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 to discuss it.




HBR classic readings on strategy – supporting your strategic decisions

Key strategy readings – strategic decisions, business models, 5 forces, ….

Maybe you are a CIO trying to get to grips with strategy and how you should be influencing your own organisation’s strategic thinking. Perhaps you are a young, ambitious engineer with their first general management role. Possibly you are a CEO facing challenging times who needs to take time out to seriously reflect about the direction of their business. Or you could even be a seasoned strategy consultant who wants to recall the basics (and that is not a bad idea in this age of fast change and complexity).

Whatever category you fit into, skim through these Harvard Business Review Classics and stimulate your thinking about your business. Each article has a summary of the concept, the article itself and some suggested further reading. Below the image of the contents is a click-able link that takes you to a pdf with the set of articles. (Note clicking on the contents themselves only gives you a larger picture of the image).

The HBR Strategy Classics


At the moment, we at Genesis are finding ourselves in a number of conversations about business models – are they still valid? do we need to tweak our model? are we becoming outdated? can we use new tools and technologies to reinvent ourselves?

We would be delighted to have a conversation with you about your organisation and help you to DECIDE if, and how, you should be reviewing your business model – by using our own set of tools together with our expert Associates from a range of industries and disciplines.

Drop me a line at and lets start a dialogue.


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  business 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 or give me a call.

Business intelligence for better decisions

Good business intelligence produces good decisions

If the “Second habit: actively manage knowledge” resonated with you, then you will enjoy this short blog by Strat-Wise where they discuss the next level of business intelligence which Gartner calls interactive visual analytics.  This is not simply graphical depiction of data, but rather the process of analytical reasoning using interactive visual interfaces.visual analytics

Two points in particualr that we find exciting are that

  • it is run by the user(s) of the information in real time and so must be intuitive and simple to operate. (For instance the decision making team).
  • it can link data from a variety of different sources – databases, spreadsheets, text, web, etc.

So it seems that the technology is now catching up with the business requirements: easy-to-use tools that help create insights from data and knowledge. The concept of visual analytics is based on the work by Edward Tufte (see Bloomberg article if you do not know of him), the father of simplicity in graphics. His book is now in the second edition (check out our book recommendations page).

You van find the the Strat-Wise article at this link
Strat-Wise : what is BI3.0

Whether you are a multinational or a small/medium-sized business, to discuss how Genesis Management Consulting and our partners are able to help you with the knowledge management required to support your strategic decisions, send an email to .


Sleeping on your decisions

Sleeping on your decisions

An interesting blog was written by Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy in the HBR Blog based on the story that Barack Obama decided to have a nights sleep before making the decision to authorise the raid that killed Bin laden.businesswoman sleeping Their research shows that when considering a problem, it is often useful to have the mind “distracted” for a while and the subconscious then undertakes an active process that accurately weights the pros and cons of the decision to be taken.

This aligns with other thinking (including that of Genesis) on the topic. We believe in highly Labyrinthcomplex situations, although the left brain may be useful in structuring a logical process and perhaps “running the numbers”, it is the right brain that is better at grasping the holistic picture and dealing with the complexity. A good process is to immerse yourself (or your team) in the details and context of the decision (eg in the Genesis decision room mentioned in “The Second Habit”) – and then take a break! Allow your right brain to take over and the only way to do this is to get your left brain to “shut-up”. So be it having a sleep, going for a run or, as Dan Pink describes in his book “A whole new mind”, go for a walk in a labyrinth and let your left brain worry about where it is walking and free your right brain to be creative and develop solutions.

Read the article at:

“A counter-intuitive approach to making complex decisions”

Talk to us at Genesis Management Consulting to see how we can help your team “improve lives through better decisions!”

Before you make that strategic decision …

Harvard Business Review article: reducing behavioural problems
Kahneman, Lovello and Sibony

HBR, in conjunction with McKinsey, have published an interesting article about reducing the impact of behavioural issues in decision making.

The underlying premise is that it is very difficult for individuals to recognise their own subconscious bias – simply put: we cannot see our own blind-spots. But we are far better at identifying those of others or of groups.

They put forward a check-list of questions that should be asked when a group is putting forward a decision recommendation. We will describe that list below. But first some commentary:

What is good about the article?

  • Anything that can help us reduce the negative impact of behaviour that we are unaware of is good. As the article says: advice up to now has been more of a case of “forewarned is forearmed” which has shown to do little to have an impact on our behaviours.
  • Using an external person to question a group is also a great idea (albeit not entirely original – Genesis have been suggesting this in one form or other for years) as it is definitely easier to see someone else’s blind spots than our own.
  • Having a check-list is a good idea and forces one to go through the appropriate disciplines of asking and challenging.
What could be improved?
  • We believe that the concept of challenging behaviours is better built into the entire decision-making process – or at least at a number of check-points along the way. Waiting until the recommendation phase is fraught with obvious problems.
  • The check-list itself should be tailored to best suit the requirements of the situation and the team involved. The generic list put forward is fine, but the emphases may well be in the wrong areas.
  • Agreeing on who should play the role of  “decision-auditor” is critical. A combination of appropriate experience (in the role), expertise in the subject matter (of behaviours and the decision context), independence and authority are all important. Just as we believe the person who ultimately takes the decision should not be the person to drive the decision process (better suited to a “decision coach”), we believe that the decision leader should also not be playing this behaviour-challenge role. After all, they have their own set of behaviours, perspectives and bias to consider.
For those of you who do not want (or do not have time) to read the article itself, here is the 12 point check-list put forward (the article has more detail behind the items as well as the rationale):
  1. Is there any reason to suspect motivated errors, or errors driven by the self-interest of the recommending team?
  2.  Have the people making the recommendation fallen in love with it?
  3. Were there dissenting opinions within the recommending team?
  4. Could the diagnosis of the situation be overly influenced by salient analogies?
  5. Have credible alternatives been considered?
  6. If you had to make this decision again in a year, what information would you want, and can you get more of it now?
  7. Do you know where the numbers came from?
  8. Can you see a halo effect?
  9. Are the people making the recommendation overly attached to past decisions?
  10. Is the base case overly optimistic?
  11. Is the worst case bad enough?
  12. Is the recommending team overly cautious?
We do not wish to appear overly critical. The article is important and timely. Furthermore, we have great respect for the authors: Daniel Kahneman particularly is a world-leader in this area. Our comments are merely to assist our clients in taking this good idea into real practice. 
The original document can be found at Harvard Business Review at:  Look before you leap
And we believe there is free access up until 4th July 2010.
If you would like to discuss how we at Genesis can help to optimise the decision making process in your organisation, please contact Simon Gifford – or have a look around our web-site at

Intuition – more than trusting your gut

Intuition – more than trusting your gut.

Here is a link to a useful article written by Modesto Maidique (visiting professor at Harvard Business School) who talks about intuition and knowledge.

The core theme of the article is that intuition may be more than just gut. His examples show great “intutive decisions” often are accompanied by great knowledge of the subject matter as well. Additional examples show spectacular failure when this has been missing.

There is, however, a third ingredient and that is deep introspection as highlighted in the quote below.

 If you are going to understand the biases, emotions, and offsets of your decision-making compass which may effectually trump your domain knowledge and result in poor judgments, you must learn to “observe all men, but yourself most.”

Intuition is not just trusting gut by Modesto Maidique

If you would like to discuss how you could improve the decision making capacity and capability of your own organisation, please contact Simon Gifford at

Stress test your strategy

What critical decisions should you be taking to keep your strategy relevant in the economic crisis?

Executive summary of an article by Robert Simons, published in November 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review.

Economic turbulence can quickly expose the weaknesses in a business strategy. To refine and hone it to adapt to the new circumstances requires us to make some tough strategic decisions. Robert Simons in his book “seven strategy questions: a simple approach to better execution” puts forward seven questions that we should be asking when undertaking a stress-test of our strategy.

Stress test your strategy

La prueba de esfuerzo de la estrategia