New ranking, book chapter and “crazy” papers

At this moment, exactly 2 years ago, I was finishing my PhD and heading to some great vacations in Iran with my wife. I gave myself these last 2 years of “peace” to think about new intellectual endeavors, after almost 5 years of struggle to keep up with that endless program.

I keep thinking about what to research, despite of not having time to do so. I love reading, thinking and debating about many things but mainly about education, entrepreneurship and emerging economies.

What annoys me most at this moment is that something keeps telling me that I should avoid spending time on traditional social science research. Traditional scientific process leads you to spend years to prove something very close to common sense and unfortunately I don’t have patience for that.

In my opinion, in social sciences, the consequences of this established modus operandi for research are perverse, with millions of dollars and thousands of people researching things that are useless and will probably never be applied at any group of people worldwide.

During the PhD, colleagues and professors kept telling me that I should just “follow the crowd” and try not inventing crazy research topics, methodologies or theories that would invariably lead me to fail in the program.

In summary, I had to learn how to do comprehensible and (mainly) publishable research, not setting myself too much apart from prevailing theories and methodologies. You just have to protect yourself with a “great” respectable theoretical framework and lot of stupid standardized SPSS statistics and everybody will be happy with your research. In my humble opinion, this is just the perfect way to screw with science.

Findings in social sciences are too much limited in time and place to justify the effort of spending years in something not much different from what has been said. In other sciences, when you are able to prove that cell Alfa produces protein Beta if exposed to Gamma rays, you’re clearly advancing in a field. But when you discover that certain human actions have some impact on specific organizations, this finding is very limited to a certain social group in a specific period of time. If it was not, economists, psychologists and sociologists would be able to predict economic downturns, human behavior or wars, for example.

Managing education and technology became a profession to me. Studying entrepreneurship – and its father capitalism – became a kind of a hobby: understanding this period of our history. Emerging economies won’t always be there to be researched. At the end, most of the economies of the world will be very similar by 2050. I don’t want to spend 5 years trying to prove that the obstacle X is responsible for the outcome Y in country Z, when this knowledge will certainly become useless in few decades.

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We have to produce fast and useful debatable knowledge about this. What’s the downside? That there are not right answers for our questions, I’m sorry. We will have to accept that the right answer doesn’t exist and all we can do is to get the closest we can from the answer, with multiple approaches.

So, for the next 10 months, if I’m lucky to keep healthy, I plan to give these three tiny steps to share with people interest in the subject: create a practical ranking for MBA students interested in investing their resources and careers in emerging economies, collaborate with a book about the Brazilian economy – hopefully with a nice chapter about “Entrepreneurship in Brazil”, and producing a couple of “crazy” papers discussing about two things I’m interested in the field:

–          The positive impact of obstacles to entrepreneurs normally perceived as negative.

–          The death of the idea as the key starting point of an innovative business.

I won’t submit these texts to antiquate 20th century journals; I will simply share them with people interested in the subject – academics and practitioners – and then publish here for critics and consultation. I’m tired of bureaucracy.

ps: I took the picture from: http://delbertbikessouthamerica.blogspot.com.es/

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Entrepreneurs and perspectives in emerging markets

In our lives we are always dealing with the future, with perspectives: will my football team win? will my project to succeed? my sector to perform well? my country to grow? Entrepreneurs, in the other hand, tend to think most about: will my service/product to succeed? will people accept it and see the value I see in it? But entrepreneurs are very fortunate people in emerging markets. Regular citizens of emerging markets do not have time to spend in those quasi philosophical questions about the future. Simply because they first have to survive. I have a restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a humble restaurant for day-by-day lunch meals. Four years ago, I asked to whom my employees would vote for president and why. Some of them told me they would vote for Lula simply because before Lula was elected they tended to eat eggs, beans and rice everyday at home with their families and after Lula was elected, with the same salary, they were able to add meat to their diary with higher frequency. That was the “huge” change in their lives: their ability to buy more with the same salary, to live better after all. For people that get survival salaries like my employees, a huge part of the population in emerging countries, dealing with long-term perspectives is a privilege for few. Money to invest in an idea is even scarcer. They have to worry with the basics before.

Yet, there is another important variable in that issue, the importance of religion. It is true that religion is losing power in some regions of the world but definitely not in large parts of the emerging markets. Do you know what happens after we die? I am sure you don’t. However, most of the religions of the world claim they know. This is purely an issue of perspective, I think. If you believe in a religion that tells you you’ll go to heaven if you do good things this means something, but if it tells you you’ll come back to Earth as another person or another animal, this means another thing. This issues impressed me a lot during the time I spent living in India and traveling to China and Africa because that kind of beliefs changed the perspective of millions of people, including the way they consume, of course. In China, for example, religion is almost forbidden. In Russia, it used to be. What is the impact of that to local entrepreneurs? And to foreigners? In Brazil, Christian Evangelists are building a market-friendly Protestant kind of religion. Big thing. What is the impact of that in people’s perspectives? How does people start a small business in each one of those places? If they are born there, they will know, almost intuitively, what social norms they will have to deal with in order to increase their possibility of success. If they are not from there, they will have to study or to learn about local social norms either to build something in accordance with local perspectives or to question, to change, to modernize those perspectives. This may represent either a great innovation or a pitfall. Definitely a complex issue in a world getting global.

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