“…Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel
Yeah, we’re goin’ to the Roadhouse
We’re gonna have a real
…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.
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.
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!