How can your region, country, or city solve the problems plaguing your people? Do you look to the politicians, bureaucrats, or corporate leaders? Where can you find professional problem solvers?
Rather than looking up the hierarchies, you need to look outside of them. Seek out the entrepreneurs, hackers, and startup teams. You see, these are the professional problem solvers who can save your people and unlock your economy’s innovative potential. Harnessing these business creators’ abilities can make or break your regional development, so how do you work with business creators to solve your region’s most pressing problems?
The answer is a four-step process: discovering, training, prioritizing, and empowering.
Discovering Professional Problem Solvers
Where do you find professional problem solvers? Usually, they are absorbed in launching their own ventures, so they are often too busy to engage with your agenda. This is why you need to catch them early, discovering them within your region’s educational system.
Although they may not be the best students on paper, problem solvers are not too difficult to spot. According to Harvard Business Review, serial entrepreneurs tend to possess higher than average levels of five traits: persuasion, leadership, personal accountability, goal orientation, and interpersonal skills. From the computer science to the public policy departments in your region’s universities, you can identify the problem solvers by their dedication to devising novel solutions to their assignments. Extracurricular pursuits, such as launching side hustles or attending hackathons, can also provide tell-tale signs of problem solving potential.
Training Professional Problem Solvers
If you want your region to flourish, you must take people with problem solving instincts and cultivate a class of professional problem solvers. Problem solvers will not always be familiar with startups and their development phases. They may not be inclined to engage with startups because they have their hearts set on corporate or government work. It is your job to teach them otherwise, educating and engaging them in startup culture.
This is an area where Startup Commons can help. Our Growth Academy Training Curriculum provides illuminating content to expose people to the exciting world of startups. Growth Academy is designed to provide a roadmap for potential startup teams and support providers to grow successful startups. Additionally, Startup Commons provides a wide array of free content and resources that you can use to train business creators.
Helping Professional Problem Solvers Prioritize
Once you have cultivated a class of professional problem solvers, you need to focus them on your region’s most pressing problems. The best way to do this is through challenges.
Professional problem solvers love to test their limits with difficult problems. By framing a problem as a nearly impossible challenge, you can engage the best people to design solutions. Hosting hackathons or offering cash prizes are ways to do this on a small scale. On a larger scale you can design accelerator and investment programs that are focused on specific problem sectors, such as water scarcity or food insecurity.
As an example of a challenge, Startup Commons is providing an app challenge where ecosystem developers can submit problems for application developers to solve. The solutions will be featured in Startup Commons’ Ecosystem OS Application Marketplace.
Empowering Professional Problem Solvers
After successfully completing training and prioritization, you must empower your professional problem solvers to bring their solutions to life. This often requires substantial resources and robust support systems, which is where startup ecosystems come into play.
Startups need a whole host of factors to succeed, ranging from talent to capital. Ideally, your region will begin attracting these necessities once you cultivate a class of professional problem solvers and establish a startup culture, as well as a business-friendly regulatory environment. Nevertheless, empowering professional problem solvers can be a difficult task.
Luckily, the Startup Commons team are internationally renowned experts in startup ecosystem development. Please contact us if you reach the empowerment phase and are interested in workshops, training, or consulting.
Startup Commons is here to help your region thrive, and we hope that you found the lessons in this blog post valuable.
For the 2018 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge, Kauffman is seeking to fund projects in four specific areas:
While looking into Special Interest Areas in more details here, on the first item “Technology and the new nature of entrepreneurship” we found these two sample topics to be very relevant and aligned with our mission in scaling entrepreneurship and innovation:
“What does digitalization mean for entrepreneurs and for the organizations that support them? What can be done to achieve inclusion? How can entrepreneurship support organizations leverage digitization for their programs?”
Related to this, few weeks back at Global Entrepreneurship Congress, Istanbul, we did a speech about “Digital Side of Startup Ecosystem Development”. The presentation materials of this speech, include many valuable learnings and insights that can help to contribute to projects under this area.
“What kind of education and training programs fit a future where people will need entrepreneurial skills to work?”
In our recent blog post “Entrepreneurship Education: Educating to jobs vs. Educating job creators.” we wrote extensively about our views related to this topic in general, as well as concrete initiatives that we are currently working on.
Naturally the points covered in this post, would also be big positive contributors for Special Interest Area 2: Barriers to entrepreneurship as well.
In both of these topics, if the related solutions we have described would already be broadly available, those would bring enormous help also in enabling Causal research (specific area 4), especially to tackle the known challenges Causal Research Studies related to Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). As well, as contributing to all sample topics regards to questions about “how do we measure...?”.
The fourth area itself, causal research, is naturally connected to all three other areas in many other ways as well.
Causal Research Studies
Below, we also want to contribute to the creation of causal research studies in the entrepreneurship space in general as well.
Kauffman “is interested in multi-site causal research the tests specific interventions designed to overcome barriers to entrepreneurship.” This research should be focused on the United States and utilize randomized controlled trials (RCTs) across multiple sites.
Having identified that Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) can have limited generalizability, which limits their usefulness in informing program and/or policy design. As such, the Foundation is interested in projects that exploit rigorous causal research across multiple ecosystems which, by nature of being systems, comprise many moving parts.
We will use this post to explore general RCT design, so that you can more effectively propose experiments to Kauffman.
About Randomized Controlled Trials
Aiming to reduce bias, randomized controlled trials randomly place study participants in a treatment or control group. Using a case example, the treatment group would receive an intervention designed to overcome barriers to entrepreneurship. The control group would receive a placebo intervention, meaning that they would receive a false intervention that would be designed to not accomplish anything. Randomization should be done after participants have been screened and selected for the experiment, but before the intervention is administered.
Based on research by Anthony J. Viera, MD, MPH and Shrikant I. Bangdiwala, PhD, RCTs are most effective when conducted in a single-blind or double-blind manner, also known as masking. In a single-blind experiment, the research participants do not know whether or not they are being given the treatment. This means, neither the research participants nor the experimenters know who is receiving the treatment in a double-blind experiment. Both of these methods can be used to eliminate bias.
Challenges with RCTs in Entrepreneurship Policy Context
Related to Kauffman Knowledge Challenge, as an example model for conducting randomized controlled trials across multiple sites is described as using entrepreneurs in one region as the control group and entrepreneurs in another region as the treatment group. But as already identified, this may give limited results. Since there will always be many differentiating factors between any two regions (i.e. different cultures, demographics, financial opportunities, industries, etc.), confounding, a situation where an experimenter cannot reasonably eliminate alternative explanations for an observation, can easily occur.
We agree that better results could be achieved where treatment and control group are located in the same region. And in addition, it make sense to replicate the study across multiple regions.
Another issue to take note of is the Hawthorne Effect, also known as the observer effect. When entrepreneurs know that they are being observed, they are likely to behave differently than they otherwise would. This limits the applicability of RCTs. Two ways to mitigate the Hawthorne Effect are; a) performing discrete observations and b) making the period of study as long as possible.
Additionally, Jeffrey Hammer identified three problems with RCTs in development economics for the Brookings Institution:
It it good to be aware of RCTs known limitations in and development of economics and entrepreneurship policy. If they are not conducted properly and applied too readily, they can potentially have even adverse effects on policy design.
Enhancing Your Experimental Design for RCTs
By being aware of these challenges of RCTs, we hope that you can be better equipped to design proposals for the Kauffman Knowledge Challenge as well.
If you would like to leverage any of our materials in your white paper, additional ideas on experimental design or utilize or expertise, tools, resources etc. in your actual project if materialize, please reach out to Conor Flynn, our Operations Manager who is based in the United States. He is happy to help you to mitigate bias and confounding so that you can provide stronger data for informing future policy decisions and entrepreneurship interventions.
Supporting startup ecosystem development, from entrepreneurship education, to consulting to digital infrastructure for connecting, measuring and international benchmarking.
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