With the life-affirming monsoon showers in July, lush green vegetation rapidly covers the Goa countryside. Amid this rain-drenched growth, I got an opportunity to facilitate a workshop titled ‘Fast forward your ideas: A Design Thinking Workshop for new Entrepreneurs.’ More than twenty budding entrepreneurs registered. During my prep for the workshop, I hoped the fast-growing vegetation around would inspire the entrepreneurs to be equally prolific with their ideas!

As it turned out, my hopes were not belied.

A diverse set of new entrepreneurs with a common purpose

The workshop participants were from vastly different business backgrounds.  An entrepreneur with dreams of launching a two-wheeler ride-sharing app rubbed shoulders with a business incubator mentor.  A fresh chicken business owner planning a series of quick service outlets for fried chicken sat next to a social media strategist pivoting into hand-crafted ceramics. Participants included a green business entrepreneur, a cosmetic start-up owner, a heritage tour guide, a pro barbell coach focusing on ‘fitness after forty’ and so on. However, this diverse set was united by a common purpose–that of growing their businesses.

Business specific clusters become apparent

‘Affinity Clustering’ the exercise that followed, was a convergent activity.  Poring over the maps they had drawn, participants clubbed together processes and synergistic activities. Logical relationships were linked and circled. The ubiquitous design thinking tool–the post-it– made its appearance in this stage. The post-it allowed participants to rapidly regroup and ungroup business specific processes as they worked. Bit by bit, the chaotic looking stakeholder map was tamed to a more manageable state.

Sifting through business data in a structured way, participants saw hidden possibilities emerging, indicative of the power of design thinking methods.

Strategizing and prioritizing are key

The last activity ‘What’s on your Radar’ combined strategic decision making with the need to prioritize.  While the stakeholder map laid bare the structure and the processes in the business system, this stage enabled focused action. Choices could be made regarding what to start with immediately and what to keep for later. Decision making is hard but the radar-like structure of the chart, made it easy for participants to rank options and to pinpoint tasks.

Workshop learning

The participants were all self-assured, open-minded and willing to listen to others, qualities essential for entrepreneurs. Govind Mukundan, who is setting up a Research and Communications Consultancy for businesses, non-profits and start ups realised ‘The need to test/ validate specific service ideas, exactly WHAT and for WHO’.  Mandar Nagarsekar from Power of Dreams (POD), a business incubator in Panjim felt that  the workshop process taught him its important ‘to focus and prioritize!’ ‘Storyboarding is critical to success’ ,learnt Tina Gupta of Thinkering Learning Space. ‘I learned how to make people the main focus of my business’, said Clifford who is launching a Probarbell strength coaching programme.

Thinkering, a workshop venue that made all the difference

The workshop took place at ‘Thinkering’, a centre for making, learning and sharing at Nachinola at Bardez in Goa. Located in a Portugese-era villa, thoughtfully repurposed in contemporary style, the centre is well equipped to host workshops and seminars. Thinkering founder, senior product designer Avik Sarkar says  ‘For entrepeneurs in Goa, Thinkering makes possible the ability to imagine and bring to life ideas that they have nurtured, in an environment as fertile as the fields that abound in the landscape.’