Resource Combining: Teaching, Researching & Practice

Recently I’ve written a commentary on a paper about resource combining for JBR.  It set me thinking about how we can successfully combine our teaching, research and practice to help students have some experience of ‘the world of work’ in the class room.

We are at the beginning of term and I’m teaching Managing Marketing Innovation.  This week I think we really managed to combine teaching, research and practice by welcoming our Guest Speaker, Allan Freinkel, CEO of StarTraq.  StarTraq (UK) Ltd. provide software solutions for enforcement agencies.  Allan has also been a participant into my research into business models and market making.

Allan has both national and international experience of start-up companies and provided the students with great insights into how to start, develop and run a business in turbulent times.  The students gave great feedback on their experience, really picking up on the importance of understanding where the value lies within innovation network, how you can constantly seek to create and sustain value by building platform technologies and how change can suddenly come (though policy, fincnace or technolgoical change) and completely disrupt a market.  Allan talked about how he used his network and knowledge to seek new ways of combining and accessing resources and also how he did this in an ethical but determined way.

What I loved about the session was the way an experienced practitioner combined and co-developed ideas and experiential stories with the ideas of great students who also had their own experiences and stories to tell.  Many of these students have just returned to university having spent a year working at firms like 3M, Johnson & Johnson, Texaco Mobile and Glaxo SmithKline.  One student asked, “What are you most proud of doing in all the work you have done?”  Allan identified two things: saving lives (by establishing non-speeding traffic norms through the provision of his speed enforcement technologies) and being able to employ people so that when they go home at night, they have a roof over their heads.  What a great session!

Allan also talked about his work with academics to develop his business.  Specifically he talked about his work with Dr. Annabelle Gawer at Imperial College, London.  Annabelle has a great new book on platform products.

The Problem with Video Diaries

I’ve been thinking about the video diaries that I have and also all the video data that I don’t have too.  It seems that the managers that have the flip video cameras as data collection tools hate pointing the camera at themselves and then talking to the camera’s eye.  I tried it.  I’ve been videoing feedback for my innovation students straight after lecturers and workshops.  It is a weird feeling.  It makes you terribly self conscious as it gives you the feeling of being both watched and judged.  It works to some extent but I’ve been wondering what else ethnographers could use.  There is a new piece of kit coming out (it’s not on the market yet but worth taking note of).  It’s called SenseCam.  This is what the Microsoft site says about SenseCam:

“SenseCam is a wearable digital camera that is designed to take photographs passively, without user intervention, while it is being worn. Unlike a regular digital camera or a cameraphone, SenseCam does not have a viewfinder or a display that can be used to frame photos. Instead, it is fitted with a wide-angle (fish-eye) lens that maximizes its field-of-view. This ensures that nearly everything in the wearer’s view is captured by the camera, which is important because a regular wearable camera would likely produce many uninteresting images.

SenseCam contains a number of different electronic sensors. These include light-intensity and light-color sensors, a passive infrared (body heat) detector, a temperature sensor, and a multiple-axis accelerometer. These sensors are monitored by the camera’s microprocessor, and certain changes in sensor readings can be used to automatically trigger a photograph to be taken.”

Imagine the data you could get with this! You manager moves and you get to see what he goes, who he meets, what he sees!  I can see many exciting opportunities with this technology as a data collection tool.  There have already been trials in the medical profession with Alzheimer’s patients to help jog memory (see for example, Berry et al 2008).  Maybe SenseCam could be used as an aid memoir to in interviews as well as raw data.

Kit

I’ve spent the last couple of months thinking about kit – video kit mostly – but it’s got complicated.  As part of my research into the management practices of business models and market-making, I wanted to take advantage of the richness of data that can be captured through video diaries as well as other more traditional methods or data collection (interviews, documentary evidence such as minutes of meetings, emails, presentation materials etc).  So, I need to buy video cameras.  That sounds simple enough I know but when I came to buy the cameras I found myself launched into a world of coding languages, quality discussions, software compatibility issues, usability issues and a whole load of other things.  What does all this mean? I have made some decisions. 

Decision 1: How might I use video footage?

First, I had to think about how I want to use the material I want to collect. The video diaries are data.  But part of the purpose of the video footage was also to think about how I might use it to communicate my findings to practitioners in an accessible and meaningful way once my research is has progressed to that stage.  Now that I have started to work with the managers involved in this research, I have a much greater understanding of  my research context than I had when I made the initial grant application to look at these issues.  I am much more aware of the issues I will be observing and perhaps influencing through my engagement with these managers.  Consequently, I now realise, or am more mindful of the complexity and sensitivity the video diaries will  capture and in this regard it seems wholly inappropriate and unethical to think of using this data to communicate findings at a later stage.  This has implications for kit.  What I need for the data collection job is lower quality, light, mobile cameras – FLIP looks good.

Decision 2: What video footage am I likely to collect?0

I had envisaged, when I wrote the grant application, that I would buy three camera’s, one for each manager in each of the three firms I would be working with.  I looked-up the cost of the cameras at that point and they were about £1,000 .  That was for a small hand held video camera – like the type you see in your average retail outlet.  So that would be £3,000 total in my budget for video cameras.  However, once I started talking to managers about what they do, I soon realised that in each firm there are about five key respondents (managers) who are playing a significant role in the market-making practices I’m studying.  That means I’m now looking at needing fifteen cameras not three…..  (remember, I only have a budget of £3,000).  There is also an issue regarding whether managers will actually use cameras when they get them – but that’s another story. I won’t know how that works until I have the cameras.  So this affects my kit procurement decision – they now need to be cheap too!

Decision 3: How can I use video to communicate my findings to Practitioners?

To do this I discover I need a whole new set of skills myself as well as a completely different kit specification.  To communicate key findings with practitioners, students and other researchers, I need to be able to make ‘mini programmes’.  To make programmes you need ‘big’ kit.  Well, not as big as it used to be, but now the camera discourse is ‘quality, counts’.  I thought initially that I would be able to access ‘expertise’ about programme making by talking to firms or IT people within the university who would advise me upon the kit I needed and the knowledge I would need to collect, create or commission such programmes.  Several challenges arose.  First, it was not clear who I should be talking to, to answer my questions – even the people I spoke to who have produced video podcasts had done so on an ad hoc basis; developing their own way of working through trial and error.  Also, I realised that I didn’t really have a very clear idea of what I wanted to do – or at least I was communicating my ideas in a sufficiently ‘techno speak’ way to be understood.  I had to go right back to the beginning and rethink what my objectives were in doing this.  I also realise that if I am to use ‘mini programmes’ to communicate my research findings, I need to be an expert.  I need to know what I’m asking for.  This leads to me having to learn about programming languages of the different digital cameras (in order to understand which editing software the different cameras are compatible with), learning about camera specs. (I’m coming down on the side of the Panasonic AG-DVX 100BE); learning about software packages (Adobe Premiere Pro is really the ‘industry standard; it’s a full editing suite that can be integrated with website materials and all sorts…very clever); learning about computer specifications that will run the editing software (PCSpecialist were very helpful); and learning storyboarding skills; what will be in the mini-programmes I want to make and how will I communicate this through the medium of video?

In the process of trying to become an expert customer, I think I’ve become an expert – well not quite but enough to have a go at doing this stuff myself.  I’m not trying to get a job at the BBC, but I do want to experiment with these communication tools as part of the research process – so I am jumping in to the deep end.  If anyone has done this or anything like it – all advice is welcome!

IMP Conference Marseilles

From the 3rd – 5th September I attended the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group’s annual conference; this year in Marseilles, France.  As always there were some really interesting research papers presented.  Two papers interested me particularly.  First, a paper by Teea Palo, from the University of Oulu, Finland.  Teea’s paper, entitled, “Examining business models for emerging technology-based services – a network perspective” looks at business models from a network perspective and explores network architecture; the ways firms come together to deliver something – a solution – to an end customers.  In Teea’s paper she looks at the telecomms industry.  Teea’s work raises questions about who owns a business model and how firms share business model artefacts (plans, network pictures and other documents that represent a shared vision of what their immediate network is and how it works) to enable to take collective action. 

A second paper that raised significant interest was presented by Enrico Baraldi and Torkel Strömsten.  Their paper, “Managing Product Development the IKEA way-The role of accounting and control in networks” looks at how IKEA developed accounting control that directly affected the innovation behaviours of other firms in their business network.  Again, we see the existance of IKEA artefacts affecting aims, activities and outcomes of other organisations in the business network and in the market.  Enrico Baraldi has also published in the California Management Review; “Strategy in Networks. Experiences from IKEA” 50(4):99-126

Prof. Franck Cochoy on Shopping Carts

 

Yesterday, I went to a seminar by Prof. Franck Cochoy of the Université de Toulouse.  Prof. Cochoy’s work on the sociology of markets looks at how ‘things’ or ‘objects’ (in this case shopping trolleys) influence or shape the relationship between supply and demand.  Do we buy more because we can have a trolley?  Are supermarkets ‘big’ because someone invented shopping trolleys? 

Prof. Cochoy talked to us about how the theory/idea of self service in shops had developed over time.  He did this by looking at the evolution of shopping trolleys from 1936 (when they looked like chairs with wheels) to 1956 (when they looked very much as we know them today).  Prof. Cochoy’s point was that the theory of self service didn’t pop out of someone’s head one day, perfectly formed.  Rather the idea of what self service way and how it might work, and the material objects to make it work (such as trolleys) developed together.  Each material or theoretical development informing and shaping the other: the material and the social; the practice and the theory.  So how does this help us understand business models?  Maybe, by having a business model on a piece of paper, we create an object – this then starts to inform what people think and do.  These activities and practices then feedback into the business model and the model evolves and so on. That’s why we need to study the ‘practice of business models’ because essentially, making organisations grow is about the social practices of the people within them.

 

 “Driving a shopping cart from STS to business, and the other way round. On the introduction of shopping carts in American grocery stores” (1936-1959), Organization, 2009, Vol. 16, No. 1 (in press).

Microsoft Citizens Safety Architecture Symposium

On the 14th April, Microsoft launched a new market initiative call the CSA – the Citizens Safety Architecture.  The idea of the initiative is to work with a network of specialist software providers, hardware providers and agencies, in ways which bring humanitarian relief to crisis situations.  Major disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and terrorist attacks demand collective action across multiple disparate groups (for example, fire, police and health services).   For more details on the Microsoft CSA initiative follow this link:  http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/apr09/04-15PSSThreatsPR.mspx

The CSA initiative requires Microsoft to develop management practices in two key areas:

1.       Developing a business model that enables their business to grow;

2.       Making and shaping the market.

These two areas of management practice are inter-linked. The links were explored during the first task of my research; to attend the Microsoft CSA Symposium in Redmond, Seattle (14th-16th April 2009) where the launch of the CSA initiative took place.  Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Safety Symposium, ran from the 14th April through to the April 16th, 2009, brings together more than 300 national security operatives, public safety professionals and criminal justice officials. Microsoft was using the forum to demonstrate how they are trying to deliver the Citizen Safety Architecture with a set of software solutions and services to help governments proactively plan for and effectively respond to terrorist attacks, criminal acts and natural disasters.  This is an international agenda.  The event brought together over three hundred strategic and operational stakeholders from around the world.  The idea was to facilitate collaboration and information sharing among these diverse groups.  The event showcased several international success stories and provided a forum for knowledge sharing.  Microsoft representatives reported their need to listen to customers and what they label their business partners, so that they can co-develop a ‘clear way ahead, to build common and flexible strategies’. 

During the Symposium, I interviewed nineteen Microsoft employees, partners and customers involved in citizen safety.   The findings suggest that partnering firms are looking to Microsoft to develop management practices that make and shape markets.  These management practices cross firm boundaries and influence Microsoft, the dyadic relationships between individual partners and themselves and the wider business network; the market.   

 

Welcome to my research blog

The purpose of this blog is to make my research into management practices available to anyone who finds it interesting or helpful. I hope to be posting insights from my research in terms of the research process (what I’m doing and how I’m doing it) and in terms of the emergent findings (how my research is helping to generate insights into management practice – specifically what managers can do to effectively develop and innovate their business models in ways that make and shape markets).