by press and retailers. Through those two tools, we got in touch with some important bloggers, possible manufacturing companies and international retailers. So overall and summing up: Networking is not as hard as it sounds, in fact it can be a lot of fun, natural, easy and relaxed. Just choose the right environment, take some cool people and have the right attitude. Do it!

IP- The Power of Copying

Today I attended a panel discussion about Intelluctal property in the creative industries. It was very interesting and reminded me of a very interesting case in the fashion industry.

Usually, the companys and chains of the lower segments hire trend agencies or send their own trend advisors to the most important Fashion Shows twice a year to spy new trends, shapes, colors and patterns. A lot of them copy at least to a certain extent pieces from houses like Chanel, Balmain or Dior.

Nowadays, pretty much everyone knows where to get cheap copies of the trend of the year. For instance, during the last two years Ray Ban had a boom with its Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses and  overnight you could find it for 10 bucks on black market sale on every corner of popular holiday destinations or big cities like New York and London. Same with Louboutin shoes, Chanel jackets, Balmain dresses and Louis Vuitton bags. Copies aren’t rare, in contrary you easily can find them everywhere. And it seems that those huge creative and popular brands should have more power and opportunities to protect their ideas, their “art”pieces.

But, in my opinion I don’t really think there is a big issue, if  Forever 21 copies a DVF dress or ZARA a Chanel jacket, because it won’t affect the success of the big fish. Houses like Chanel are well known and pretty easy to recognise and identify. Their branding is so strong that everyone can identify a Chanel inspired piece. Thus, noone can use it for building an own reputation. If the lower segments copy it, it just shows the popularity of Chanel, probably even increasing it. It will never have any effect on sales, because the target customer of the Haute Couture houses are totally different to those of the lower segments. A Chanel customer would never buy a 80 bucks jacket from ZARA.  And if there is anything those houses worry about IP, it would be more about how to use their power to make more money out of it by suing all the lower segmented companies for copying. So, I don’t think we have to worry too much about the big houses.

What concerns me more is that small designers don’t have much chance to win a law case if the big brands copy them, because of lack of money. Their is a current case with Chanel on this topic, which is really interesting. Carmen Coelle built her own company and produced garments for all the top couture brands like Jean Paul Gaultier, Dior and Chanel. A few years ago she started her own brand besides the production for the Couture houses and is now about to sue Chanel for copying one of her designs she wanted to sell to them. Chanel rejected Coelles design and copied it later.

The sad point here is that Chanel is fighting the accusation pretending the design was the work of Karl Lagerfeld, the face and heart of the brand. Coelle has almost no chance to fight this big house, it is David against Goliath. She might have a chance to win the law case, but the second she went public with it she lost the majority of her clients and customers. Over the last few years all the Couture houses cancelled their orders and stopped collaborations. Her business shrinked from 90 to 12 employees, she is at the brink of ruin.

So, IP is a complex topic, important and neccessary to protect. But for whom and to whom?

Christmas time

All the lights and decorations, the christmas markets, ice skating rings  and the smell of mulled wine in the air. Isn’t it just amazing?…. well, it is! And it would be even nicer if we would have time to enjoy all of it. But christmas time is not only fun and magic time, it also is exam time. The last weeks and the following are crammed with deadlines and presentations.  So I knew I wouldn’t have time to go on big christmas gift shopping trips. Thats why I started to collect what came across while researching for uni and here are some of my favourite innovative creative christmas gift ideas:

The incredible digital ink pen for you graphic addicts

The green way of bookmarking

Socket deeeeers

Brain on holiday? Get THE finder

For u photographers out there!

The ultimate lens mug

Make some serious phone pics

The white & white clock

And the amazing  future bend desk

Voila , my contribution to the bright ideas gift list 😉