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Business studies courses don’t always produce the best entrepreneurs

What do flight safety information, dog treats and Ghanaian cosmetics have in common? If you said they provide inspiration for the latest crop of entrepreneurial ideas from students at a leading UK university then congratulations.

Inspiration can come from different sources – sometimes life experiences can be the reason people set up in business. Recently Red Potato helped to deliver business Bootcamp services at a leading UK university. The students on the Bootcamp came from a variety of countries, different nationalities and perhaps significantly many were not studying business studies.

The course being studied was less important than the business idea. The most impressive business ideas – think passenger safety, pampered pets and Ghana – were all solving a problem or had recognised a market opportunity. The inquisitive, innovative and in some cases idealistic vision of the students was more important than the course being studied. Crucially the best students were able to talk about that vision in everyday language -not management speak.

Funnily enough despite the students coming from all over the world, few focused on geographical markets. Instead there was a natural assumption that they would build a business which would be able to serve customers from all over the world from “day 1”.

After the initial flurry of excitement, not all the ideas will develop into sustainable long term businesses. Some would-be entrepreneurs will find more (financially) rewarding careers working for someone else and “Business studies” will give them an important career qualification for these roles. Good luck to all the students as they launch on this exciting adventure. We hope that the students will stay in touch and remain inquisitive as they decide to brave the “enormous ups and deep downs” of running their own business. Here at Red Potato we believe the value of practical entrepreneurship education is not always obvious but it can be demonstrated over the long term. That is why we are committed to delivering measurable long term outcomes by working in partnership with further and higher education organisations.DSC03679

 

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Why I don’t like “Focus Groups”

Well the original idea was a good one, but I think the phrase “focus group” has become debased such that sometimes it can be code for getting a group of people together to legitimise a decision  – policy based evidence.

Effective engagement takes time, needs to be authentic and use different methods to attract different views.    Think again about “Hard to Reach”.   How well represented are white men, aged between 30 and 50 who are in work in consultation meetings, how do make your services relevant to a single working mother juggling work, school and home?   Not easy questions, but authentic engagement is not a quick fix either.

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Too much data can lead to the wrong decision

The public sector deals in information, yet the value of that information is sometimes lost amongst all the other things going on.   Often we are asking elected members or senior management to make an informed judgement on policy based on too much data.   Yes you read it right, “too much data” masking the key points we are trying to convey.

The Place Survey contained vast amounts of data, but how much was then distilled into intelligence which could be used to drive local improvements?  I have been part of presentations where legions of graphs were presented on resident satisfaction and the importance of different services only to find that the data is used to justify existing policy.

Maybe a different approach is needed in which we use pictures to give direction of travel and focus on the issues being discussed.   Less data, presented more effectively can be more powerful.

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