“Who speaks for the trees?”

After doing my initial research on the Balloon Kenya programme I was still a little unsure what to expect from the first two weeks of teaching.

We are now ten days in, and I feel like I have already learnt so much. Unlike a lot of the traditional teaching methods that I have become accustomed to, the Balloon Kenya curriculum encourages wild and ‘silly’ ideas to support a creative environment. Working in an open and inclusive forum setting, our days are built around short periods of reading and discussion before completing active group tasks that reinforce some of the key lessons in practice.

This approach has helped me to flourish in a new context, learning from an iterative process of trial, error, learn and re-try. I have managed to markedly improve my understanding of the concepts and ideas that the course promotes, while also building the confidence to go out and teach the Kenyan groups we will soon be teamed up with.

One of my favourite tasks so far was the watch challenge during which I was asked to design the perfect watch for my partner, Peter. It initially involved jotting down a few ideas and features that I assumed Peter would like. Perhaps unsurprisingly he wasn’t too sure about what I came up with. I found that although he liked my first design attempt, it was not something that he would wear.

The next stage was to conduct a series of interviews with Peter to establish what he valued in a watch (simplicity and ease of use), rather than what I assumed he might like (an in-built LCD projector). After these conversations my design improved drastically, addressing the specific needs and priorities of my hypothetical customer.

This task taught me that something you believe to be a good business idea without consultation with your target market may not be something that is desired by customers.  Fail to validate/invalidate assumptions early and you might end up building a watch with in-built LCD projector that nobody wants!