One day in the Outbox House

When I first met Anne-Marie Imafidon I was instantly hooked by her vision of bringing lots of young girls together to live and play under one roof to launch tech businesses. Introducing the Outbox Incubator! I was delighted to accept Anne-Marie’s invitation to come to the house and talk to the girls.

The Outbox Incubator is a ground-breaking approach for young women who want to create Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) based companies.

It’s run by the award-winning social enterprise, Stemettes and it gives teenage girls the funding and support to launch their own science or tech-based businesses.

45 girls aged 11-22 are spending six weeks learning and living together under one roof in the Outbox Incubator house. They are visited by experienced mentors to find out more about running a business, developing a product and getting funding to take their ideas to market. The team have just completed their second week and I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with them last Friday.

I started by telling my story; from studying Product Design at undergraduate level, setting up Snook and moving to Manchester to work at Hyper Island. The key messages of my talk were: why service design is important when building a digital product, designing the future you are building and designing the future ‘you’.



It was a gorgeous day so we headed straight into the garden and kicked off the session with an energiser. You can find a host of energiser ideas over at Hyper Island’s tool box. We played ultimate rock, paper and scissors!

Outbox: stemettes - redjotter

I introduced the girls to customer journey mapping and tasked each of them to think about the journey of their customer – both physically and emotionally. The mapping of the customer journey is a key tool associated with Service Design. From the very second your customer downloads your app he or she will encounter touchpoints (places of interaction between the customer and service) that will contribute to their final evaluation of your service. For example, during a typical trip to a supermarket, the cashier will likely be the last touchpoint of the customer service journey. How the cashier treats the customer will affect the impression the latter have towards the company. Prior to this, there are also other touchpoints which will shape the entire shopping experience. The second stage will culminate in the evaluation of the individual experiences customers have with the provided service.


We then spent some time thinking about the future and the impact we want our ideas to have on the world. It’s all well and good talking about changing the world but what do you want to change and why?We created mock newspaper headlines from ten to twenty years from now to visually tell the story of how our idea could shape the future.


We then dived straight into thinking about the future. I believe we should all treat our future like a brief – turn it into a project. The only thing we know is that change is the only constant, and the ability to acquire new skills is the best skill of all. Seth Godin says :  “If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will wilfully ignore the future that is likely”


I was particularly moved by this 12 year old stemette’s vision for the future. I reckon you should print it out and stick it your wall too .


Then I introduced the idea of ‘The Better You’. The Better You is your believable possible. First, the students sketched each other and then notated their own portrait with the qualities of their believable possible. In the end we had fifteen crowd sourced portraits full of our believable possibles.


The Better You by Jack Cheng : Someone is sitting at your desk. There is something familiar about this person. From a distance, this person bears a striking resemblance to you: they have the same frame, the same face, the same features are you. But as you get closer, you begin to notice subtle differences between this person and yourself. They look like they eat healthier and exercise a little more regularly. Their posture is slightly better and their clothes have fewer wrinkles. This person is The Better You.


The Better You knows the same things you know. They’ve had the same successes you’ve had, and they’ve made the same mistakes. They strive for the same virtues and falter to the same vices. The Better You procrastinates, too. The Better You is not perfect. But the difference between you and the Better You is that the latter reacts a little faster, with more willpower. They practice their virtues a little more often and succumb to their vices a little less often. They rein in their procrastination a little quicker. They start their work a little earlier. They know when to take a break a little sooner.


The Better You knows, just as you know that doing what you love is difficult but worthwhile. They know, just as you know, that the difficulty is what makes it worthwhile in the first place. They know, as you know, that is everything was easy, nothing would have significance, and you wouldn’t needs to adopt new metaphors or read new books about how to do the work you should be doing.

The Better You is your believable possible. Your believable possible is your potential at any given moment, the person you know at your very core that you are capable of being in that instant. Only you know what your own believable possible is.

It raised energy and aspirations and I hope these better you’s find new homes on the fridge doors of the Outbox house! They certainly inspired me and made me smile.

We wrapped up the afternoon with a feedback session. Feedback is at the core of Hyper Island’s methodology and you can find out more about some of the tools we use over here. As some of the girls had only spent a few days together we used “my current strongest impression of you is…” and “one thing I really appreciate about you is…” These are good first feedback exercises. They support individuals to try out giving and receiving a very basic form of feedback in a safe way.


It all about openness. Openness creates trust and trust creates more openness. Feedback exercises aim to support groups to build trust and openness and for individuals to gain self-awareness and insight. Feedback exercises should always be conducted with thoughtfulness and high awareness of group dynamics. We wrapped up the session with a check out which is a simple way for a team to close a process.

Thank you again to Anne-Marie for inviting me and having the vision and skills to make the Outbox house a reality. Thank you to the stemettes for your energy and your lovely feedback. I am truly inspired by each of you.

Be your believable possible and stay brilliant!