Business Technology and Entrepreneurship
AdobeFusion Lean Start-up Challenge: Scaffolding a digital approach to co-create business models
Chamindika Weerakoon, Jerome Donovan and Eryadi Masli
“AdobeFusion lean start-up challenge” aims to develop digital literacy, especially information and critical literacy of entrepreneurship and innovation students using Adobe XD and Adobe RU to design tests, validate assumptions and show case a lean start-up business model in an entrepreneurial learning context. In ENT20006, students engage in a rapid process of mastering the lean start-up experience to foster an inclusive learning environment, develop cognitive skills, empower experimental behaviours by students and to improve overall self-confidence and self-efficacy. In ENT30015, students will translate their entrepreneurial learnings into the development of a new student venture to be validated through an external investment panel.
"I am a Design student and know that Adobe XD is used for usability testing. Yet, I don’t know how it is possible to use Adobe XD in business model testing…"
During discussions with undergraduates about lean start-up methodology and developing business models, we noticed that students have a limited understanding about the application of various tools and approaches used in other disciplines. This was built on a number of key assumptions from students that we observed, including that students tended to adopt a narrow application of tools, approaches, frameworks and techniques without taking advantage of complementary uses or synergies between these. Students also tended to adopt a mindset that they needed a fully complete physical product before they tested and validated a business model. What this indicated to us, was the opportunity to work on their ‘critical literacy’ skills, which is a pillar of digital literacies, to reframe how they looked at lean start-up methods and business model development.
Overview of the Project
This report presents the approach and the outcomes of the first phase (ENT20006 - Lean Start-up Springboard) of this project. ENT20006 - Lean Start-up Springboard is designed on experiential learning principles underpinning constructivist and situated learning philosophies. Students begin by individually identifying a significant problem to solve and develop a hypothesised solution with a clearly defined value proposition. Later in groups, students design and conduct tests to validate the assumptions of the business model in a real-world setting and make pivoting decisions appropriately to develop the initial business model and present the new business model in a pitch video to a group of investors. To test the assumptions underpinning the business model, in this teaching initiative, students developed a digital prototype to show case their proposed business’s value proposition using Adobe XD, shared among prospective customers to gain feedback to test and validate the business model assumptions and refine their business models accordingly.
This project aimed at developing critical literacy along with technical and information literacy in student entrepreneurs. We introduced Adobe XD, which is fundamentally used in User Experience Design discipline to students taking Lean Start-up Springboard Unit enabling them to develop a digital prototype to showcase the value proposition of the business models they developed. Students participated in one-hour Adobe XD practical session where they learned the basic wireframing steps, the application of various plugins to activate elements of the prototype and the approach to share and get the feedback from customers.
Students built their digital prototype and analysed and reported the received feedback as a part of a Group Assignment. In addition, given the experiential learning background of the unit, students, reflected on the experience of using Adobe XD for testing and validating the business model in their final assessment. In particular, students were reflecting on the following areas:
• What did you find beneficial about developing and validating your business model using Adobe XD?
• Whether there any drawbacks or problems with using Adobe XD for this?
• Did developing and validating the business model using Adobe XD help you become a more reflective practitioner/student entrepreneur? If yes, how so?
This process showed the interdisciplinary application of a design tool. In addition, we showed students that they can test and validate their business model through only having a “conceptual business model/business idea” and that a fully finished product is not a necessity. This encouraged students to understand that a prototype can be a digital and/or conceptual illustration of the product idea and that it does not necessarily need to be a physical item.
We also endeavoured through this teaching initiative to create a learning community and a social context where learning takes place among and through others to create authentic experiences that subsequently allow students to expose and actively interact with a community of practice and transform themselves from novice learner to an expert in the field. This approach transformed the traditional, linear and mechanical process of frequently used business plan writing exercise into a rapid process of mastering experiences. This empowered students to receive feedback from the lecturer, colleagues and most importantly prospective customers which exposes students to an environment that brings more competitive, risk-taking, self-confident attitude and increased self-efficacy enabling students to believe in their own agency in life and exhibit a deeper level of learning. Students were able to connect the dots and see the trans-disciplinary application of digital tools used in a different discipline in entrepreneurship.
As mentioned previously, this project used Adobe Experience Design (XD) tool to develop a digital prototype showcasing the value proposition of the business to test and validate student entrepreneurs’ business model. Adobe XD well-aligns with Lean Start-up fundamentals of starting with a low-fidelity prototypes for testing and validating new business models and then to move on to a high-fidelity prototype. It is a tool which enables co-editing and collaboration in a digital platform in real-time during wireframing of the interactive website/app for the new business model.
The design of the test to validate the assumptions (i.e. prototype using Adobe XD) is guided by research on the problem, potential solution, target customers and substitute products in the market and thus, it improves students’ information literacy. Designing the Adobe XD prototype improved their technical literacy. Critical literacy was achieved by gathering and evaluating the customer feedback obtained through the Adobe XD interactive prototype and making pivoting decisions to refine the business model. In addition, by allowing students to reflect on specific experiences related to Adobe XD through the Reflection Journal, we gave students an opportunity to improve their critical literacy.
Learnings and Outputs
In order to define the learning outcomes of the teaching initiative, we adopted a research-based approach where we obtained Human Research Ethics Committee approval for running pre- and post-intervention surveys and analysing students’ personal reflection journals. As a result, in Week 2 of the semester, the pre-intervention survey (anonymous) was disseminated among the students to assess the level of digital literacy of the students and we received 18 responses which is a 21% response rate. The same survey was repeated in Week 12 to assess the digital literacy after the intervention. We received 21 responses which is a 25% response rate. The comparative bar graph below (Figure 1) indicates the difference of pre and post intervention level of digital literacy among the students taking Lean Start-up Spring Board Unit in semester 1 of 2021.
“… Not until when I did more research on minimum viable product (MVP) examples could I start thinking outside of the box to utilise the given tool, Adobe XD, to validate our business assumptions. I was inspired by Dropbox’s MVP, which was a video demonstrating how Dropbox would work and there was no real product involved at this stage … From that, I figured that I could test my business’ desirability by showing the service’s meals, price, and offers to potential customers and collecting their feedback ...”
(Respondent 1 – Student Entrepreneur -ENT20006 Semester 2/2021)
Learning 1 - Our teaching initiative is appropriate for improving technical and critical literacy but not the information literacy.
Learning 2 – Adobe XD can effectively be used to provide students with a new experience to test and validate the business ideas/business models.
Learning 3 - While Adobe XD is effective in creative new experiences to students in testing and validating business ideas, there is a lot of room for improving the software it is functionality space.
Introducing this kind of a prototyping tool to a class of second year students is a risky experience from a teaching perspective. Yet, as lecturers we believe that true innovation in teaching methodology will only emerge from taking risks and being innovative. This has allowed us to discover the limitations of Adobe XD tool in its application for testing and validating a business model. Below is a quote from a responding student illustrating the limitations of the tool.
"Although it was a fast and convenient way to present a business idea, there were several limitations. Adobe XD’s inability to insert a hyperlink to external sources and store users’ data restrained our team from running a fake-sale test seamlessly and the prototype could not be found in search tools like Google, therefore limiting our customer reach"
(Respondent 1 – Student Entrepreneur -ENT20006 Semester 2/2021)
Apart from functional limitations, the co-creating opportunity itself tends to be a limitation sometimes and below quote explains this possibility.
"A drawback from my experience would be that my partner (within my group) who I was assigned to create the business model of Adobe XD with, had used it before which was degrading at times when they doubted my ability to use the programming and at times blocked accessor delegated the task to themselves. However, it was a big learning pivot as the lack of communication on their side made it effective when I communicated and made sure I allowed myself 50% contribution fairly and stated that I was confident with using the programming as I was quite creative"
(Respondent 2 – Student Entrepreneur -ENT20006 Semester 2/2021)
Despite this experience has given the student to be creative, it may create some negative implications on group work experience of students. Thus, it is an area that lecturers should address when Adobe XD is used for group assessments.
Associate Professor Clare Dyson – Digital Literacies
Kim Flowers (LTU) & Rohan Gerrad (Adobe Digital Coach)