How to get started
Wee says the answer to the question of cost lies in understanding that all businesses have a life cycle, with SMEs particularly sensitive to incurring extra costs.
He recommends that you decide when and how to solve your problems as follows:
- If you’re just starting out: Attend talks and workshops on problem-solving so the steps are always fresh in your mind and you can tap them when your business grows;
- If you need higher-level strategies: Submit your problem statement to an open innovation platform, such as openinnovation.sg run by the Infocomms Media Development Authority (IMDA), where problem-solving experts can bid to help you.
- If you’re establishing a transformation team: Through DesignSingapore Council and EnterpriseSG, tap the Government’s available grants and programmes to build your team.
Wee advises that SMEs could form “consortiums” to learn and propose problems for solving because, apart from having strength in numbers, such consortiums are large enough for design consultants to invest the time needed to effectively help them.
He notes, however, that you should also consider having “chill-out sessions” where companies big and small can exchange ideas over drinks with design experts. He hosted one such session with Dairy Farm and the owners of Bettr Barista and The Soup Spoon. “Over drinks, we brought particular experts together with people who needed a fresh pair of lens to their problem,” he says.”The sharings at these sessions were quite powerful to unlock new insights”
Han, the owner of Little Fruit Farm, says he would certainly have benefitted from such exchanges of ideas to solve business problems.
To his credit, after his business failed, he actively sought out DT and mastered its finer points. Today, he is a design expert himself, having helped such organisations as SingHealth and DBS Bank shape their products and services to fulfil their end-users’ and customers’ needs effectively.
And if he had a second crack at running his fruit juice kiosk, he would do so armed with many fresh ideas to turn business around. He says: “I could have done pop-ups or even a fruit market, where customers could pick whatever fruit they wanted and I’d blend it for them.” And while Han maintains that while user research is important, a successful entrepreneur would still need an appetite for risk, sharing a quote by Anna Wintour: “It’s very important to take risks… In the end, you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be fearless.”