While browsing through the B School library the other day, I happened across an article on decision making by Peter Drucker, originally written in 1967. Naturally as this is our business I was curious to see what one of the true masters of management had to say on the topic. Here is the synopsis together with our commentary.
Drucker commences by stating that an effective decision making process must go through some basic steps. These steps will not “make” the decision – it will always be a judgement call – but if the steps are ignored, the decision is not likely to be effective nor right. The 6 steps he recommends are: Continue reading “Drucker: The Effective Decision”
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):
I 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss it.
The next post will cover this subject in more detail, but meanwhile here is a hint of what is to come. The idea that entrepreneurs manage risk and uncertainty; and make decisions differently has been researched by Saras Sarasvathy. Successful entrepreneurs were studied to detect these patterns – and the results are insightful, but also feel intuitively correct. It is called “effectuation”. And all you corporate people – note it is also valid and important for large organisations too!
So .. how do entrepreneurs handle risk and uncertainty? What do the successful ones do differently? How do you plan when you are dealing with new and unknown markets?
Attached is a visually attractive depiction of the study and the results.
This week the World Economic Forum kicked off in Davos – and as always, we will be following it with interest and alerting our clients and readers to interesting forums and discussions.
Not coincidentally, this is also the week that we are launching our new “Brave New World” initiative. The tough economic times continue to a greater or lesser extent depending on your perspective (country, industry, region, …) and we believe the green shoots are showing or about to show. The biggest challenge many organisations face is that the business environment has changed fundamentally but many are still looking in the rear-view mirror to plan the road ahead. Coupled with that is that many are also in survival mode – with a strong internal focus on cost containment.
Resources tend to be stretched especially at executive level and although we know we should be considering the broader trends and fundamental changes that have been happened, we seldom give ourselves the opportunity to read and absorb some of the material out there (such as is coming out of the World economic Forum) – to say nothing of sitting down as an executive team to discuss the implications and opportunities for the organisation.
The BraveNewWorld challenge is to change this mindset in your organisations (if it exists) and proactively look at the new “world” you will be facing, with a perspective of seeking opportunities and growth. Taking the time out to assess the future NOT through the perspective of the rear-view mirror, but from the perspective of what the future might look like. Contact me at BraveNewWorld@GenesisMC.co.uk to discuss how we might be able to offer assistance in this process.
Back to Davos, the theme of this years conference can best be described using Professor Klaus Schwab’s words: “Today, we live in the most complex, interdependent and interconnected era in human history. We are increasingly confronted by major adaptive challenges as well as profound transformational opportunities. This new leadership context requires successful organizations to master strategic agility and to build risk resilience.”
Later posts will discuss specific debates at Davos, but for this first post I should like to bring to your attention the WEF TV channel at http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2013 . As I write this, I am watching a discussion called “De-risking Africa” with discussions from Clayton Christensen (disruptive technologies) and Global Risks due in the next few hours. Incredible stuff and whether or not you agree with the opinions expressed, it should certainly stimulate your thinking.
And finally, congratulations Charlize on your Crystal Award. Beauty, brains and empathy ….. an exceptional and rare combination.