Think like an entrepreneur

Saras Sarasvathy, a professor at Darden School (University of West Virginia), undertook some research to see if entrepreneurs thought, acted and decided differently. Her conclusion was that this is the case. At its most basic level, she says that rather than set a goal and work out how to get there, entrepreneurs start with the means at their disposal, collaborate with others and go on a journey to see where they end up. Her work has attracted much attention and is taught in many entrepreneurial courses the world over. The process is portrayed below (you may need to click on the picture for a clear view):

effectuationI have read her research papers and various other materials, but the best explanation of her process I have come across is displayed in this video from the University of Gallen:

The 10 myths of entrepreneurship

 

So, through trial and error, together with discussion with stakeholders and customers, and a clear understanding of the means at your disposal, you develop a new product or business even if your original goals need to shift substantially in the process.

At Genesis we have a view on Saras thinking – although it may go a little against the crowd at the moment. Although I am not certain how academically robust was her research, intuitively there are some great ideas embedded in the theory. Base your business on your own means (including competences), spend more time experimenting and market testing (than in-office analysis), share your ideas and get inputs, … these are all good. They also dovetail nicely with other entrepreneurial thinking such as that of Alex Osterwalder (Business Model Generation) and Steve Blank (The Start-Up Owners Manual). These concepts are particularly useful when dealing with “fuzzy” markets where you have really new products or are developing a new market or market niche.

Where do we think this could be dangerous? Taken to its extreme, we believe the process could lead to laziness and sloppy thinking if it is used totally outside causal thinking. We accept that a new start-up is not the same as a microcosm of a large enterprise, but there are some excellent analytical tools and strategic thinking that can play an important role in the entrepreneurial process. From the humble SWOT through Porters competitive strategy and on to Christensen’s disruptive technology – all could guide the process (depending on the venture) and could also help to reduce risks of ending up in the wrong place and/or with the wrong product.

Furthermore, one of the things that we believe is a characteristic of great entrepreneurs is to persevere and continue far beyond the point when other more “sensible” people have thrown in the towel. That attitude does not sit well alongside the idea that goals can be changed whenever things seem to be going against them.

 

Our conclusion, Saras has begun an interesting “movement” and there are many important principles that should be used in the “0 to 60mph” phase of the start-up. But do not throw the baby out with the bathwater – recognize that causal thinking, modelling and other scientific business principals can enhance the effectuation process.

We are about to launch a new company: Mashauri Limited aimed at helping entrepreneurs through the process from start-up to stable business where we have cobbled together a mixture of the types of thinking discussed above. We have produced a process that we believe will really enhance the entrepreneurial journey and greatly increase the chances of success. If you are an entrepreneur in the early stages of start-up and would be interested in trialling the product, contact me at sgifford@genesis-esp.com to discuss it.

 

 

 

Business models – some amazing resources

Business models – rock your world

You all know that the next one of the 7 habits series is due out soon and you all know it is about the power of visualisation in decision making. Well, for something to tantalise your imagination while waiting … think about the power of visualisation when it comes to developing ┬ábusiness models.

That may be defining, reviewing or refining your own. Or it may be a paradigm smashing, industry-disrupting model that is going to make Mark Zuckerberg say “WTF” (that may be rude, but those would be his exact words).

Well here are two neat resources to get you thinking:

A slideshare presentation that describes the top 10 business models of 2010 with an interesting way of portraying it:
Top 10 Business Models

A web-site discussing a book and a concept called Business Model Generation. It is obviously a promotion of the book but has plenty of interesting material that is useful in its own right including a 72 page preview
Business Model Generation
(And a quick acknowledgement to Xenia Viladas from XVDMC for directing me to Business Model Generation).

If you would like to discuss how we can help you make a decision on your business model (existing or new), drop me an email at sgifford@genesis-esp.com or give me a call.