Exploring Entrepreneurship 2nd edition (Sage, 2017). Richard Blundel, Nigel Lockett and Catherine Wang. This short extract features one of a series of cases ...
Exploring Entrepreneurship 2nd edition (Sage, 2017). Richard Blundel, Nigel Lockett and Catherine Wang This short extract features one of a series of cases that will offer a student perspective on the topics discussed. This case is designed to demonstrate how students can use research outputs as a valuable resource when studying entrepreneurship. I would welcome your comments, which can be posted on my ResearchGate project page: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/richard_blundel
An extract from Chapter 10 - Research matters: an overview (DRAFT) 10.2
Sources of information
People use many different sources of information to help them engage in, and to better understand, entrepreneurship. As a student, you are also likely to be drawing on a wide selection of sources during your studies in search of ideas, evidence, and inspiration […]. The kind of knowledge you will find in these sources ranges from the abstract, wide-ranging and often inconclusive findings produced by academic researchers to the concrete, contextspecific, and often very strongly worded advice given by experienced entrepreneurs. Each of these sources can help you to a better understanding of entrepreneurship. Some types of knowledge are going to be more useful than others, depending on your immediate aims. However, in the world of entrepreneurship, it is usually a mistake to ignore either the more ‘practical’ or the more ‘academic’ sources entirely. For example, while working on a new venture creation activity (either ‘for real’ or as part of a business simulation or competition), it certainly makes sense to concentrate on the more ‘practical’ types of knowledge, such as those found in Part One of this textbook. These activities are usually fairly intense and pressured, so you may think that it is a waste of time to read anything other than a few ‘how-to’ guides to financial forecasts or marketing plan. Think again! Some of the best new venture ideas we have come across were, at least in part, the product of students pushing themselves beyond the ‘safe’ territory of the business plan guide. Similarly, when writing a more academically oriented piece of work, such as a dissertation researching an aspect of entrepreneurship or an essay reflecting on your experience while participating in a new venture creation activity, you are likely to focus on academic journal articles, academic books, government reports, and the kind of material that is covered in Part Two of this textbook. These are the best places to locate the concepts, models, and theoretical frameworks that are essential if you are going to structure and make some sense of the empirical evidence (e.g. research findings you have collected for your dissertation or notes from your personal diary that form the raw material of your reflective essay). In these situations, focusing on high quality academic sources is a sensible option. However, it would be unfortunate if, in an effort to appear suitably ‘serious’, you were to ignore the less formal sources entirely. The key here is to select and apply the different sources in ways that fit with your basic purpose. Consider the following practical examples (Case 10.2): 1
Case 10.2 Student focus – using research effectively These short fictionalized accounts, based on real world examples, illustrate two ways that students have made good use of entrepreneurship research to achieve successful outcomes in their studies. Creating a more exciting new venture proposal Three members of the student venture team, ‘Smoky Phoenix’ gather in one of the university’s quieter coffee shops. It is already week five of the enterprise project and everyone is feeling tired and depressed. The team has come up with a few venture ideas, but everyone realizes that they are uninspiring – neither innovative, sustainable, or with much in the way of growth potential. ‘Yeah, but who cares?’ says Jonas, ‘all we need is a “pass”’. ‘At that moment, Sarah, the last team member rushes in, gets out her tablet and makes some space for it on the crowded table. Everyone glances at the screen, which is full of text. ‘What are we looking at?’ asks Jonas, as Sarah collapses on the sofa. ‘It’s the answer to all our problems – look at this …’, she says as she flicks to a series of photos and an extract from a journal article. Sarah has found a description of the world’s first capsule hotel: ‘With rooms made from fibreglass, measuring 90 x 180 x 00 cm, the first capsule hotel was opened in Osaka in 1977 […]. The capsule hotel is usually located close to major railway stations, designed to service the needs of the businessman (and these are very masculinized spaces) who has missed the last train.’ (McNeill 2008: 398) Jonas frowns and sips his double espresso, ‘Nah, I don’t get it’ he says, ‘this is just academic research and we’ve got much more important things to think about!’. Sarah patiently explains her big idea and points out another section, which describes how the idea has been developed: ‘The logic of this particular hotel form – so peculiar to Japan – is currently being adapted for use in London. The Yotel company (which emerged out of bringing sushi conveyor belts to the UK) sells the concept of modularized rooms of 10 m2, with internal windows, which can be fitted into disused 1950s–80s buildings, or even underground.’ (ibid.: 398) By taking this Japanese example and the subsequent applications as inspiration, the Smoky Phoenix team could create its own truly innovative product for a 21st century European market. ‘How about targeting music festivals and other outdoor events with an alternative to leaky and insecure tents.’ she suggests. The other members of the team take a closer look at the article as Sarah continues with her explanation. They also check out the Yotel website (www.yotel.com) to see how the concept has been developed. Having convinced them that the idea is worth exploring – and of the benefits of lateral thinking – Ayisha notes down some details and references from the article while Philip starts a web search on ‘capsule hotels’. Jonas takes a quiet look at his phone messages, muttering to himself: ‘Yeah, well … I still think we should have gone with my T-shirts idea.’
Getting the final year project back on track Katerina is studying at a university in Australia. She’s decided that her final year project is going to be in the area of gender and entrepreneurship. Her parents both left teaching careers to set up a small business and her older sister Pernille has recently set up a business at home in Denmark. Katrina’s become interested in the idea that there may be differences around the kinds of ventures men and women establish, and they way that they build their businesses. She has spent some time on the library’s e-journals collection using search terms like, ‘gender entrepreneurship’ and ‘women entrepreneurs’, and now has more than 60 journal articles downloaded as PDFs. There is also a pile of library books on the floor beside her desk, including a couple of textbooks and an old dissertation. She’s managed to write a few pages of text, summarizing some of these sources, but it’s still just a list of facts and ideas – everything seems disconnected. Katerina is feeling confused and a little disappointed with herself – maybe this wasn’t a good subject after all. She flicks randomly through the sources and is really not sure what to do next. Eventually, decides to contact her supervisor, Emma, and they arrange a meeting. ‘OK’ says Emma, ‘I can see you have done a lot of work here, but it does need a bit more focus.’ Katrina sighs, ‘But what should I be focusing on?’ Emma discusses a few strategies for generating good research topics and questions, such as scanning the ‘further research’ sections of recent journal articles, looking for topical issues raised in specialist media, or talking to practitioners. Katrina then remembers something her sister mentioned about a women’s enterprise network she had joined the previous year, which was providing her with support and encouragement. Emma asks if any of the journal articles covered this topic, since this could help provide useful concepts, frameworks and questions that would give the dissertation a real focus. Katrina recalls a popular but fairly old article by Aldrich et al. (1989) called, ‘Women on the verge of a breakthrough: networking among entrepreneurs in the United States and Italy’. Emma agrees that this could be a good starting point and suggests looking for more recent studies that have cited that article, such as Bogren et al. (2013) ‘Networking women entrepreneurs: fruitful for business growth?’. Next, the discussion turns to collecting suitable evidence for the study. Katerina tells Emma a bit about her sister’s business, and her network connections. Pernille’s network looks like an ideal basis for an empirical study. However, given the distances involved it isn’t going to be possible for her to conduct any interviews in person. Another option is to contact members of the network by email and ask them to complete a survey questionnaire. Emma agrees that this could work, though response rates can be fairly low and Katerina only has a few weeks to complete the research. ‘Can you think of any other sources of evidence that might give you an insight into this network?’ asks Emma. ‘Well, there is a discussion thread on the website but I’m not sure it’s proper evidence – I mean, it’s just a lot of people asking questions and exchanging advice.’ Katerina finds the discussion thread on her table and shows it to her supervisor. After scanning through some recent entries, Emma sits back in her chair and smiles, ‘This discussion thread could be exactly what you need. We’d need to consider whether there are any ethical issues involved, but if you treated the text of the discussions as anonymized qualitative evidence, it could be very useful indeed.’ 3