ello readers, on this joyful occasion of our nascent product AI Journal completing its first birthday, I felt like sharing the tumultuous journey of our publishing house.
Storytelling - A Key Skill
We have all experienced this many a time where we fail to make a good impression irrespective of the hard work that we put into achieving the task at hand. Unbeknownst to ourselves, we depend on storytelling to explain ourselves out of trouble, make new friends, motivate people, explain things, socialize in society and workplace. Storytelling is a skill that makes you stand out and perform well on all fronts.
With a lot of people preferring to take up freelance jobs on their terms and work at their own pace virtually from the comfort of their home rather than sitting at the desk in a office place. This has brought the boom in the Gig working model. Factored with Covid-19, digital transformation is being adapted at a brisk pace in every sector. But a major stumbling block in this is the reduction of work efficacy. Storytelling is again a key skill that can boost the overall work delivery efficiency amongst teams working in remote mode.
A common misconception that we still believe in is that Digital is industry-relevant has not invaded social life streams. With the accessibility and affordability in an abundance of new technologies, we are no more at the doorstep but at the center of a Digital World interwoven into the very fabric of our lives. We believe that Digital will envelop our future in ways we might not even fathom and instilling the right mindset in the budding talents of the Gen-Zs and Alphas as well as the millennial practitioners, who are starting to visualize, enable, and shape futuristic Digital Nation(s).
As a part of this initiative, our Founder and CEO of SOIL | IN-CUBE Digital Foundation Mr.Srikanth Talluri pitched an idea to float a Publishing House in one of our regular weekends Think Tank Meet. An exclusive journal that publishes handcrafted AI stories by 13 to 25-year old digital natives instead of seasoned and professional authors. A healthy debate followed on the pros and cons of the realizing idea with mixed reactions and thoughts. The initiative was now dependent on market research and empathy to appease the think tank members to take the first steps of defining or redefining the problem statement and coming up with a brand placement statement.
We adopted The Conceptualize Phase of 6Ds of the Problem-Solving Pedagogy to discover the problem area.
Discover - D1
A pivotal phase to solve any problem. We keenly look at who are we addressing the problem for, what is the actual problem they are facing, what is their need, how would they want it addressed. A proven and effective way of doing this is to empathize with the end-user/customer, in our case digital natives aka Gen-Zs.
We have designed various kinds of market surveys, conducted individual interviews, and orchestrated focus group discussions with 500+ High Schoolers and College goers from 50+ High Schools across India. Focused on exploring the requirements, needs, and friction surrounding the acceptance, baseline, and start-line of millennials on anything and everything encompassing AI and its impact on all aspects. We accumulated and captured all the information, notes, feedback, suggestions, and moved on to define a meaningful problem statement
Define - D2
A crucial stage in making heads and tails of all data points and assimilate them holistically.
With a more hands-on desk, we derived insights by analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data points. The insight was “Digital natives prefer to explore, share and learn with their friends and classmates to untangle complex information in a simpler way for more clarification”. This was not adequate for the team to dive into this project, hence we wanted to test the waters through our Digital Talks on various campuses. We facilitated active & engaging interactive sessions on various vital concerns like Digital is as Powerful as Nuclear, Leadership for Teens, Digital Transformation, Digital Discipline, Digital as a Culture, and Ethical AI. Conceptualized around bringing general awareness of the critical role enablers, practitioners, and super users play in building a safe digital world for a harmonious & productive future. In these sessions, we introduced the idea of an exclusive Journal for them and were surprised to see their immediate acceptance and readiness for such a platform. These Talks made the team overwhelmingly happy to see the young minds at play with enthusiastic participation in discussion with vibrant freshness in their ideas. This reassured the entire team, to go ahead with the designing phase.
Design - D3
Now in all conviction, we envisioned the need for a journal that nourishes the art of storytelling in digital natives and also enables peer-to-peer learning between them. Not confining it to just publishing but also direct them in crafting original/derived AI stories of their experiences, opinions, and thoughts in a simplified way. Through Storytelling we wanted the storytellers to practice, hone and train themselves in Reflective Writing, Concept Mapping, Problem-Solving, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, and also Improve Meta-Cognitive Learning Skills like Thinking Aloud and Note-taking.
With conceptual phase completion, we stepped into The Crafting Phase, to give it a shape and structure for consuming it as a product.
Derive - D4
An Ideal step that follows is to go back to the drawing board and figure out the building blocks needed in crafting this product. A kind of inventory listing of what we have and what is needed for Developing the Product, Operational, and Budget.
- People - Identified Human Resources needed in various phases of the publishing life cycle associated with facilitating different processes.
- Process - Created a blueprint of the business flow, to know the requirements, needs, and dependencies in each process like author procurement, story reviewing, publishing process, marketing, subscriptions, etc.
- Machine - In our case the technology/software needs in publishing stories to the web, Distribution of content to readers.
- Budget - Capital Expenses and Operational Expenses of acquiring, subscribing and procurement, refinement, reviewing, publishing, storage, registering, and many more.
- Time - Plans on how much time and effort each story crafting took and calculating what is the mean time-to-publish.
Now that we knew what was required, we moved on to developing it.
Develop - D5
With all the necessary building blocks in place, we started by forming a Journal Team. A team that takes charge of creating, establishing, and monitoring in a designated area. A thumb rule we adhered to during this phase was connecting and sharing all the progress in short-term plans and strategize for a quick turnaround. This helped all the members of the entire product team have a holistic understanding of where we are, what is happening, and what was the immediate and far need. Whenever we had a bottleneck and we brainstormed for workarounds and changed the approach as needed and sometimes even increasing the timeline as well. It was a memorable time with a lot of energy that has brought us much more closer both on the work front and families with get-togethers and potlucks. When we started integrating the technologies and processes, we started preparing ourselves on how to deliver them to the market.
Deliver - D6
A phase that needs to be well thought out, planned and orchestrated in careful measure to deliver to the end-user an unrivaled KING who decides the fate and forecast of your product.
We have been pushing the content organically on social platforms as and when we published them on the web. Conducted competitions, contests, and internships promoting AI and storytelling primarily to the ages between 13 to 25yrs across the globe. In the past year, we have successfully conducted competitions, recruited interns, changemakers from across the globe, procured 50+ stories. Published 32 hand-crafted stories by high schoolers, despite Covid-19 while adapting to the new normal, and celebrated our anniversary.
I am thankful to the entire Gen-Z Editorial team and Designers that journeyed with me in making this journal a huge success. Looking forward to celebrating many more milestones ahead.