IDRC paper development workshop or "Nerds at work to find solutions for some big problems" Day 2

Today we started the day talking about culture – and of course, when we talk about management and we talk about culture we also talk about - Geert Hofstede – a researcher who “defined” culture per country a million years ago (OK, maybe his book Culture’s Consequences was published in 1980, not a million years ago). Since that time people have been simultaneously criticizing his work and using it as a framework – because although it is imperfect – it seems to provide a solid enough theoretical framework to build interesting results.

We are all still getting to know one another, and the discussion could seem heated to “non-nerds”, but it isn’t. We all have the same vision – solid research to robustly explain the phenomena under study to arrive at an understanding that will hopefully lead to solid policy recommendations. I feel that we have a distinct understanding of what each other is dealing with, as a researcher and as a researcher in MENA.

We talked about the researcher as author – the stuff we publish (en’shallah) has to be interesting and readable and tell a story that is compelling and based on the questions being posed in the literature now – I liked how Bettina explained it as well though “observed patterns are not causal relationships” (this is my pet peeve in almost all the “research” published by newspapers in the UAE – but that is another blogpost, one that will most likely never be written).

Back to the day – I circulated an important recent paper from one of the most famous researchers in entrepreneurship, this region and in absorptive capacity (the main reason I love the guy – his paper with George changed how I looked at the world).  Shaker Zahra wrote “Doing Research in the (New) Middle East: Sailing with the Wind” and it was published just this past November (2011). It really outlines the directions that he feels really need to be studied – and I thought it might be important for us to place our work in his “world” so to speak – I am sending a lot of email with the blog posts and everything, I hope I don’t start ending up in the spam box!

We had a lot of discussion about what we are asking of the data – and we haven’t solved that issue yet – but it is and will continue to be an interesting debate.

There is also a debate on treating MENA as a single entity – and there are strong reasons to do that and equally strong reasons not to – I think it depends (really I do, it’s not a cope out). It depends on the question and what the data is trying to tell us.

(An aside – men DO NOT like taking direction J But then again, neither do I – I just pretend to listen and then do my own thing!)

After another excellent lunch, Dr. Victor (my research buddy from ZU) presented – and he presented a whole course work of literature on entrepreneurship networks in like 25 minutes – my head was spinning! But he brought up some interesting things. First, there are three main questions that guide the “science/art” of entrepreneurship:

    1. Why, when and how opportunities for the creation of good and services come into existence?
    2. Why, when and how some people and not others discover and exploit these opportunities?
    3. Why, when and how different modes of actions are used to exploit entrepreneurial opportunities?

And then he spoke about the guiding principles in our global research:

    1. Network ties are contingent upon relationships between individuals
    2. The social structure can affect entrepreneurship
    3. Role of social networks in business start-ups

Finally, (OK, this was not the end of the day, but at this point I had reached my saturation point for note taking – there was loads of SPSS training after and even this evening the hard-core researchers (e.g. not me) are being introduced to AMOS by Thomas) I finally got the definition of network I was looking for. Like I said, I like to know the rules and then might ignire them, but I wanted to know what was our guide.

So, this is network defined by Thomas Schott to us (based on loads of researchers, but he explained it well). Networks are the  relationships that each entrepreneur as an individual is involved in that provides resources – in our case knowledge/information/advice – one resource common across all phases. A network is the “set” of contacts (individuals, organisations,  around an entrepreneur who provide a resource (advice) to an entrepreneur.

I have studied networks before , and used slightly different definitions – but really, I like this one.

So, Day 2 is a wrap. I am very happy to have this opportunity to meet and learn from such smart, funny and stubborn people – many kind of remind me of all the people I did my PhD with (many from MENA) and it makes me happy (and tired, but a happy tired).

À demain!

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