Posted on May 14, 2013 by Keith
Today is one of those screeds in which I point out a problem but don’t offer a real solution. I apologize in advance. Maybe just ringing the alarm bell a bit is enough of a help but you’ll be the judge.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Like you, I read a lot articles published in trades. Most of what I see comes to me in the form of emailed articles and/or newsletters. There’s a lot of research cited in these pieces and many of them offer opinions with respect to a good course of action one should take to avoid a problem or improve performance. What I find interesting is how often I’ll finish the piece, look at the author’s bio, and realize that I just spent a couple of minutes reading a self-serving puff piece. For example, a nice article citing research on how content marketing can drive sales was offered by a guy who runs a content marketing company, which also commissioned the research. Funny how often the research conducted by “independent” firms says great things about the company that commissioned it, isn’t it?
That’s the problem I offer up today. It’s hard to know how meaningful research is when those who pay to have it done have a vested interest in the outcome. We saw this during the last political season. There were “Republican” polls that showed the presidential race one way, “Democratic” polls that had it the other way, and “independent” polls that were a mixed bag. Usually, the party-sponsored polls had their guy winning, and you’re probably familiar that the only entity that called the race almost perfectly was Nate Silver of The New York Times who uses a “poll of polls” methodology that wiped out the inherent biases.
We need to question those who ask the questions. That doesn’t mean ignore or even discount the research. What it does mean is to think about what vested interest the sponsor of any research has in the outcome and look for places where a question can be phrased in such a way as to twist the outcome. All reputable research will show you how the question was asked. It’s up to you to consider the inherent bias before taking anything as gospel. Even the blather put out in this space!
Filed under: Consulting, Helpful Hints | Tagged: business thinking, Market research, Research, Strategic management | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Keith
It’s Foodie Friday and on a Friday many weeks ago I wrote about how I generally have a disdain for single purpose kitchen tools, especially those that are solutions in search of a problem. I used an avocado slicer as an example but one could just as easily place things like dehydrators or those margarita machines I see everywhere on the list. The tasks those tools accomplish – the problems they solve – are easily solved just as well by existing tools – an oven or a blender in the two aforementioned cases.
I figured in the interest of fairness to all the really useful singe purpose tools I should be fair and balanced (to coin a phrase) and admit that I do use certain single purpose tools on a regular basis. Melon ballers, for example. Oh, I know I could just chop the fruit into nice little chunks, but melon balls are so elegant. Besides, while I suppose one could tourne melon slices with a paring knife the way one tournes a carrot to make it rounder, the melon baller is a faster, better solution to a real problem (even if it isn’t on the order of most serious problems). The fact that you can core apples with it as well is a bonus! Stick blenders are another one of my favorites. Yes, one could use the stand blender but if you’ve ever scalded yourself transferring hot stuff into a blender you know why a stick blender is a smart solution.
As usual, there’s a business point. I was talking the other day with a potential client about a business he’s in the midst of starting. As he went on about it I asked about the problem he’s solving and why his solution is better than others who are attacking it. That’s a question one can’t ask often enough even about an existing business. It gets the business to the point of differentiation – we’re solving it less expensively, we’re solving it faster, we’re solving it with a more user-friendly environment – that becomes the platform for almost everything else we do in the business.
Great single-use tools found a cooking problem and solved them in a real way. Bad single-use tools just take up a lot of space and are easily replaced, The same can be said about bad businesses. What are consumers saying about yours?
Filed under: Consulting, food | Tagged: business, business thinking, cooking, Food, Foodie, Immersion blender, Strategic management | Leave a Comment »