IDRC paper development workshop or "Nerds at work to find solutions for some big problems" Day 4

Second to last day and still no photos, sorry ... maybe I will ask someone to send me one of the dozen or so group photos we took last night!

I have forgotten to mention something that I actually tweeted - we are doing a lot of SPSS training (sigh) but it provides very good opportunities for nerd jokes (and yes, it is a great way to make the most of the rich and wonderful data we have and it is one of the best ways we have to test theory, test hypotheses and maybe even start to build some theory for the MENA region). OK, back to the nerd jokes, which are funnier than you may think (and really this is such a funny group, I laugh so much (maybe to hide the pain of SPSS).

OK, the joke already - in statistics things are "significant" when the relationship between the variables means that something is there and not just by chance or randomness (don't think that is a word, but you know what I mean). BUT - relevance means researchers should care about it - or it is interesting (e.g. UAE is a smaller country than Saudi Arabia) - so, kind of a running joke is about things being "significant, but not relevant". Hmmmmmm - ok, maybe you have to be there to get it, but really, in context and in that room sitting around that big table it is super funny!

But, what did we discuss today - well in the morning it was the impact of networking on the innovativeness of entrepreneurs - e.g do they offer products and services that others don't, that are new to the market, etc. By the way - UAE is tops on innovativeness for MENA countries... but really, it has more to do with the fact that we have more opportunity driven entrepreneurship than necessity driven entrepreneurship (no one needs to start a business to eat in the UAE, we are very very lucky that way). And still with all that, when compared with the rest of the world, the UAE is kind of low ...

The literature tells us that networks support innovation, because we have access to more information and therefore should be better informed of what is going on in the market and have more opportunities to hear about or see opportunities... but how are networks good and how could governments and NGOs working in the region support these networks.

Not surprisingly, when entrepreneurs mainly seek out advice with their family or close network - innovation is not often a result. Not surprising, our family and friends mainly (unless they live overseas or something) see and hear what we see and hear - so no really "new" or "novel" information.

I kind of had more moments of reflection today - because MENA entrepreneurs (in general) don't really take advantage of the "network" effect as much as other places - but why? Is it that the advice given by workplace, professional and market actors worse or of poorer quality than in other parts of the world - hmmmm, maybe.

Or, could it be that entrepreneurs in the region (in general) are not able to turn advice (or information) into knowledge or action because THEY do not have the necessary  education, skills or experience needed to turn information into knowledge into value (OK - my PhD thesis might have been on a very similar theme, but I think I am right).

But - good news, governments can more easily improve the skills of entrepreneurs than the professional, banking and regulatory system in their countries!

One last aside for this shorter than normal blogpost (I am super tired) - when we talk about MENA, we really cannot ignore God - most of the residents and entrepreneurs are Muslim and practising - and I think an understanding of that (especially for non - Muslim researchers like myself) is important for understanding the phenomenon of entrepreneurship.

Now, this was a private discussion and not in any way part of the official agenda for the meeting (said to reassure my secular Canadian readers), but this is my blog, so I will let you know about it!

We talked about the role that God plays in life, many in the West seem to believe that Muslims believe that God dictates all, but not exactly. We realised that we all (in the mini-discussion) come from traditions where we say that God helps those who help themselves – I think in the MENA region we can’t ignore God and religion in any phenomenon.

Finally, another last thing (reread my notes and realised I wanted to talk about this). Innovativeness is most linked (in a significant way) to the existence of an international network. In other words, the use of international networks has a significant and relevant affect on the innovativeness of entrepreneurial firms and the goods and services they offer. We tested this with the data a couple of ways, first we used a complex model, which was the same result of the simpler model and reflected the observations I have made through interviews and contacts with entrepreneurs in the UAE (and Dr. Victor had the same observation).

So, we may use many different methods to arrive at the same understanding - sometimes in research all roads do seem to lead to Rome.

À demain!

1 comment:

  1. :-)
    nice to read an experience of meeting SPSS...
    in action....
    ...heading for last day now ....exhausted, nearly..