Lazar Vujanic FS

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Reading Responses

The Messy Minds of Creative People

I found this article very useful and legitimate, as well as amusing. Giving us the background - psychological aspect of creativity, the author talks about it as a state of mind, which I strongly believe in. The one thing I really liked about this article is that it uses science as a platform to describe something as messy and funny as creativity, making me as a reader enjoy, as well as actually learn something new. Furthermore, the stages of creativity the author talks about (Generation and Selection) gave me a perfect explanation to what is truly happening behind the scenes of not only big art pieces, but also random mundane pieces of art that we are constantly creating. The best part of this reading assignment was realizing that I can actually apply most of it to my very own state of mind when it comes to being an artist, thus help myself whenever I get stuck in a creative process.

Ideas for Startups

Startup as a form of business is something that I've been interested in for a long time. Generating ideas and thinking about how I could possibly make a profitable business out of them became my routine. Thus, this essay, written in conversational language by someone who actually did something big, made me realize that thinking and talking about the whole startup process the way I do, surrounded by creative and initiative people (mostly friends) is good way of doing it. The whole 'problem-solving' theory that the author talks about perfectly articulates and defines how we should look at the world of business. Idea is an abstract term; Being surrounded by inspiring people who are able to define it from their point of view and being familiar with all the world-influencing factors give one a perfect base for something as powerful as startup.

What is Strategy?

In this article, Michael Porter is trying to answer the question of strategy, introducing us to three concepts: Strategy, Operational effectiveness and Fit. What he points out is that although strategy and operational effectiveness may seem similar, they shouldn't be mixed up - strategy delivers greater value, whereas effectiveness gives greater efficiency. Another good example of their differences lays in activities. Effectiveness promotes performing similar activities better than your competitor, while strategic positioning promotes performing different activities from competitor or similar if needed, but in different ways. Strategy is thus defined as creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities:

  • Few needs of many customers
  • Broad needs of few customers
  • Broad needs of many customers in a narrow market

Strategy also requires us to make trade-offs in competing - to chose what not to do that our competitors are doing. It also involves creating a "fit" among a company's activities - which is described as perfect set of activities considering all the factors that are influencing a company's management.

The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy

The author focuses on and defines five universal forces for all the industries and their markets. Their usage by a company though, should be perfectly dosed in order to make profit; if they are taken to intensively, companies could be at risk. Those are:

  • Threat of entrants puts pressure on prices, costs, and the rate of investment necessary to compete. This force depends on the height of entrant that are present and on the reaction they are getting.
  • The power of suppliers proposes capturing more value by charging higher prices, but limiting quality of service.
  • The power of buyers is another very strong force. Buyers can capture value by forcing down prices or demanding better quality. They will always have advantage if the market consists of few buyers and if the products are undifferentiated.
  • Rivalry among existing competitors heavily depends on the core of the competition. There are a few cases upon which a rivalry can occur - price discounting, new product introductions, advertising campaigns and service improvements.
  • Threat of substitutes occurs when another company performs the same or a similar function as an industry’s product by a different means.

Taking into consideration all of these forces, strategy becomes very helpful. It orders you to position your company where the forces are the weakest and to use tactics that are designed specifically to reduce the share of profits leaking to other competitors, and exploits and anticipates industry change.

SWOT Analysis I & II

Looking Outside for Threats and Opportunities and Looking Inside were really helpful. Those two articles give the reader an introduction to building strategy for their businesses. The first one promotes objective and critical overview of the outside' - market and current circumstances that can affect your business. It gives us four important tips on how to do that: get familiar with workstyle and lifestyle trends; do market segmentation because it is easier to perceive smaller segments with homogeneous features than looking at a large heterogeneous market; determine the price elasticity; review five competitive forces. The second one promotes objective and critical overview of the inside' - your company's strengths and weaknesses. The author points out the importance of core competency as a potential foundation for new or revised strategy, as well as comparison with the rivals. It is also very important to assess the current financial strength, as well as to incorporate management competence and organizational culture. I found the main point of the article to be that it is necessary to be objective and not to rely on a few people to do the analysis, but to bring together a group of people from different segments of your company to do that using the nine-step process mentioned in the article.

Overall, I found the readings very helpful and interesting, especially trying to incorporate those advices in my own idea development, although it was hard for me to apply the strategy proposed in the readings because of the fact that I don't own a company that deals with all those situations like finances, threats, changes, etc.

Experience Prototyping

In this article, the authors define prototype as working models of a product, meant to show how the product works or looks like. Prototypes propose the design and content of a product, not showing the final result, although hinting on it, depending on what our business model is. The authors also emphasize the importance of a prototype in design process which is consisted of 3 stages:

  • getting familiar with and understanding the needs and experiences of existing user body
  • exploring and analyzing ideas
  • presenting the ideas to audience

What I found interesting about this reading is that experience prototyping can be done using different mediums, as long as the prototype conveys the message. The most important thing is being critical and being able to put your self in the user's body in order to find the common ground as a designer.
Another thing that came across my mind while thinking about prototypes is that I always tend to do prototypes for what I'm mostly interested in. Architects always construct models to communicate the ideas that need to be seen in a physical space, the ideas that can't be conveyed just using drawings and other work on paper. Designers also use prototypes. As I was working with a TV production crew in a large broadcasting network, I got to see some of the processes behind the scene. I noticed how the stage designer first started drafting the solutions for the stage using sketches, then before actually putting all of the precise dimensions to the idea, he constructed a 3D model to see how the stage would occupy the studio, what would be the best options for cameras, lighting, etc. That was the stage of his design process where he got to hear the feedback from the rest of the crew, the point from which he started developing more precise shapes and form, until he reached the end result. Graphic designers as well, I noticed, prototyped. Using a similar pattern of engagement in the design process, they started with hand drawings, then they did more defined graphics on computers, got feedback, and finally executed the whole visual identity of the show.

The Design of Everyday Things

In this chapter of the book, the author introduces us to fundamentals of how things work. He defines them, the design process behind them and their impact on the users. What I liked the most is that he does that, using examples from everyday life and focusing on the phycological aspect of the users' experiences . What he stresses out the most is that users shouldn't need an engineering degree to figure out what a device does. He uses the example of aesthetically pleasing glass doors- how we can get trapped or not able to pass through them because there are no clues on how to use them.
What I found very interesting is the author's theory about what makes a design solution successful. He points out five physiological key features:

  • Mappings - the link between what you want to do and what is perceived possible
  • Affordances - the actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used
  • Constraints - limits to the perceived operation of a device
  • Feedback - sending information back to the user about what action has actually been done and what result was accomplished

Business Model Generation

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new or documenting existing business models. With the proposed business model design template, an enterprise can divide their business model into 9 segments:

  • Key Activities: The most important activities in executing a company's value proposition.
  • Key Resources: The resources that are necessary to create the product/value for the customer. These resources could be human, financial, physical and intellectual.
  • Key Partners: In order for a company to complete operations and reduce risks of a business model, it usually works on buyer-supplier relationships so they can focus on their core activity.
  • Value Proposition: The collection of products and services a business offers to meet the needs of its customers.
  • Customer Segments: A company must define which customers it tries to serve. Customers's segments can be divided based on the different needs.
  • Channels: Channels are considered as means by which the company delivers its products to the customers.
  • Customer Relationships: A company must define its relationship with the customers to ensure the straight of the business. The types of relationships vary from self-service to co-creations..
  • Cost Structures: The most important aspects of the finances while operating under different business models.
  • Revenue Streams: The way a company makes income from each customer segment.


I found this reading very interesting, useful and fun to read. It is very concise and precise, allowing the reader to completely engage in the topic and apply the knowledge from the book to his own ideas. The author also uses a lot of appropriate examples to support their definitions of the business model canvas, which further clarified all of the doubts that reader may face.

Business Model Generation - Patterns

This section of the book talks about business model patterns. They describe business models with similar characteristics. Studying patterns helps us understand how different businesses function, the dynamics behind them and creates a reference for new venture creation in terms of cost structures and other important factors. The patterns that the author mentions areFREE as a Platform Model, Unbundling Business Models , The Long Tail, Multi-Sided Platform and Open Business Model. What I realized, based on the examples that are given, is that the three most common patterns are:

  • FREE as a Business Model (The venture always has at least one constant customer segment that is able to use the service for free. The actual profit comes from advertising or another customer segments that pay. i.e: Google, Skype, Facebook,...)
  • Open Business Models (The venture constantly collaborates with external partners. The collaboration can be inside-out, meaning the company is selling their ideas to other entities, or outside-in, when the company imports the ideas and other properties from other parties)
  • Multi-Sided Platform (The venture has two distinct user groups that provide each other with network benefits)

Business Model Generation - Scenarios

This chapter talks about how important it is to build and imagine scenarios for your business and how that analysis shapes your strategies or simply way of thinking. According to the author, there are two types of scenarios:

  • Different customer segments scenarios
  • Future scenarios


The first one encompasses different perspectives of the target market. These scenarios come from customer analysis, meaning that deeper knowledge about the customers and ability to imagine their points of view help us create a series of profiles in order to measure the efficiency of the business model in each segment and see if changes are needed.
Future scenarios are based on describing the environment in which a business model could operate. They are supposed to help in detecting and mitigating possible problems, but are also helpful when it comes to recognizing opportunities and shaping strategies.

Business ideas

Belgrade4u

Illustration

According to the official statistics of Serbian Government as well as the touristic organizations around the world, Belgrade has had a positive exponential growth in number of young tourists in previous 5 years. With increased variety of touristic content and cheep offers, Belgrade has become one of the main stations mostly of young Europeans, as well as for other college students looking for an entertaining and fun experience. Recently, an article was published by Huff Post placing Belgrade at number 1 position on the list of 25 Best Value Cities in the World according to trivago.com analysis.

Belgrade4u is a project that would bring Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia, closer to young people (students) from all around the world in an authentic and modern way. The idea is the creation of a unique web-based service, which aims to organize sojourn in Belgrade according to authentic parameters set by every user. This service would operate in 4 steps:

  • registration
  • customization
  • payment
  • plan

In order for a customer to use the service and access creation of his/her plan of visiting Belgrade, he/she should firstly register.
By further profiling, the user comes out with his touristic affinities.
Using different “tags” for main and secondary interests (culture, entertainment, cuisine, education,…), additional information (duration of the trip, location of accommodation), and establishing the budget (approximate or very specific), the user gives the web service all the necessary information for creation of his plan, based on previously collected database.
In order for a customer to use the service and get a plan, he/she has to pay (previously established) price.
After successfully finishing previous steps, the user gets his unique plan in a form of interactive map of Belgrade with marked routes, objects and locations, as well as useful information, which aims to improve personal touristic experience.
The user would be able to access his map via any electronical device (smartphone, tablet, computer).

(This platform could potentially be used for other popular destinations.)

What do I need to do to start: make a list of places and objects for visitors (potentially establish a cooperation with the restaurants, hotels, etc. based on advertisement space); design the whole visual identity for the product; create a 'mock' website for the product; purchase online advertising to direct traffic to the site;

Possible strategy to enter the market: The mock website may consist of a marketing landing page with a link for more information or purchase. The link is not connected to a purchasing system, instead clicks are recorded and measure customer interest.

Analysis (SWOT):

  • Strengths:

-unique service
-personalized user-experience
-inside perspectives of young locals
-appealing design
-affordable, dedicated to a specific target market (students) -innovative way of offering touristic services

  • Weaknesses:

-very narrow target market since the platform is just for Belgrade
-at first, the creation of one's plan would be done manually (meaning that a real person would assemble the plan - more time and money needed)
-if we extract the core of this platform, it does what agencies do (except for the fact that this one is more detailed and personalized)
-does things that people could potentially do on their own without having to pay
-not having constant customers
-big initial capital needed

  • Opportunities:

-potential partnerships with travel agencies
-potential partnership with local facilities
-attracting more and keeping previous users with special offers
-recent positive marketing of Serbia
-marketing and advertisement
-expansion of the platform to cover other regional cities

  • Threats:

-people relying on their own internet skills for organizing their trips
-people not wanting to pay for something like this
-other agencies and apps offering similar thing
-potential low income of tourists
-migrant crisis in Europe with all of its consequences on tourism across Europe

How to mitigate the weaknesses and threats: constantly attract more visitors and users with adequate marketing; use my own skills for operations needed for the start, thus decrease the amount of the initial investment; clearly distinguish the service and its uniqueness from what people do on their own

Trends that definitely work in my favor are increasing usage of social networks and online platforms (which I will try to deeply incorporate in my project in terms of marketing), increasing number of young tourists in Belgrade, large touristic content for variety of personalities. After receiving feedback from the class, I realized that my first task in further development of the idea should be selecting the customers. Students and young people interested in traveling became my main target market. That is also the segmented group of visitors that is expected to grow more and more every year. Being part of my target market gives me a good perspective for identifying the needs, price sensitivity and accessibility. My main competitors would be touristic agencies and already existing touristic online platforms and apps, as well as smartphones' built-in features like finding the nearest restaurant or cultural/social event,... What distinguishes my project from the competitors the most is focusing on personalized touristic experience based on collected database provided by a real person in stead of giving simple information necessary for a trip. The other aspects that stand out would be innovative user experience and appealing design targeted towards the youth.

Rakia

Illustration

Rakija (pronounced rakiya) is a fruit brandy popular in the Balkans. It is widely considered to be а national drink of numerous countries of the area, being globally identified with Serbian culture. The country is the world’s largest rakija producer and drinks more rakija per capita than any other country. In 2007, the European Union awarded Serbia with trademarks for five different rakija brands (plum, quince, nuts, honey, pear and apple) making it the only country to have any trademarks for rakija brands. My idea is to start a company that would produce rakija under its own unique brand design, as well as to create an experimental laboratory as part of the company, through which the clients would be able to create their custom flavors, using locally grown fruit.

Wearable charging station

The idea is to design a wearable solar power collector that would collect energy whenever exposed to sunlight. It could be in a form of a bracelet or any sort of clothing addition, light and stylish for everyday use. With the indicator of the amount of collected energy and a USB port integrated, the users would be able to charge their electronic devices by just having a piece of accessory and a cable. There is also the possibility of using rechargeable batteries as source of energy. (Further development needed)

Rhino

A box template

Black - cut
Red - fold
Green - trace
Screenshot