13 January 2015
Language is not a barrier, it's just an opportunity for us to learn from a different viewpoint of our own.
I have always been fascinated by Korean culture since I am a huge addict of the Korean variety show “Running Man”. I also enjoy having opportunities to explore business ideas since I am a Diploma in Business Information Technology (DBIT) student and have a secret ambition to start my own business one day.
So imagine my excitement when my lecturer told me about an opportunity to collaborate with a group of Korean university students from 28 December to 30 December 2014 to work on business ideas related to social innovation.
I jumped at the chance and immediately signed up for this programme!
Before I share more about my personal reflections of this 3 days programme, let me give you a little background about it first.
If you have read about my seniors’ previous experiences with Korean students
and going on a Korean study trip
, you would know that my school has conducted several programmes to immerse DBIT students with start-up culture as well as to provide us with opportunities to network in a global environment.
I was really envious of my seniors when I heard about their experiences, and always wondered if my peers and I would also have a chance to participate in such wonderful programmes.
Fortunately for me, my lecturer managed to seek a collaboration with the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation (KOEF) and the Korean National Research Foundation (NRF) to work on a programme called KC-Startup Festival 2014.
KC-Startup Festival 2014 is an annual business pitching competition organised by the above organisations for Korean university students. The finals of this competition was concluded in early 2014 this year, and the winners of this competition were sponsored by the Korean government to participate in collaborative social innovation programmes with the locals in two countries, Singapore and Indonesia.
It was our honour to be selected as the participating partner for this programme in Singapore!
To give a quick idea of what this 3 days programme involved, the DBIT students and Koreans formed groups to research on business ideas to solve a prescribed social problem using Design Thinking, e.g. Safety of Cyclists in Singapore. We visited various places in Singapore to conduct user empathy studies by observing, photo-journalling and interviewing. We then moved on to ideation, simple prototyping and finally presented our business ideas for solving the given problem.
Now, I will tell you more about my own personal experiences.
I signed up for the programme with my classmate Yi Qi. Before the programme, the two of us kept discussing about this event and having this worry inside our minds: “How would we overcome the language barrier between Singaporeans and Koreans?”
Later, we found that we worried too much! After being allocated to different groups, we realised that the language barrier was not that big of a problem. Somehow, everyone just worked out a way for us to communicate with one another!
For this programme, the organisers divided the 32 Korean and Singapore students into 4 groups with 8 students each. My group was probably the most enthusiastic group among all the 4 groups and I was really excited to work with them on our project for the camp.
So what did we do during these 3 days that left me such good memories?
On Day 1
, my team brought the Korean students for a day of sight-seeing around Singapore. We went to places like the Singapore River and Marina Bay. This proved to be a great opportunity for us to get to know each other and to overcome any shyness or barriers that we faced on our initial meeting.
On Day 2
, the 4 teams went on separate field trips to perform user empathy studies. My group went to places like hawker centres to conduct user empathy studies. Besides taking lots of photos, making observations, we also plucked up courage to approach random strangers to interview them on our chosen problem topic. It was a good experience as we had an opportunity to find out more about one another as well as the differences between Singaporean and Korean culture.
On Day 3
, we stayed in SP campus and worked very hard to put together our research into a prototype of our business idea!
The process of working together with the Koreans on prototyping for our project was one of the best moments throughout the entire camp as we were able to utilise everyone’s strengths, and made sure that everyone was doing something that they really enjoyed.
My group came up with an application that would give incentives to users whenever they recycle through a point system which also allows them to choose between helping people in need or exchanging their points for discount vouchers.
It was also inspiring to see what the other groups came up with, and to see that such innovations are actually feasible in real life.
Overall, the programme allowed me to understand more about the Korean culture as well as to make new Korean friends. I also had the opportunity to build friendships with other SP friends in the process. In terms of my learning points, I’ve gotten a better understanding on how building empathy with our target market enables us to pivot our solutions so that it caters to their needs instead of just thinking from our own point of view.
Written by Jena Lim Xiang Ying