This blog entry is supposed to be a reflective essay related to the academic year I spent studying Advertising and the Creative Economy at Kingston University. I have spent hours wondering how to start this paper and it is not because of a lack of inspiration, rather that so much happened in so little time, it is difficult to decide which event or experience should be highlighted. Truth is this year has been a constant challenge that has taught me many things about a variety of topics, and mainly things about myself. As I realised in April attending this course was nothing like what I was used to in my previous French business school and disrupted the perfect life plan I had in mind when I arrived. In fact, it has broadened my horizons and shown me that there are always new things to explore, and that I shouldn’t stop looking for the special job I will have a thriving passion for until I find it. To quote Steve Job: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Although this idea has already been in a corner of my mind for quite a while, I didn’t think I could actually experience life this way as it might be too unstable. Throughout the year, I’ve met inspirational people and attended stimulating lectures that made me realise the fear of failure is in fact the greatest barrier to success. Through this essay, I will identify the main points and experiences that made a significant impact on my learning and state of mind, trying to keep a coherent order. I will retrace how they connect and see how they can affect my future decisions in the conclusion.

The first particularity of this master is the diversity of its students. During my year abroad at UCD Dublin in Ireland back in 2008, I had already been confronted to a variety of nationalities, but students all came from a similar scholar background as we were part of the business school. In the MACE class, cultural diversity is not only present in the country of origin of its students but also in the undergraduate scholar background. Despite being extremely interesting on a cultural level, this mix of designers, marketers, film makers and writers has proven to be challenging when it came to group work. As Kalina pointed out in her own blog, Kingston University’s policy is to train us into team working by putting a maximum emphasis on group works. Although I was familiar with working in teams composed of people from different countries, I found that adapting to different schools of thought was more difficult. Throughout the year, I have been teamed up with students from various scholar backgrounds and it seemed to me that in terms of organisation and dynamic within the groups, it was easier to work with those who had received a marketing/business  education before. However, as the weeks passed and the end of the year approached, I noticed that it got easier to make our teams work effectively. I suppose that adaptation was possible after all, with each and every member doing their best to push our groups in the right direction. Indeed, Babiker, Cox and Miller have proven that cultural distance between overseas students doesn’t have a negative impact on school performance and can, on the opposite, enhance it. As a matter of fact, I feel like this experience has forced me to break away from pre-established patterns, and enabled me to be more open towards new methods of working. I also learnt to delegate and focus on the things I do best. I am convinced that this experience will be of great help in my future career as a marketer/publicist in the music industry. Indeed, it will allow me to work more effectively with musicians and journalists, and understand that their working habits might differ from mine.

The second major event that impacted my learning in the MACE course was the creation of our own businesses. I have previously blogged about Words Images and Dates, and briefly reflected on the challenges and rewards this company has brought my team mates and I. However, I would like to highlight the fact that running our own company and financing it with our own funds went one step further in the team working process described above. In fact, it was a real life laboratory to experiment and apply our entrepreneurship skills to the real world. Not only did this assignment make us cope with different sorts of situation that can occur, it also made us actively witness all the steps needed in order to start a business from scratch, therefore giving us the necessary tools for our future. The first step was to identify customer needs and prototyping in order to make sure that our product would satisfy the demand from the market. Following Terwiesch and Loch’s theory, this process of collaborative prototyping enabled us to customise our product in order to make it both useful and nice to look at, according to our sample customer’s taste. Once satisfied with our final prototype, came the search for an appropriate service provider who could produce our 150 bookmark-calendars. While the rest of the girls did an amazing job at selling our product to individuals, I must admit I did poorly. According to Kotler, it is important to readjust a plan when its implementation is not satisfying and I therefore decided to start targeting companies instead of individuals, thinking that they might be interested in an affordable Christmas or New Year gift for their employees and clients. Putting my shyness aside, I pushed myself to contact various French companies in order to sell them our products. This proved to be a successful initiative as 1/3 of our calendars were sold to these companies and Words Images & Dates later decided to adapt its products in order to make them customisable for the needs of the B2B market. We also put an emphasis on marketing and communication throughout the experience and used Genia and Joelle’s skills to create an advertising that we are extremely proud of as it reflects the image and identity of our company.

Thirdly, I had some extremely inspiring classes tackling topics such as leadership in the creative economy and managing creativity and innovation. Having for professional goal to do marketing, management or public relations in the music industry, these classes were of major importance to me as they taught me how to motivate and manage people in order to nurture their creativity. I was able to grasp some important notions and theories that will surely serve me in my career. For example, according to Wilson and Strokes and Benjamine, independence and freedom is an integral part to fostering creativity. However, Morean argues that constraints can also encourage creativity as they provide a ‘stimulus for invention.’ I was lucky to verify Morean’s theory while interviewing London based rock band Damn Dice which proved to be more creative and efficient at writing music when given strict deadlines to meet. A good manager or leader should therefore be able to inspire and supervise creative work by putting fair constraints while letting enough freedom to the artist; and most of all, (s)he should be able to adapt her/his approach depending on the personality and special needs of the creative.

The fourth major learning this year brought me is the ability to critically evaluate opinions and write essays in a formal manner. I was surprised to discover that the British assessment system is very different from the French. Four years of practical thinking, straight to the point answers and power point presentations had indeed made me absolutely unable to write academically. After having struggled during semester one in order to try and understand how to write relevant and critical essays, I feel much more confident today for the dissertation and am absolutely certain that I will be able to use this knowledge and working method later on. Not only did essay writing teach me how to write and support my ideas, it also taught me to look for various sources, structure my thoughts in order to be more convincing and enabled me to read a range of material to deepen my understanding of topics in a way I couldn’t have done otherwise.

Last but not least, I feel like living in a new country, making new friends and being confronted to a whole different lifestyle throughout the year has made me more confident and given me the strength to pursue my dreams. As a matter of fact, I am not afraid anymore to take the extra step that would make a difference. I used to be anxious at the idea of networking and “selling myself,” as I was scared that I might annoy people or not be taken seriously. I have come to realise that by thinking this way, I could miss out on some serious opportunities, whereas pushing myself a tiny bit could lead me to success. Keeping this in mind, I started travelling and networking around Sweden, France and the UK which lead me to make some interesting contacts in the music industry as stated in my previous blog from December. What was then only a project has now come to life and I am now in charge of the promotion and public relations of Swedish rock band Crashdïet for the French territory. As a result, I have spent the past few months getting in touch with journalists, magazines and webzines in order to get them to interview the band at Hellfest Open Air festival, the biggest French metal festival. Despite having previously worked  as social media manager at Roadrunner Records, which has given me some useful contacts and knowledge of the French music industry, I have always specialised in marketing and only had a basic knowledge of public relations. Working as a freelance publicist for an already established band, without any label to back me up or anybody to teach me the job has taught me self-reliance and forced me to take initiatives. In a way, my undergraduate and postgraduate education prepared me for this kind of situation as I have been taught to think practically rather than to passively incorporate knowledge.  Indeed, I am currently learning on a daily basis and this keeps me alert and excited. Amabile found self-motivation to be a driver to initiative and success as it is sought in passion. This theory could definitely apply to my case and I am now looking forward to Hellfest as I have planned some interviews for Crashdïet and cannot wait to see the results of all this pre-operational hard work.

I quoted Steve Job in my introduction, and therefore I shall quote him again in my conclusion. This master’s year at has shown me clearer than before that life is all about “connecting the dots” and staying in touch with your passion. Looking back on these experiences, I feel like I am more self-reliable than I was before and more motivated than ever to get started in my career. As Nikki Sixx points out in his book ‘This Is Gonna Hurt,’ I start to realise that we never stop learning and that each day is an experience that can teach us a lot if we give it all and follow our heart. I also noticed that the more I try, the less I feel anxious about getting out of my comfort zone, and it feels good, because surpassing this state creates a better potential for creativity, inspirational and effective dynamic change (Eloff and Ebersöhn). To conclude, with the end of this semester another chapter of my life comes to an end and I can relate to Ati’s blog on the topic. Indeed, despite being happy and excited about the future, I can’t help but feeling slightly nostalgic. Time has come for me to pack my bags again and go back to France in order to start looking for a job. Mostly, I am excited about this idea and working at Hellfest this summer might help me connect with music professionals and hear about exciting offers in France or somewhere else in Europe. Thanks to the different experiences and learning highlighted above, I feel like I now have all the cards in my hands to start looking in the right direction and get closer to my goal.

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In the age of digitalisation, information is massively available everywhere. In order to get an answer to our questions, we use Google, Wikis and even social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In less than a second, we can find relevant info to satisfy our curiosity. In fact, we can find online most of the knowledge we could be taught in school, through the readings of scholar papers and various articles. Some major American Universities such as Harvard have even opened entirely free online classes. All the theories and concepts of topics we are interested in are now at a simple “click” length… and for free! In this context, it seems logical to wonder if schools are still relevant, at all.

The idea of this blog actually came from an informal conversation I had with a friend of mine. Her name is Myrtille and she is a 23 year old woman who just graduated from French University to immediately become a school teacher. That’s right: immediately. As a child, I always imagined my teachers to be experienced and able to prepare us for our future careers. But how can they possibly do that is they have NEVER been OUT OF SCHOOL? Our modern world is extremely competitive and evolves so fast that it is hard enough to catch up with new technologies and ways of working while being on the field so I can’t imagine how someone who has never been employed to a company might prepare the new generations for this kind of environment. “We have received education on how to handle this topic,” I have been told, as an answer to my concerns. Right, and where did this knowledge come from? University teachers, which means, in France, qualified scholars who haven’t experienced anything else than school either. Now don’t get me wrong, I am sure these academics know plenty of theories that I wouldn’t even begin to understand, but the fact is there: you can’t teach people how to be prepared for something you haven’t experienced yourself.

The second thing that stroked me in Myrtille’s reflection is that she was complaining that her students weren’t listening to her and seemed to find chatting with their friends a much more interesting thing to do in class. Erh… pause here for a minute Myrtille. Do you remember the two of us sitting next to each other in biology class about six years ago? We were in the exact same position: planning our weekend escapade while counting down the minutes to the end of the class. It didn’t matter how important the topic seemed to be for our teacher, we couldn’t give a flying f***! Why is that? The problem with the French education system is that from an early age, students and parents are lead to believe that there are important topics and irrelevant topics. It was made very clear with the use of coefficients to give more weight to the so called important topics, such as maths, biology and chemistry, whereas the arts, music and sports were worth almost nothing. So what if you’re good in arts and music? Irrelevant, you’re doomed. You will most likely stop school at an early age, never go to university and start looking for a job at Mc Donalds because there’s nothing much you can do. How many times have I heard my mother tell me “it doesn’t matter if don’t hand in your art project, just focus on your math test, it’s more important.” Well guess what mum, I’ve always loved drawing, and I might have been an extremely talented tattoo artist, but I surely will never use any more complicated maths than the strict basics… and I’ll use my computer.

See, the thing I don’t understand is that ever since I graduated from high school and got into higher education (I guess I did work on my math test after all…), all I hear is that creativity is the key that leads to innovation and helps companies developing sustainable products and services. If it is a way of thinking that is actively sought by companies, then WHY isn’t creativity more valued in school? It doesn’t make any sense to me. And it gets better! Studies have found that as children get older and go to school, those showing creative and alternative thinking skills are fewer and fewer. By following obsolete teaching methods and forcing irrelevant knowledge to our brains, schools therefore annihilate independent thinking and encourage uniformity. If you want my opinion, I think that there is absolutely no point in learning tons of information on topics we are not interested in: we’ve got computers and books to stock this kind of information nowadays. Instead, we should learn how to use our brain in order to be able to adapt to various situations, to get back to our feet, to find ground-breaking solutions to problems. And the only way we can practice these skills is not through learning but through experience and real life experimentation.

So do I think schools are garbage and should be closed? No, of course I don’t, because I understand that a basic knowledge is important to have a broad culture and fit in the society we live in. But I do think that the entire education system should be completely re-thought, in order to make sure that future generations have all the keys in their hands to choose their future orientation effectively and with passion. Here are a few steps I think schools should therefore follow.

  • Grouping kids by age is an aberration. Why not group them by level? Take my example: when I was 14, I might easily have been able to join the French class of 16 years old people whereas my maths capacities were probably no better than an 8 year old (yes, maths again). Grouping people by level will make it easier for teachers to explain concepts and adapt to each student, since they will have the same difficulties.
  • Subjects should not be ranked by importance. It makes absolutely no sense at all to decide that someone that is good in science is cleverer than someone who is good in sports. It’s a different form of intelligence and they need to be treated differently. This leads me to my final point:
  • Schools should adapt to the different ways of learning. Studies have shown that depending on which brain part we most commonly use (left or right), we have a more creative or analytical kind of thinking. Despite knowing this, society only seems to focus on the analytical side of things and everyone is forced into adopting methods of thinking that might not be the best depending on their own preferences.

To conclude: we’re all different, and therefore we absolutely need schools to be more comprehensive and adapt to our individual needs. By doing so, schools will enable kids to identify things they like, and things they are good at. This can lead to a new motivation for learning and help people specialise in areas they really enjoy, rather than pushing themselves to learn things they hate, and probably won’t use anyway. Elitism of some programme orientation needs to stop to allow children and teenagers to find their own way in life.

If you are interested in the topic, I strongly encourage you to watch the video of Sir Ken Robinson on the topic “Does Schools Kill Creativity?” below:

 

By the way… Myrtille isn’t her real name, I changed it to protect her privacy 😉

The end of the semester is approaching and with this comes the end of a challenging but rewarding adventure: the creation of our company, Words Images & Dates.

Overall, I can say that I am really proud about our project. First, having been able to find the idea of our bookmark calendar, manufacturing it and holding it in our hands was definitely an incredible sensation. The feeling was reinforced when we noticed that our “baby” sold really well, both to individuals and companies using it as promotional gifts. It made us feel like with a bit of customisation, our idea was a viable business model. Surely we had ups and downs but looking back it was an interesting experience and I’m happy about the way it turned out. We even ended this experience on a bright note as our team was selected amongst the 8 finalists to represent Kingston University at the UK Young Enterprise Challenge hosted in London.

Unfortunately we didn’t make it in the two Finalist so I wish the best of luck to the two winning teams: Cuff’d and Curpy. Both have amazing products and really deserve being selected. I have no doubt they will do great in this competition and support them 100%!

To me, the main highlight of the project was to be able to see how creative the different teams have been throughout the year to create and commercialise their products. Below are some of the pictures I took at fairs we attented, they definitely illustrate better than words what I am trying to say…

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A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to write a paper on the topic of leadership. Being my usual non-conforming, anti-government and DIY kind of person, I started writting an article poundering whether we needed leaders, at all. In order to support my argument (according to which political and corporate leaders were in fact poisonous entities trying to control the masses by numbing individuals), I based my research on the hardcore-punk and sleaze-rock scene, using song lyrics, street art and litterature. I was halfway through the process of analysing the data collected when one thing startled me: these artists and writers, who were often dissing leaders and encouraging free spirit, were actually telling people what to do. They were often considered as influencial and had many followers, ready to put into practice the words they preached. As a result, they could be considered as leaders, since one of the definitions of leadership is the relationship through which one person influences the behaviour or attitude of another.

I backed up my research with some academic litterature which enabled me to understand the different existing types of leadership. Having established this, I found it would be much more interesting to focus on the difference between transactional leaders (motivate through reward and punish through corrective actions) and transformational leaders (charismatic people who provide their followers with a clear sense of purpose). I chose to call the latter inspirational leaders and found that most artists and writers I was studying for the purpose of this assignment qualified as transformational leaders whereas most politicians, managers and teachers failed to show these traits and fell into the transactional category of leadership.

It is my personal opinion that in creative industries, transformational leadership can be much more efficient to foster creativity and innovation than transactional leadership. In order to create and release their minds, people need to be inspired and rewarded for trying and not for achieving. The fear of failure that is induced by transactional leadership and reward/corrective scheme of motivation is the biggest barrier to creativity and innovation. Afraid of “doing it wrong,” people repeat endlessly the same processes and methods without ever trying to break the chains and finding new ways of working/communicating. On the other hand, I firmly believe that individuals can draw their inspiration from transformational leaders and opinion leaders. Therefore, inspirational leadership can be considered as a voice, an idea transmitted from an individual to another and that might have a different impact depending on who receives the message. It is the drive that can unify people for a cause and ultimately make a change.

As a conclusion, I am intimately convinced that music and (street) art can make people think and attract their attention to what is wrong in our modern society… and I’m not the only one!

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Stencil street art by Banksy; picture found on google.

This means that I have received a psycho-rigid education and have been taught to think about having a career plan, do market studies, think about the future, do forecasts, thin strategically and implement action plans. I have been taught I shall not make mistakes, because they don’t look good on a CV. I have been let to believe that everything should go according to plan, otherwise I need to readjust quickly, not to lose track of what I was doing. It also means that when I arrived at Kingston University to study Advertising in the Creative Economy, I had a very precise idea of what I wanted from life and how I was supposed to get it.

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Well, let me tell you this: after a few months of socialising with amazing peeps from all over the world, listening to inspiring lectures and travelling around the UK, France and Sweden following rock bands on tour, I don’t know anything anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still animated by the same passion for music that has motivated me to do this degree in the first place. I still know that my heart belongs to that industry and I don’t see myself anywhere else. However it’s the business side of things I’m not so sure about anymore. Call me crazy but all I want right now is to pick up a guitar, be in a band and tour the world. Okay, that might sound a bit extreme, but what if there was more for me than looking at album sales figures on a screen? What if what I need is a part time job that would get me a regular source of income and allow me to do something creative on the side? Why should I jump into a 9 to 5 routine that would transform me into a working-tax-paying-machine for the rest of my life? Fucking hell, I don’t even know in which country I’ll be a few months from now.

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Maybe it’s the idea of ending this cycle of studying and getting into another one that makes me question everything I was so sure about less than a year ago. Maybe it’s just putting myself out there and realising that there is a whole world full of opportunities and possibilities waiting for me. I have just understood that it is alright to make mistakes, because it means taking risks and challenging what SHOULD be to try what COULD be.

So I’d like to thank everyone who has been responsible for this reflective change of plans by challenging me in every possible way and showing me things my previous school kept jealously hidden! Oh I do hate you a tiny bit right now, but mostly I’m grateful that you erased my plans as I know have a blank page to fill from scratch!

Today is a big day for Words Images and Dates, as it is getting its first ever web advertisement! My follow MACErs surely already know about the so called WID, a photography and quotes company that I co-founded with Ati, Genia, Joëlle and Aung back in November. For the rest of you who’d like to know more about this product we are passionate about, I invite you to go read this previous post or visit our Facebook page 🙂

Anyways, ’nuff said, the following requires no typing from my part so I’ll keep it quiet to let you enjoy our web spot and hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing cast and crew without whom this advertising could not have been made: Allie Fernier, Farah Chaya, Maureen Zalloum, Hajime Yoneda, Ati Naghsh, Genia Boustany, Joelle Sfeir and Charanya Nopnukulvised. It’s been a great experience working with you on this guys!

So, these past few weeks have been pretty busy, which means that despite the tremendous amount of things actually happening, I haven’t had the time to update you guys about it. Well, it’s about time to make up for this and I’ll start with a rather important topic: human trafficking. No, I am not going to speak about the Kony 2012 video that’s been viral for a few days. Despite fighting for the noble cause of stopping child traffickers in Uganda, I question the intentions of Invisible Children and encourage everyone feeling a sudden urge to help African children to read this link and make some extra research before sharing the video, supporting and donating to this dubious organisation.

In fact, what I’d like to share with you is that two weeks ago, some experts from Compassion2one, came to our classroom in order to increase our awareness to an important issue: human trafficking. Human Trafficking can be defined by the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labour (Wikipedia). I was shocked to realise that even within the UK and Western Europe, some people were still victims of human trafficking today and some might not even be aware of it! Despite trafficking being strictly forbidden in most European countries, this problem is far from being resolved. Thankfully, many people and volunteers work hard to solving this issue by means of prevention, protection of the victims and prosecution of traffickers. Should you like to understand better the topic, useful information on can be found here and here.

After the University Apprentice Experience presentation, the NGO asked us to pair up in teams and come up with three creative ways of fighting human trafficking. My team (Paula, Benjamine, Erica & Julie) and I headed to a café and started talking about this issue. We felt really inspired and implicated and decided we wanted to come up with an idea that would raise awareness in a creative way. Benjamine came up with the idea of using art, in the form of statues in order to represent this issue. Quite happy with our idea, we came back to class to present our project and listen to the ideas that came from the different groups. Everyone got involved and some of the ideas were definitely inspiring and innovative. At the end of the presentations, a jury formed of our experts and Corrine, our Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship teacher, elected the best idea. To our surprise and joy, our team has been chosen as the winner! The experts told us they might know people who would be interested in working with us in order to implement our idea. I surely hope they will come back to us and that we can work together on this campaign because fighting against human trafficking is an important issue and something I really hope I could have a positive impact on.

Song Title Credit: Generation Wild – Crashdïet