Entrepreneurs don’t really value entrepreneurship research? Is this true?

The recent BBC story about Zuru, a toy business based in Hong Kong but originating in New Zealand, is just one of a long list of media stories highlighting that entrepreneurs engage in experimentation and practice on their entrepreneurial journey. Many are not  ‘educated’ to be an entrepreneur, but do engage in self-learning for personal and business growth. In doing so, who and where do they get their information from? What role does entrepreneurial scholarship play? And what do they think about entrepreneurship scholars and scholarship in this regard?

 

First, it is worth noting that in questioning the role of entrepreneurship scholars and their engagement with practice, researchers acknowledge the impressive efforts of those in this community; indeed, the study of entrepreneurship is often informed by experiences of, or close interaction, with entrepreneurs/ship. Nevertheless, questions do remain about how valuable research is? How applicable is it? Do entrepreneurs have the time to expend on finding academic research, recognising its value to them and then applying it? And if they don’t, then whom are academics creating knowledge for? And why?

 

These are the kinds of question that Dr Ainurul Rosli, Reader in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and Director of Business Engagement at Brunel Business School, and her co-author Dr Isla Kapasi, Lecturer in the Management Division and member of the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies, are seeking to explore. In the research project, ‘Entrepreneurship Scholars don’t know about Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurs do’, supported by funding from ISBE, Dr Rosli and Dr Kapasi will be taking an engaged scholarship approach to answering such questions. To that end, they will work with nascent, new and established business owners to understand this pressing issue. Building on several initial pilot engagements, this research will be informed by the following questions:

  • What is the applicability and practicality of entrepreneurship knowledge for entrepreneurs?
  • And why do they think this is the case?

 

Dr Rosli and Dr Kapasi want to explore the ideological and practical aspects of any challenges/resistance (if any) experienced by entrepreneurs.

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Dr. Ainurul Rolsi and Dr. Isla Kapasi

The researchers said:

“On reflection, these are intimidating questions; perhaps we are trying to investigate something that has been hiding under a heavy rock (or that we willingly ignore?). We are unsure if we are able to get under this heavy rock, but it is our ambition to help enlighten and broaden the debate on how entrepreneurship scholars present themselves in different contexts/boundaries beyond academia and better understand the value of our research practice and contributions.

 

Furthermore, with the rise in the rejection of, or boredom with, ‘experts’ or ‘intellectuals’, we need to inspect our social usefulness, and how important that is ‘beyond the academy’. As individual entrepreneurship scholars, and in our roles as Co-Chair of the Practice and Impact SIG with ISBE, we position this research as a call to conversation within the entrepreneurship scholarly community and hope you will join us at the ISBE conference in November to further discuss these topics. In addition, we have plans for a critical examination of this topic for early Summer 2020 hosted by Brunel University. Join us!”

 

About the researchers:

Dr Ainurul Rosli is a Reader in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and Director of Business Engagement at Brunel Business School. Her current research interests include: university-industry collaboration, engaged scholarship, social impact, community entrepreneurship, and team entrepreneurship.

 

Dr Isla Kapasi is a lecturer in the Management Division and member of the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies. Her current research interests include: critical entrepreneurship studies, entrepreneurship motivations, low-income enterprise, and engaged scholarship.

Dr Ainurul Rosli hosts panel on the gap between entrepreneurship research and practice

Dr. Ainurul Rosli is a Reader in Enterprise and Enterpreneurship and Director of Business Engagement at Brunel Business School. Her current research interests include: university-industry collaboration, engaged scholarship, social impact, community entrepreneurship , and team entrepreneuership. She has recently co-hosted a panel, alongside Dr Isla Kapasi, who is a Lecturer in Management at Leeds University Business School, and a member of the Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies, to examine the gap between entrepreneurship research and practice.

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Dr. Ainurul Rosli (Left) and Dr. Isla Kapasi (right)

 

The panel, entitled “A gap between research and practice – Is it simply a question of means and methods?“, was organised as part of the activities of the Practice & Impact Special Interest Group, of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE).

 

In the UK, academics are certainly being encouraged to consider (and prioritise) the (positive!) impact of their research. This is as true for members of the Practice & Impact Special Interest Group, as it is for other UK academics. And in the case of entrepreneurship research, where significant discussion is occurring around the ‘practical’ outcomes that can arise as a result of our research, there is perhaps an inherent requirement and urgency to consider the value and impact of entrepreneurship research.

 

To that end then, where are the academic and practitioner entrepreneurship community on this journey? To better understand this question, the Practice & Impact SIG of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE)  hosted a day of events examining these issues at the most recent conference held in Newcastle on 14-15 November. Specifically, Drs. Rosli and Kapasi hosted a panel event with members invited from policy, practice and research to examine the statement: “Scholars don’t know about entrepreneurship; entrepreneurs do”. Panel presentations and subsequent discussions led to many useful insights and ‘top tips’ as summarised below.

 

First and foremost, the panel identified that the core distinction between different communities, (research, practice and policy), is a question of means and methods. This is neatly summarised in the following idea that individual practitioners know how they do what they do, but the value that an academic brings is a meta-level perspective giving insights into how many entrepreneurs have approached a particular aspect of entrepreneurial activity.

 

Further, panel members identified dichotomies in language, roles and purpose, and across several areas of interest which are summarised below:

Entrepreneurs

Scholars

Know their business Know the process
Understand their markets Understand markets
Solve problems Suggest solutions
Know specific details Make ‘higher level’ observations
Do Explain

 

So how might we engage different parties? Here are six key considerations based on the contributions of panel and audience members:

  1. It’s not all about research. Relationship building is required and there is much complexity in the journey. A first meeting requires clarity that can create a foundation that balances the needs of both parties.
  2. Be motivated and passionate – and communicate this to practitioners! Have a hook that gets the ball rolling and builds a trusted relationship. Further, be clear on selling the (potential) benefits versus selling the research. (Warning: do not oversell as this leads to disappointment for both sides. It’s always better to undersell and over-)
  3. Build credibility as an academic who knows how to work with practitioners. Start small, be consistent and care about the actions taken and outcomes achieved. The more people hear about you, the easier it will be to convince others to collaborate.
  4. Be clear on roles and requirements – negotiate these roles early in the relationship. This will help to address concerns and the differences between academic research and practice.
  5. Translation and selectivity is required. As an academic it is tempting to try to consider all the information we have at our disposal; it is better to be selective and consider what is really relevant to the practitioners you are working with.
  6. Finally, when negotiating initial (or on-going) access try to focus on in-kind contributions, such as hosting meetings or being willing to share your research at events . Everybody is short of cash, and building a relationship is about what you are willing to put on the table beyond cash.

 

Drs Rosli and Kapasi conclude that there is significant good-will and energy regarding engagement between and across different communities that create and use research. For the academic community, it seems it’s a question of “GoDo” – go out and engage with new audiences for your research and build strong relationships so that your valuable research can have (positive) impact and reach its fullest potential. And in the case of practitioners and policymakers, whilst academics may tend towards the esoteric, there is value in engaging with their research, and the potential to make a positive impact in business and policy.

 

Dr. Ainurul Rosli can also be found on Twitter: @AinurulRosli.