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.

Image

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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Why I joined the academy

I just gave an interview to the magazine of the business school where I did my Ph.D., FGV-SP Fundação Getulio Vargas de São Paulo. Since the interview will be published in Portuguese and only in São Paulo city, I think I could make it public in advance in English for people interested in some debate on entrepreneurship. Since it is a bit long, I will publish it in two parts: one today and another next week.

Reporter: Why did you decide to join the academy?
Newton Campos: Because I was dissatisfied with the loss of focus on the intellectual journey that I was having after the MBA. The MBA is an eminently practical training, but that indirectly makes you think too much in the development of capitalism worldwide. I started reading authors each day more interesting and more complex, but could not follow an investigative line that could kill my doubts, I felt I needed guidance to facilitate my intellectual evolution and realized that the academic career would be one of the few which would value this type of questioning. So I started the doctoral program in 2006.

Reporter: What was your research question? I wanted a brief summary of your dissertation.
Newton Campos: My research was directed to the social context that surrounds the entrepreneurs during the development of their businesses in Latin countries. As “social context” one may consider the entire network of contacts established or used for business success. I need to clarify that I do not consider entrepreneur those who own small businesses or companies, these are micro or small business owners to me, which eventually may even become entrepreneurs. The research tradition that I follow considers entrepreneur only that person or group of people who innovate during the process of building a project or an organization. Plus, this innovation has to be considered socially or financially successful, otherwise we neither would be talking about an entrepreneur yet. Moreover, much of the existing literature on entrepreneurship in 2006 also put the entrepreneur in a “developed” social context, usually the U.S. or Europe, where the “rules of the game” (market rules and institutional ones) are established in a specific manner, usually very different from the rules that exist in different parts of the world. It was from this observation that I got my research question: How does the social context influences the entrepreneurs at the beginning of their enterprise in a developing country? But the claim was only one stage in the search for this response. During the search, before I even started the dissertation I made a trip to pre-earthquake Haiti (in 2007) to see if it would be possible to observe innovative entrepreneurs in a social context as politically and socially unstable as in a country like Haiti, which was already at that time among the 10 world’s poorest countries. To my surprise I found many innovative entrepreneurs, some even known throughout the Caribbean. Amazingly, the market innovation was there, present in one of the most miserable places on earth. After that, in the thesis itself, I did a comparative study between two countries relatively similar from a cultural standpoint, but different in terms of social and institutional development: Brazil and Spain.

In the next part of interview I will talk about findings and theoretical contributions of my research.