Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Education and Research in Entrepreneurship (630-3)

For someone who has been doing research for the past 30 years and who is married to a Southwest US archaeologist the topic of chapter 10 was too juicy for me to ignore. This section of the book stresses the value of research and development in entrepreneurial pursuits.

The first rule of research is garbage in garbage out. That is if the question you're trying to ask is poorly constructed and has no meaning then you won't find anything significant. The second rule of the research is that you must not bias your research toward your preconceived notion of what the correct answer is. That is you must be open to the possibility that your research will find a solution which is against what your expectations are. The book describes using research tools to refine and improve the restaurant implementation. The possibility that he should not actually have such a restaurant was never an option. This is more accurately iterative product development with input from the target audience. Valuable yes. Research no.

He highlights the need to obtain adequate knowledge to ask essential questions and accomplish research. I completely agree with the need for education. However, in one section he quotes the benefit of putting in a sand pit.

The book says, "For example, when we were designing our T-Rex restaurant, we brought in groups of youngsters to test the viability of our retail offerings and the 'fossil dig' (a special archaeological sand pit in one area of the restaurant) where kids could use shovels to unearth dinosaur bones and other prehistoric treasures."

Many folks do not see the importance of archaeology versus paleontology as a big issue. To them, the confusion may be irrelevant. However to the many scientists who get PhDs in either field the confusion over the difference is disturbing. Just to be clear, archaeology is focused on human behavior and is a component of anthropology and the study of cultures. Further, both fields are frustrated by the attitude of "get digging." For an excavation to be of any value, much work must be done before and while digging a site as well as analyzing the results afterwards.

The amazing Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park is an archaeological treasure. The story of Anasazi is fascinating and inspiring. But alas there were no dinosaurs then.

Paleontology is associated with research which goes further back in time and is related to things such as dinosaurs. Someone who is building something that shows the value of jungle habitats and includes dinosaurs should understand this difference or even better ponder how the "learning experience" of this restaurant can educate the audience about this crucial distinction.

The point I am making is that education is fantastic, but self-education can trick us into believing that we understand something that we don't truly understand. That's the reason why we have structured training with professors and universities. We can't trust ourselves to self-assess our own understanding of an unfamiliar topic. Would you want to see a doctor who was "self-taught"? We need others to help us understand if we have achieved mastery or if there remain holes in our understanding which still need to be filled. I believe that every student is indeed responsible for their own education ("the harder I work the smarter I get"), but that doesn't mean that a student should be solely self-taught.

The chapter also highlights the value of focus groups. Focus groups provide a plethora of input regarding usability and satisfaction. That information can be collected both qualitatively and quantitatively through, respectively, interviews and more structured instruments. There are many different ways to implement focus groups;all require some kind of analysis of the results. Focus groups are an excellent topic to aid people in product design.

My point of bringing this up is to ensure that readers are not left with the false impression that one can "do a focus a group." A focus group must be carefully constructed, implemented, and analyzed with assistance from individuals skilled in performing focus groups.

So every entrepreneur should implement research and development in the process. But make sure you're starting that process without unwarranted assumptions, and with adequate understanding which has been vetted by others or achieved such that it represents an accurate understanding of the topic at hand. Have the tools in place to analyze the results and then use these results to guide your research, be they related to the market and the customer, or the more specific details of product development. And be willing to listen to the results, even if the answer isn't what you wanted to hear.

Reference: Schussler Steven, Karlins Marvin. It’s a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring. Vol Reprint edition. New York: Sterling. February 7, 2012.

Photo Credit: Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Palace Right Part 2006 09 12.jpg. 12 September 2006. Andreas F. Borchert. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

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