Continuing with the Meet Our Tutors series we caught up with Associate Lecturer, Paul Sturrock, who teaches Design Thinking for Business Innovation. Upon this amazing course students explore the question, “Would you like to develop a business to generate income, doing what you to like to do, are good at and care about?”
What are you most passionate about?
Economic authenticity. I believe everyone can and should make a living by doing something that reflects who they are. Something that they would do even if they didn’t need the money.
Because it’s something they like to do, and are curious enough about it to get good at it.
How did you come to work in your field / discipline?
By trial and error, like most people. I did a liberal arts degree in literature, but when I graduated, I wasn’t interested in the obvious jobs for literature graduates (as if there are any).
So I decided to get an MBA to keep my options open and make myself more marketable.
Afterwards, I knew I didn’t want to work for a big company. I wanted to work with startups because I was really attracted by the idea of working with a small group of people to make something interesting, and I wanted to avoid corporate bureaucracy, suits, etc.
I was lucky to join ACS, a startup in Silicon Valley that was developing angioplasty, a revolutionary way of treating heart disease. It was a case of being lucky to be in the right place at the right time, which meant that there were lots of opportunities for promotion.
I worked for a few more medical startups, and then switched to digital startups during the dotcom era, including setting up operations for a pan-European accelerator in Stockholm.
Could you tell us about your work?
I started my own company to help people start and grow businesses, using what they do best as the raw materials. The trick to designing a successful business is to start from your unique strengths, then combine them to make a difference to a customer in a way that no one else can.
I work with people from all sorts of backgrounds, ranging from creatives and designers to scientists. Some of them want to build big growth businesses and make lots of money, others want to build “lifestyle” businesses which allow them to make a living practising their own craft.
I also work with organisations of all sizes and sectors: startups, corporate, social enterprises, and art organisations. What they all have in common is a desire to build something significantly different and original. Which means they need to figure out how to manage their way through uncertainty.
You’d think that you need to specialise, but I’ve found that the questions each of these have to answer as they design their business are fundamentally the same. It’s just the answers that vary.
These questions are the basis for the approach I use which I call “Simple Venture Design” as well as the curriculum for the FastForward London pre-accelerator programme which has helped lots of people to build successful businesses over the past four years.
What courses do you teach and who should attend them?
It’s not just about Design thinking though. It’s about “Simple Venture Design” which combines design thinking with other “agile” practices such as lean startup, old-fashioned street smarts and more traditional business analysis.
It starts from the premise that business design is a creative craft.
What I teach is a toolkit for coming up with business ideas that match your own strengths and interests, and then refining them until you come up with something that is ready to launch. It’s a process for managing uncertainty and risk which is very similar to the way an artist or a novelist takes a work from initial sketches or drafts through to publication.
The course will suit two types of people:
First, anyone who’s always wanted to design their own job, instead of asking someone else to give them one. If you’d like to make a living doing what you enjoy, we will give you lots of practice and tools on how to come up with an idea and make it viable without taking lots of risks and breaking the bank.
Second, it will suit anyone responsible for coming up with ideas that are different and original within an established business or social enterprise, and turning them into launched products or services at a much faster pace than is usually possible within large organisations.
Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you think everyone should see and why?
I’m not good at questions like this because there’s so many. But both plays by Jez Butterworth, I’ve seen: “Jerusalem” and “The Ferryman” have been incredible.
Name a favourite book, film and song that you would recommend.
Sticking to stuff I’ve read or watched this year: I really enjoyed reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” even though I thought I wouldn’t. It’s a great and optimistic story of resilience and resourcefulness under difficult circumstances.
One of the best films I’ve seen recently is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Great drama, but really funny at the same time.
What/where is your favourite London discovery?
It’s not one place. It’s a great walking city, especially if you follow the river or the canals.
What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?
First, forget about following your passion, it’s a counterproductive cliché. Most people don’t really know what their passion is, and passion is often short-lived anyway. Follow your curiosity instead.
Second, just start. Use your curiosity, but don’t do it in a passive way. Instead, use it to explore something new every day, and build something, even if it is a tiny prototype or the sketch of an idea. If you do this you will eventually find something which grows and grows. And you will have lots of fun along the way.
To find out more about Paul, you can visit his website here, or follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Medium. Also check out his pre-accelerator programme for start ups here. You can also join Paul, this July, on his incredibly popular Design-thinking for Business Innovation short course. Feeling inspired? View all upcoming Summer School short courses or check out our full short course schedule!