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Reflective Personal Development Journal

Before I started my Management in the Creative Economy MA at Kingston University, I assumed most of the course would be about business theory and practices. I was interested in developing my business skills as I felt they needed improvement. I was surprised that there was a large emphasis on our personal and professional development in the second semester. Often, we focus too heavily on theoretical learning and forget that personal development can help us to live more fulfilled lives, both in a personal and professional capacity. This blog will detail my personal development plan as well and my learning in this module. 

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The D&AD New Blood campaign assignment formed the biggest chunk of this module.  Annually D&AD releases a variety of briefs from existing companies. I had to choose one brief from the options offered, develop a campaign concept and then submit slides presenting my idea. I chose the World Bank Connect 4 Climate brief on sustainability. The brief demanded a campaign that speaks to a group of people that aren’t usually reached by marketing campaigns. The campaign needed to inspire behavioural change towards more sustainable living habits and include measurables where youths (15 – 25 year olds) could measure the change in their behaviour as well as educating those around them. I immediately thought of South Africa and how less advantaged communities living in lower income areas often get excluded from campaigns, especially sustainability campaigns. 

This project helped to develop four key skills which are of value in any career in Creative Industries. These skills were – Project Management, Creative Problem Solving, Critiques and understanding my own creative process. Working on a real brief, for a real company, also taught me about industry standards and what would be expected of me in the ‘real world’. Ultimately these four skills will help me to deliver consistently in an efficient and professional manner.

Project management is one of my strengths. Due to freelancing in the past, I learnt how to prioritise the most important tasks and how to ‘juggle’ different projects. Freelancing also gave me suitable training for dealing with pressure. Pressure often helps us to learn about ourselves and can be an opportunity to grow according to Forbes Magazine (2017). Although it was challenging creating and developing a campaign on a weekly basis while working on other module assignments as well as my part time job and my business (Babatunde), I was able to develop my concept and deliver an evolving concept every week. I found DropBox Paper to be an extremely useful tool and wish I had known about it previously. This tool helps to create a developing body of work while having timelines to ensure that deadlines and goals are met. It is also very useful for sharing work and allowing groups to contribute to the same project.

Image : http://www.freepik.com

I enjoyed researching my campaign. Exploring what sustainability campaigns were out there and what efforts were being made to target people in Africa as well as South Africa was gratifying. As I had suspected, most sustainability campaigns are targeted at middle-class and upper-class earners. Similarly, most products or services which are sustainable are only affordable to higher income earners. Most of my research was secondary research, however, I also conducted primary research by sending questionnaires to youths living in townships in South Africa. Although I only received 3 responses, this was a fun experience and was surprisingly insightful for what I wanted to learn about the attitude of youths from disadvantaged backgrounds towards sustainability. This module taught me the importance of research as part of the creative process.  Visocky O’ Grady (2017) believe that problems related to everyday life can only be solved with research.

Another important bit of learning from this project was from the weekly critiques. Each week I had to report back to the class about the work I had done and the ongoing progress on my campaign. Firstly, I would need to listen to my class-mates presentations and then provide constructive criticism about possible improvements they could make or angles of thinking they could pursue. Secondly, I had to present and give a clear and eloquent account of what I had done in the previous week. Active listening was key as I had to understand my classmate’s concepts to give valuable feedback. The presentations also helped with not only speaking in an engaging manner but also with maintaining eye contact with all members of the classroom and holding their attention. Verganti and Norman (2019) maintain that effective teams encourage critical reflection and thus have the ability to ‘create through criticism’.  Hence critiques are essential for collaboration and design thinking.

The module also required me to establish a personal development plan (PDP). The plan consisted of three sections. These sections were personal analysis, setting goals and personal goals. A large part of this was identifying my own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This video from Entrepeneur.com (2019) explains the importance of self-reflection when developing a PDP. Thereafter I had to establish areas for development and skills I would like to improve or gain.

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The second section of the PDP required me to evaluate which goals I would like to achieve, big or small, but also to think about what skills I need to develop, what resources I would need to use or develop to get to these goals, and to place time frames on when I would like to have reached these goals. What was valuable for me was that I had to determine how I measure success. This was the start of my assessment of what is important for me, both personally and career-wise. Through this exercise I could start understanding what values are important to me and those which I needed to improve and develop to attain my goals. Thereafter I set goals for the short-term, medium term and long term.

The PDP helped me to learn more about where I want to be in life. To ensure I reach this goal, I need to develop a number of my skills. Design and drawing programmes have always intimidated me. But I know I need to learn them to not only fill a gap in my personal capacity, but also to add value to future employers. I have started putting time aside each week to learn digital drawing through tutorials on LinkedIn learning.

Although this hard skill is helpful, the most important skills I needed to develop were soft skills in my opinion. Again, there was an overlap, with benefits to my personal and professional life. You can read more about soft skills in this blog I wrote previously. I identified communication, leadership and empathy as the soft skills I most needed to work on. Communication is something I feel most people neglect and take for granted. The School of Life (2018) discuss the need for emotional intelligence in effective communication. Communication needs to be practiced as two way effectual communication seldom occurs. Leadership is a skill I lacked while running Babatunde. I thought that having a job and earning a salary would inspire my employees. But I now realise that you need to understand your employees and what inspires each of them. In order to motivate them and to get the best performances from them you need to identify what drives them.

Most importantly, and what has been a large part of our learning on this Masters course, empathy is necessary for both communication and leadership to be effective. Understanding people, their cultural background and what they are going through is a fundamental basic in any human interaction. According to School of Life (2018), projects don’t reach their full potential as we are not sensitive enough to what team members are experiencing or what or to whom we are targeting our products or services. It became clear to me that without strong and effective communication, empathy and leadership become more difficult to attain.

This module helped me to realise that even though I would like to start another business, I feel I need to work with a company or team and be ‘employed’ again. Knowing that I will have to apply for jobs and go to interviews is a worrying thought. I have never had a formal interview. Fortunately, the module has prepared me well for employment and what to expect when applying for jobs and attending interviews.  A Large emphasis has been placed on my CV and how to make it impressive while avoiding common mistakes. Schramm (2010) states that first impressions are highly important for building business and personal relationships. I also learnt about the intricacies of non-verbal communication in relation to behavioural interviews. According to Ganguly (2017), body language is crucial to businesses for their recruitment processes as it is one the most powerful forms of communication.

Image: http://www.freepik.com

At the beginning of this blog I mentioned how insightful this module has been. The way all my learning has been linked and overlaps with each other has been advantageous for my learning. What I have learnt about my own personal development had great synergy with the D&AD campaign assignment. I was able to make use of what I had learnt with regards to soft skills and research in my creative problem-solving process for the campaign. It was also an enriching experience to work on a real-life brief. Another aspect of this module I enjoyed was observing my classmate’s creative processes. The diverse cultural backgrounds helped me to learn new ways of approaching creative problem solving.

This module also had synergy with the learning in the Conducting Collaborative Creativity (CCC) module. The CCC module I learnt a lot about collaboration and company culture and their importance to creativity. It is clear that the soft skills and communicating skills we have learnt help massively when collaborating on a project or fitting into company culture.

As I begin work on my dissertation and start looking for work placements, I can’t help feeling that this module has been essential for my development and growth within the Creative Industries. I now have a better understanding of which values are important to me as well as new skills to help achieve my goals and add value for future employment.

References

Forbes Magazine (2017) 18 Ways To Get Better At Working Under Pressure. Available at:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/07/28/18-ways-to-get-better-at-working-under-pressure/#76d926782e35 (Accessed: 5 April 2020)

Ganguly, S. (2017). Understanding Nonverbal Cues: A Key to Success in Interviews. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 11(2)

Entrepreneur.com (2019) ‘How to Create a Personal Development Plan and Achieve Your Goals’. Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/329700 (Accessed: 6 April 2020)

The School of Life (2018) ‘Adaptability’ in The Emotionally Intelligent Office: 20 Key Emotional Skills for the Workplace. London: The School of Life

Schramm, JD (2010) ‘Effective Communication Begins with a First Impression’, Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2010/08/effective-communciation-begins (Accessed 4 April 2020)

Verganti, R & Norman, D (2019) Why Criticism Is Good for Creativity. Harvard Buseiness Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2019/07/why-criticism-is-good-for-creativity (Accessed: 5 April 2020)

Visocky O’Grady, J. (2017). A designer’s research manual: Succeed in design by knowing your clients and what they really need (Second ed.). Berverley: Rockport.

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Published by fortysomethingrebirth

I am a South African from Jo'burg. I love football, music (mainly from the Caribbean) and design. I am currently studying a Masters of Managing in the Creative Economy at Kingston University in London.

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