Gluten free market research….

Hello readers……

On my entrepreneurial journey, i’m currently completing some market research based around the gluten free market. As a gluten freer myself, I see opportunities.

If you yourself follow a gluten free diet or know someone who does, it would be excellent if you could fill in/pass on my survey.

Gluten free survey

xxxxx

Entrepreneur V Academic

Mini Reflection.

My biggest self learning point so far, is that I really love writing and i love theory. I absolutely love studying entrepreneurship.

Consequently, I would love to pursue at some point, a career as an academic. An academic within the area of business, entrepreneurship and involving people. Potentially sociology based. I really have enjoyed learning about all the theories of learning, entrepreneurship and team interaction. I could bury my head in books all day and write essays continously.

Comfortable within my own academic introversion.

My love of learning, i’ve realised stems from my love of thinking. Moreover, it is almost impossible to separate learning from thinking, one and the same (Marton and Ramsden 1998).

Marton and Ramsden. (1998) What Does it take to improve learning?, In Improving learning: New perspectives, ed P Ramsden, London: Kogan page.

Learning is an Emancipation of the mind

Stating
Within week five, the business teams were shuffled around and new teams created. Within our learning in team’s module, we had an immediate task to consider group coaching as a tool and our team’s ability to coach itself. The team did not engage with the task collectively and only three people completed it, with the rest not taking part in the task. Consequently, learning as a team did not occur. In comparison, within week 11 we were asked to complete a financial task utilising a variety of formulas to assess a business and construct a financial spread sheet model in which these formulas would work. All members worked on the task and contributed and at the end of the task, after we’d received feedback, we concluded that as a collective we’d learnt by researching, experimenting, from each other, by actively being involved and through requesting lecture feedback. The question is why did team learning occur in one situation and not in the other?

Deconstruction
Such a question considers learning in broader terms outside of those two incidents and to an extent, considers what have the team learnt and how have the team learnt across the whole module? Winstanley defines learning as “acquisition of knowledge/skill that enables the realisation of something new” within “an active process of developing meaning, transferring knowledge into action and developing competence” (2005:3).

I’m sure by now in my reflections, that my learning preferences and styles have been stated, so there is not much value expounding them again, consequently, it is much more interesting to reflect on our team learning preferences, how we are actually learning and the impact of the learning on each individual learner.
To deconstruct the two tasks, task one involved exploring a theory based concept of team coaching in which the team had no knowledge in. As a collective, the task was supposed to motivate us to research the concept, challenge it, interpret an opinion and apply it within our team, providing a conclusion of whether we are able to coach within the team and to evaluate the value of that. We initially identified there was a knowledge gap surrounding team coaching and around the value of coaching overall. This knowledge gap did not provoke collective engagement in the task and to learn more about team coaching, instead within the team frustration was felt, confusion around the concept and aggravation that another theory based task had been given. The lack of knowledge within the group disengaged the collective and the task was completed by three team members, who are not dwarfed by theory based tasks. As such after the task, there was further disengagement as the team felt they’d learnt nothing and still didn’t understand coaching as a concept and the three who had been engaged in the task had expanded their individual knowledge, but struggled to see the benefit for the team as a whole.

Conversely in the finance task, the team identified the huge knowledge gaps in order to complete the task. This involved areas of finance, calculations, equations, theory and spread-sheets, a cross section of skills in which our team are weakest. However, it was not met with frustration and instead our team took a different approach. By this point, we were able to identify strengths within the team and learning preferences, so strategically we exploited them. Theorists were reading the theory to understand the concepts, pragmatists were breaking down the tasks that needed to be done and setting up mini groups to work on and activists kept the momentum and got on with completing calculations. Moreover, we made sure that the learning was spread around and we used it as an opportunity not to simply complete the task, but to challenge and to understand the concepts. We had members working in groups, with one member weaker in that area so they could observe the stronger member and further their understanding. For each calculation we made sure the whole team knew where it came from and we had a few people completing the calculations and then others checking them, meaning that firstly they were right but also, if things were wrong (and they often were the first time, second, third….) we could work out why and put it right as a collective. Then when it came to the construction of the spread-sheet, as no-one was an expert, each group worked with one person supervising, to place their figures in to replicate the equations and calculate the same answers, to try and coordinate the building of the model. As such, every member had a go at inputting on the spread sheet and understanding how it worked.

Consequently, as a collective, we learnt a lot from this task and we would be able to apply the knowledge onto our own business and create a functional model and understand where the appropriate equations came from and why they are needed; something which as a collective, we could not do before. In fact, due to the feedback we requested from Tony Blackwood, we’d be able to complete the task to a higher standard and more effectively. Furthermore, unlike the coaching task, which was instantly discounted, within the finance task, we actually found out within the group we had more expertise than what we originally thought via experimentation and exploring skills and different members were able to bring their own knowledge and experience into the group. Moreover it wasn’t expertise that pushed us through task, but the symbiotic relationship of learning together and motivating each other, within a safe environment. Consequently we have a group of individuals who all learn in distinct ways and attach different interpretations to information, which when brought together brings an added value to the learning experience. Within this task, it was not the completion of the task that was important, but our motivation to make sure we could all do, practice, understand, experiment and learn within the task.

The value in team learning is that it is no longer a process in which I continuously learn in my own preference. I learnt as an individual far more within the team on the finance task, than I did within the coaching task, which I was able to stick to my learning preferences and comfort zones unchallenged. Within the team, we “interact and transform received information” within the team “actively constructing, modifying and revising it” (Nichol 1997). Consequently, as a collective we attach meaning to it but as an individual (and as a team), we benefit from other members revisions, interpretations and modifications, that are outside our sphere of learning (Nichol 1997). Moreover, as a collective we become far more proficient, at adapting our bank of knowledge to new situations, as it is no longer just the replication of one learner, it becomes a collective reconstruction, in which more innovation, experimentation and value is derived to further push the learning process forward (Gibbs 1981).

Theorising
Learning can be described as a mode of “transformative action” (Moon 1999:116). Consequently, lack of knowledge is not an issue itself where there is the willingness to learn. Moon (1999:116) illustrates the five stages of learning in any situation:
1. Noticing – Identifying gaps in knowledge and enhanced self-awareness.
2. Making sense – ordering ideas and thoughts.
3. Making meaning – New material Assimilated
4. Working with meaning – Guiding further learning, accumulation of ideas and manipulation of knowledge.
5. Transformative learning – Application of knowledge onto new concept, self-motivated.
Considering Moon’s theory as a check list, it can be used to consider if learning, either individually or in our collective team has taken place. This linear progression through learning makes pragmatic sense as in order to learn, you need to acknowledge at some point you don’t know something and need to learn to fill a knowledge gap or that you are actually learning something, in order to apply acquired knowledge in the future. Consequently, this model is dependent on learner engagement with learning, but it can provide a check list to enhance learning self-awareness and an acknowledgement of future knowledge empowerment (Van Grinsven, M and Visser, M. 2011).
Applying this model to our two tasks, within the coaching task whilst our team was able to identify the knowledge gap, only three people engaged and learnt from the activity and collective team learning did not take place, as the team couldn’t make sense of the concept and would not be able to apply the concept in future. Conversely, the finance task, team learning did occur and as a collective we progressed through Moon’s model of learning, with members helping each other make sense and meaning out of the concept, concluding with transformative learning as a collective and on an individual basis.

Consequently, using Moon’s theory of learning, as a model to use diagnostically to assess if collective learning has taken place, it is now necessary to consider why in one task the team engaged and why in the other it refused. Whilst it could be pointed out that a variety of factors could contribute to this including that one task was more business related, the other was heavily theory based and one was more practical and tangible. These conclusions are all true, however I perceive that within the team, there was a shift between how learning was perceived within the group and how the team learning progressed within the five weeks. Learning as a process transformed from not occurring collectively at all and being dismissed, to a symbiotic experience embracing a variety of mediums. It is no longer focused on what the learner, within their isolated personal space, chose to learn and became more about experiential learning and learning through other team members preferences, interactions and learning becomes deeper and more unpredictable in direction and scope (Hills 2001).
Learning is now no longer an “individual self-autonomous experience” (Winstanley 2005: 14) and is much more intertwined with the team and individuals within the team’s learning styles, preferences and approaches to learning. Whilst, I’ve already made the point many times, that my team is full of activists, consequently I consider it of more value to consider other theories, instead of Kolb’s learning cycle (1984) and apply them to our team.

Winstanley et al (2003) states there are four distinctive learning orientations, with learners falling either side of the interpretation of each orientation. As with most models and theories, I find them often simplistic and too involved in the process of labelling, where I consider learning is a fluid process, adaptable to situations. Winstanley’s (2003) theory adds value regardless of its simplistic nature as it explores potential motivations behind learning, an issue that may have been behind the initial discounting of the coaching task and the engagement with the finance task. As such, the key is to identify team motivation for learning and to potentially exploit it in future tasks to try to ensure engagement.

Winstanley et al (2003) theory expounds that a learner can be an:
1. Implementer – Either an experimenter, someone who practices their skills in the open or a concealer, someone who actively hides their skills.
2. Lover of learning, someone with an intrinsic love of learning – Either a seeker, someone who actively seeks out new learning opportunities and reflects on them or a sponge, less active and absorbs from surroundings and others.
3. Badge collector, seeking out a qualification or recognition – Either an earner, someone who works hard to earn a qualification or purchasers, someone who believes they have the right to gain the qualification.
4. Affirmer – Either a validator, an active learner confirming their identity or an observer, passive learning role.
Such a theory provides an interesting frame work when considering the motivations behind learning within our team. Initially in the beginning we had a lot of frustrating disengagement with many members seeking to be taught. As such, the team sought out structured learning sessions with lecturers validating the process and only work which had some element of a contribution was embraced. Consequently, as a unit, no value was seen in what we could learn from each other and tasks that whilst not contributing to our degree, did present a significant learning opportunity which would benefit our business. Applying Winstanely’s theory within the coaching task, collectively the team was displayed itself as a badge collector, advancing the motivation to learn as being about recognition only, and as the task formally wasn’t assessed it was collectively discounted. The finance task also added nothing to our qualification, a part from a learning opportunity, yet learners within the team displayed more of an experimenter, seeker, observer and validator attitude. The difference in behaviour and approach to the task is suggestive that the motivation behind learning was different, with the team advancing the collective learning as a priority above completion of a task that wasn’t assessed.

On an individual level, within both tasks and within my education, I am a seeker, a learner who loves to learn. I seek out knowledge not only because I’m interested in the subject and love to learn (although that is a huge part), but because of “cognitive dissonance”, where my motivation to learn stems from recognising a knowledge gap and acting upon that (Festinger 1957). Whereas, individual members in my team can experience a gap, acknowledge it but have no motivation to fill the gap by learning. Moreover, learning within this module has evidenced to me, I am also a validator; I use learning and knowledge to flesh out my identity. Doing well and working hard is a part of my identity, but I didn’t realise until recently that gaining good marks, beating others (and myself from previous times), is so implicitly important to me and is linked tightly to my self-confidence. Whilst being a seeker makes me learn being a validator makes me highly focused and competitive with the application and interpretation of my knowledge.

However, it isn’t just orientation and preferences that I consider to have significantly altered our attitude towards learning. It’s the progression of group dynamics and attitudes itself; thanks to Belbin, insights and working alongside each other, we have a greater sense of each other and our tasks have forced us as a collective and individually to do things outside of our preferences and to take ownership of our learning (Rogers and Freiberg 1994). Consequently, our team has pushed learning as the goal in tasks, experimenting and supporting each other to learn new things within the team and for the team. This core of support that has developed over the five weeks wasn’t present within week one of our new team for the coaching task; where we approached the coaching task as individuals and faltered; we approached the finance task as a team, exploiting each other and the team in order to learn as a collective. Irrespective of the fact the activity wasn’t “mandatory”; the team’s attitude had changed.

Taking learning within the team and from each other a step further, we can apply O’Connor and Seymour model of competences, by which the learners have unconscious competence, conscious competence, conscious incompetence and unconscious incompetence (1990:27). Applying these broad labels, each team member including myself, will have started the module with a fair idea of what they perceived their competences and incompetence to be. However, team learning challenges these assumptions. Taking the finance task as an example, similarly to the coaching task, the initial assumption was that we don’t know how to collectively do it and no-one has the appropriate skill set. However, within the team we found that we did have competences in certain areas that could be utilised in the task, which we can take forward into another similar task. We also discovered incompetence and gaps in knowledge, which provoked research and reflection pre and post task completion. Moreover, working within the team as a collective and learning, brings to light competences and incompetence that you were unaware of, making unconscious, conscious, which you only can learn from learning with other people (O’Connor and Seymour 1990). These incompetence and competences can be exploited within the group to rectify others incompetence and vice versa. This model of learning is very insular but has a distinctive value as it is people inclusive and is a prompt that team learning is about learning about the team and yourself. It invites feedback as a mode of learn in a non-threatening way, as it becomes all about learning for the team.

Perry ‘s(1999) model takes learning within the team further providing answers for the difference in attitude towards the tasks due to differing attitudes to learning, and further advances my point that learning within the team is no longer autonomous and the group dynamic within learning triumphs. Perry (1999: 198) theory illustrates a hierarchy of learners, in which they progress from tutor dependence to independence becoming more confident and competent. A learner starts at the bottom in “dualism”, believing everything the tutor/teacher says is gospel and seeks out learning opportunities from them; they want to be told things (Perry 1999). The learner then progresses to “relativism”, in which they seek out knowledge, but believe everything they read as fact and they don’t distinguish journal articles as opinions (Perry 1999). Thirdly, the learner move into “commitment”, in which the evaluation takes place and they begin to ask questions and assess a sources validity or motive (Perry 1999). Finally the learner, moves to the top which is “deep learning”, in which a learner strategically asks questions, compares sources and makes their own evidenced judgements out of sought out materials; they can criticise and confidently completely disagree or agree (Perry 1999).

Applying this theory to our team learning, we can consider the team began within dualism within the coaching task, in which a knowledge gap was not filled by the tutor and the team was not confident to collectively fill it themselves, they were waiting to be told the right answer, right opinion or direction to go in. When this didn’t happen, the team disengaged. However, within the coaching task, the team had progressed into relativism, where we exhibited confidence to seek out the knowledge we’d needed, but we did take everything we read as fact and we were unable in the spread sheet model to adapt it into our own interpretation for the task. Hence we ended up with spread sheet that whilst functionally and right, was not quite the right fit for the task. Consequently, Perry’s theory provides an explanation of the change in attitude towards learning, based on growing confidence, psychological safety and the formation of a team (Hills 2001).

On a personal level, I consider I was in between commitment and deep learning. My learning tendencies have been very informed by my upbringing, in which I was encouraged to find things out for myself, question and develop an opinion. My law degree, in which most things I read were highly persuasive, biased, evidenced (no such thing as a balanced argument in law) and had the simply motive of convincing the reader of a legal theory or argument, we were taught to not criticise by looking at reputation of sources and research, but whether we agreed with it and why. This involved reading case law, judgements, opposite sides of the arguments and making a judgement through evidenced and reasoned opinion, with a constructed argument and rebuttal. Consequently, I’m very pragmatic and I struggle to go “on gut feeling”; I’m rational, researched and planned. But this is where, having a team learning culture adds value in our business, as alone I’d be too busy learning, formulating opinions and planning to start the business. As such, having learners within the team at different stages on the hierarchy is essentially a bonus, as I get to be immersed with people who do go on gut feeling, immerse themselves in doing and don’t need to understand a concept before acting. This drives my learning forward and I learn things, I wouldn’t in isolation and puts my learning into action, helping others in the team learn by doing and explaining complex concepts tangibly.

Consequently, team learning enables us to grow, try out new orientations and learning from each other becoming more team and self-aware. As a team of learners, we no longer approach tasks with a “narrow orientation”, only accepting new learning if it relates to what they already know and their “cognitive structure” (Mezirow 1990), as illustrated with the coaching task. As a collective we are now more receptive to foreign concepts and new learning (Mezirow 1990), seeing the finance task as a learning opportunity and engaging. Consequently, the team works through as a collective, where other members can help a narrow orientation learner make sense of the new material and adapting it into their learning preference style. Therefore, variety and differences, learning from each, other becomes the motivator behind team learning (Hills 2001).

Construction
By utilising Moon’s model of learning, to distinguish when learning has taken place and when it hasn’t on an individual level and collectively within our team, we will be able to distinguish when learning has taken place. Moreover, we could incorporate the model into our group reflective practice after a task, to assess the extent knowledge has been acquired.

Many of the learning theories above propose why the team successfully learnt as a collective in the finance task and didn’t within the coaching task. Whilst I’m able to utilise learning theories to reflect on the team and on myself, and conclude different things, my personal reflections here enhance further my self-awareness but it is reflections on the team that advances collective learning as the important ideal and a further step, as evidenced in the second task towards a learning culture. But obviously, as just one member, reflecting and theorising on the tasks, I’ve applied theories from my view point and the value I think they add in explaining the difference. However, each theory has the common thread that the value of team learning is ,learning as a team, in which members are motivated to learn by each other and the learning opportunity itself and that everyone’s need to feel active within the learning process. As such, members equally learn from researching, interactions, feedback, questioning, experimenting and doing, alongside from each other. Consequently, team learning becomes more of a journey, in which personal preferences are counterbalanced and cognitive dissonance is approached undaunted as a formed collective. Therefore, the journey is still on going and as a team, we may be at completely different stages within each model by the end of semester two.

References
Festinger, L. (1957) A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Gibbs, G. (1981) Teaching Students to learn. Oxford: OUP
Hills, H. 2001. Team-Based Learning, Hampshire: Gower Publishing.
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Mezirow, J. (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood – A guide to transformative and emancipationary learning. San Franciso: Jossey Bass
Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. New York: Routledge Falmer.
Nichol, D. (1997) Research on Learning and High Education Teaching, UC OSDA briefing paper 45.
O’Connor, J and Seymour, J. (1990) Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming: the new psychology of personal excellence. London: Harper Collins.
Perry, W. (1999) Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years: a scheme. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Rodgers, C. and Freiberg. H. (1994) Freedom to Learn. 3rd edn. New York: Macmillan College Publishing Company.
Van Grinsven, M. Visser, M. (2011). Empowerment, knowledge conversion and dimensions of organisational learning. The Learning Organisation, 18 (5), 378-391
Winstanley, D et al. (2003) From Learning to Practice. Report of research funded by Imperial College Teaching Research Grants Scheme, Imperial College, London: Tanaka Business School
Winstanley, D. (2005) Personal Effectiveness. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Interview with Jules Quinn, founder of the *Teashed and entrepreneur

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The *Teashed – Jules Quinn

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Check out the *Teashed here.

1. What is the Teashed mission statement?
To take over the world, one teabag at a time.

2. What is your mission within that?
To be the UK’s leading speciality tea brand, bringing new ideas and concepts to the way we drink tea.

3. How would you define your product/service?
Quality, convenient and fun tea

4. How did the idea for the Teashed come about?
I was on a work placement making lots of cups of tea for a designer. I didn’t drink tea, but he used to send me out to purchase speciality tea. I realised that whilst there are lots of coffee options, there wasn’t fashionable, experimental tea.

5. How long did it take to realise?
It was about 1 year in development.

6. Did it organically come into being or was there a structured process to get from A to B?
I had a structured, researched business plan. I knew what I wanted to achieve from the beginning. My business plan has obviously changed as the business has progressed, many things I included within my business plan initially didn’t work out.

7. When was the moment you actually thought “hang on, there could be a business here!?” When John Lewis got in touch and they wanted to purchase an order. Before that moment, it had all been theoretical.

8. Why do you think the Teashed has been such a success so far?
Low overheads and minimal start-up costs. The business was able to growth as it needed to and wasn’t limited by needing large investment.

9. Do you do any market research before setting up the business to suss out your audience? Yes lots and lots. I needed to really consider who my target market was and prove that just because I thought it was a good idea, that it actually was a good idea.

10. Who is your audience?
25-35 year olds mainly

11. What are your expectations of the company within the next 18months?
Growth, international growth, new products, greater awareness of the brand; I want to rapidly growth the business and I have a plan to do so.

12. What would you do with unlimited resources?
Build a warehouse and pay for more advertising. At this stage of my business, I’m reliant on the advertising channels that I know and I can utilise.

13. What are the short term plans? What are the long term plans?
In the short term, I want to grow the business as large as possible. In the long term, I want to sell the business.

14. Do you have an exit strategy?
Not yet. I know I want to sell but I haven’t decided exactly when that will be. Nor have I developed the business enough to just hand it over, I’m putting structures in place now as I develop it, so it isn’t so owner dependent.

15. If you were starting again, would you do anything differently? If so, what?
I would not tie up so much money in products rather buy less at a more expensive price, rather than lots at a cheaper. I would have been able to sniff out what was selling, instead of ending up with too much of one and others selling out.

16. How much time do you spend working on the business in an average week?
48 hrs, often more.

17. Have you sacrificed anything for its success?
My social life/ being young. I spend every opportunity and moment I can working on the business. This means I don’t have the same free time as my friends as I’m busy building my business. But it is not just my business, my job, it is also my passion and hobby.

18. Have you acquired investment to expand or what is your funding strategy?
Not yet…I’m still considering my options and the best way to expand.

19. Your website is fantastic, were you ever dwarfed by the tech side?
No not really, you just tell the tech guys what they need to do. The key is knowing exactly what you want the website to do and how you’d like it to function. You need to know more than, “I just want a website”. Draw it out and remember once you have people on your site, what do you want them to do when they are there.

20. It is a busy market place with the likes of Charbew, etc…. What did you do to get noticed? Cool packaging, developing a brand, events, not worrying too much about other people and just doing your own thing. I really focused on getting the right branding and utilising the names, making sure that was right. It worked!

21. What is a typical day for you? Where does the Teashed fit in?
Wake up 7am. Check international emails straight away whilst having a cup of tea. Shower, get dressed. Then either spend the day working away at my desk, sorting orders or going to meetings.

22. What is an entrepreneur? How would you describe one?
Someone who isn’t afraid to sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long term. Someone who is not afraid of hard work and someone who is not afraid.

23. Would you define yourself as an entrepreneur? Or how would you define yourself?
No, I would just say I have my own business.

24. Which entrepreneurs/business people do you most admire?
Any woman in business. I love a bit of girl power!

25. Do you think anyone can start up a business?
Yes, if they have the right attributes. It takes a certain type of person with a certain type of skills and the ambition to do it.

26. Do you think some people are just born natural business people? Or do you think it can be learnt from experience/education?
No one is born knowing how to run a business; you learn those skills over time. But if you have inside you what it takes to run a business as that is your personality and that is quite hard to change. Some people are more enterprising than others and see opportunities.

27. You’re from a fashion marketing degree , what extent was your knowledge of business and entrepreneurship before the Teashed?
I have done little businesses since I was 14. Each one felt like a little practice for the Teashed.

28. What area of business do you struggle with the most?
Numbers, but they are a necessity, especially in the beginning, monitoring your business and growing it.

29. What inspires you? Motivates you?
To not have to work for anyone else and doing it on my own terms, my way.

30. Describe yourself in three words?
Business focused, happy and fun

31. What is success?
Being happy within your current position or seeing the path ahead of you as achievable.

32. Low point?
Loosing stockists and managing effective relationship with so many other demands on the business.

33. What excites you?
My vision of Tea

34. What are you most nervous about for the future?
Growing the business and losing control of it.

35. You work alone without a business partner…how do you find this? Do you have a network?
Yes, I pay for all the support I need as and when I need it. This works great for me. I think I would struggle to find anyone who has the same level of commitment and dedication who also shares my vision, so giving away shares wouldn’t work.

36. As a business person, what would you say your ideals are?
Work hard but be nice.

37. Do you think there is a successful pattern to becoming an entrepreneur?
Work hard, day and night. Never give up! Take knock backs as an inevitable learning exercise that is strengthening your business.

38. Before the Teashed, what were your career aspirations? In the long term, what are they now?
To have my own business, I just wasn’t sure what it would look like. In the long term, to carry this on and grow it, then start again.

39. What do you attribute all your personal successes to?
Hard work and family support.

40. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
Weakness – numbers and Excel and strength – product development an design.

41. What set you apart from other students that made you take the entrepreneurial risk?
I only ever wanted to run my own business, so I knew I’d do it, just wasn’t sure when.

Reflexivity is the new black

Stating

Within business I see the process of reflection as something that is crucial to learning within an enterprise and is something that our business as one unit is embracing. However, this reflective practice is often after the fact and as such can be deemed to a certain extent as dangerous. It can put off deconstructing and answering some important questions affecting your performance until tomorrow, things the team could address today. Through my reading, I have discovered the process of reflexivity, which is something I’d like to explore further and a process I think could be vital to our team.

Deconstruction

Reflexivity is a process which engages an individual (or team) to detect an issue there and then, exploring it and moving forward (Reynolds and Vince 2004). It is very similar to an emergent strategy, as it involves the implementation of strategy, not going in the expected way and reacting to that immediately (Worthington 2005). As such within business, where the external environment changes all the time, it has a crucial role.

Reflection allows an individual to consider a situation after it is over whereas reflexion enables a team or individual, to reflect and react in the moment. As such this is a reflective process, based on adapting to the changing internally and externally environment. It embraces the notion that it isn’t the details of the changes around you that are important, but the way you react to the changes that boosts your chances of success (Covin and Slevin 1997).

Reflexivity in practice was something that we used a great deal in Enactus Newcastle. We came back together at regular points through the week and explored how our strategy and projects were going; we reacted to any difficulties and exploited any emerging opportunities. We did not sit back and wait until the end of the full strategy implementation and then reflect on it. As such, this process is ideally suited to the activists, without our business, the ones who remain in the here and now and drive us forward. Their objectivity and drive to react, is a crucial skill that we need to harness within reflexivity. Members, like myself are more inclined to sit back and wait to see how things unfold over time or to discuss and explore situations further.

Within the work place and in business, over the past couple of years, I’ve allowed myself to be more reflexive. I realised, that you are never restrained or being forced to follow out a plan, no matter what; a detailed strategy is not a personal/organisational contract of action. As such, it “helps no one commercially or emotionally to sustain a situation that makes no sense” (McKean 2011), consequently it enables all those involved to constantly think, “is this actually working?”.  I don’t advocate, constantly chopping and changing strategy on a weekly basis, as it will fracture the business and cause damaging inconsistences (McKean 2011). But the value is within the fact, it helps a business fight fires in a more coherent manner and it makes avoiding the pit falls easier.

Moreover, the value of reflexivity is the immediate engagement with all participants. For the activists within our business, I can see the process of strategic planning, is painful to them; they just want to get out there and do it! But this provides a forum to express concerns or highlight issues in the here and now, instead of having to wait until the end of the process when the team does a “wash up” on a project. Consequently, team members feel listened to and can see short term gains within a long term strategy.

During our sustainability project, reflexivity was a tool that we could have utilised which may have benefited the project. Whilst there was a general understanding that things weren’t going well, we never addressed it in the moment. We didn’t change our strategy or analyse what exactly was happening, hence as a team we kept falling over issues, that felt obvious and completely out of the blue at the same time. When we came together as a team to reflect, a lot of what we were reflecting on was things that could have been solved and explored when they were happening. They weren’t deep rooted issues that needed to be analysed, they were simply practical issues, that if as a team, we’d addressed them, then we may have performed better. As such, utilising reflexivity in future projects and without our business, is something we need to build into our strategic process.

Theorising

I’ve explored several models for reflection. There is one model that stuck out during my wider reading that seems to be an ideal reflexive model. Rolfe (2001) developed a reflective model that based itself on Borton’s (1970) developmental model. Rolfe’s model is very simply, but unlike the other models of reflection, it involves a sense of immediacy and activism, without extensive theorising.  The model is made up of three basic questions, that go in a cycle; what? so what? And what next? As such it involves identifying an issue or situation at the moment, not in the past, then exploring what this means to the individual or business and then constructing a plan forward for change or a considered reaction to the issue.

The value in this model is not just in its simplicity, but in the directive questions that force an activist’s response, to do something rather than a lengthy considered reflective approach. Whilst theorising remains an important aspect, I do think in business, there needs to be a process which is about quick thinking and reactivity. Reflection should be the forum to explore and understand why things have happened in a particular sequence, where as being reflexive should be about tackling an issue and getting on top of it, there and then. Furthermore, within reflection, especially in our teams there is often an element of blame of culture; it is easier to blame a person, rather than to blame the process. Until we gain engage in a reflective process, that is open and honest, without “defensive routines” (Argyris 1991), reflexivity adds real value as due to the immediacy and urgency, emotion to an extent is remain. The process is about changing; achieving the common goal, not just about understanding hence the need to react overrides the blame game.

Construction

Applying this to our team and my individual processes, reflexivity alongside reflection should be built into our team ethos and process. McKean’s (2011) writings, in summary highlight a process for business success:

Success = identifying factor/need for change à reacting/reflexivityàdeveloping strategy and contingencyà implementation alongside reflexivity à outcome à Reflection.

Consequently, this is a process I’d like to see built into our team and is something I will be sharing next week. Whilst reflection will perform a framing tool around a task or business, a crucial factor in the beginning and the end for learning, in contrast, reflexivity will be a process we engage in constantly as a task progresses, enabling a flexibility, reactivity and developing our emergent strategies; something we haven’t been utilising so far as a team.

Optimising Reflective Practice to use within business

Kolb (1984: p26) refers to learning as experiential learning; a process in which ideas are not just static, but in which elements are formed and reformed through experience. Crucial to this learning process is the tool of reflection; the further on my entrepreneurial journey I travel, the more value I see in reflection as a learning process. Consequently, exploring it and learning more about it formed an instrumental, focal part of my individual learning contract and improving the structure of my reflective writing.

Schon (1983: p241-24) describes reflection as “surfacing, criticising, restructuring and testing intuitive understanding of experienced phenomena”. Hammer and Stanton (1997) expand this referring to its importance and considering refusal to reflect undermines a whole organisation. Consequently, reflection is crucial to my business and success as an entrepreneur, especially during this idea generation and product development stage, when the product/service is being developed from feedback. The difficulty with reflection is that it is a discipline, active and self-directed (Knowles 1984). As such, reflection has to become part of the learning process and has to be taken ownership of; it has to be prompted until it becomes second nature.

As I’ve increased my engagement with the reflection process, through-out the course, I’ve adapted my process, building it into an individualised process, that I can utilise because, essentially I created my version. When I began reflecting, I considered it was an introspective process and involved reflecting in isolation. However, the more I’ve used reflection as a tool, I’ve realised that reflection must be used with an awareness of the internal AND the external; social and political considerations (Reynolds and Vince 2004: p4). Furthermore, I utilise reflection as a method of challenging and questioning myself and the team. Processes and practices, I often take for granted. For example, I often lean towards research and strategic planning tasks, and avoid design and pitching. Reflection as a tool has enabled me to become more aware of my strengths and question exactly why I avoid some tasks. As such, reflection is a personal challenge to question and an opportunity to recognise the need to change.

To take this process further and to develop my efficiency and effectiveness within reflective practice, I wanted to research around reflective models to use within my reflective writing. Reynolds and Vince (2004) describe reflection as a process of “deconstruction” as a means of giving order to chaos. Whilst I consider, the deconstruction element is something I do rather well, challenging myself, I think the moving forward from the learning with an element of coherence could do with some work. I need to make sure I focus equally on the process of reconstruction at the end, so the process is exploited to its fullest potential.

I find the structuring of my reflective writing really challenging, as I want freedom in the process and I find any structure, as potentially limiting and restrictive. However, a structure will force me to pin down my thought process, into an end point that reconstructs at the end of a reflection, with product movement forward that I can enact in the future. In line with my learning contract, I’ve been spending time reading around reflection and looking for a process and structure, that works for me in order to really exploit the “ontological perspective” within reflection (Reynolds and Vince 2004: p35).

The first structure I looked at was the Gibbs (1988) learning cycle;

 

   

gibbs

                 

 

Gibbs 1988

This structure is well known and provides a very clear structure in which reflection on an incident can occur. It was this structure that motivated me to look towards finding a structure that suited my writing style. Whilst Gibbs cycle, encourages set stages of reflection through answering prompted questions, I find it is too rigid and I don’t benefit from this process. I think reflection should send you on a learning journey where you are guided through the reflection, which can end up at a point that is unexpected. I prefer this concept, over and above using questions as prompts and segmenting it.

The next structure I looked at was Schon’s (1983) structure, which depicts a “reflective conversation” (Reynolds and Vince 2004: p242). Schon’s (1983) model follows three steps; framing and reframing a problem or situation, deconstructing the situation and reflecting and finally developing a course of action based on the reflection. Whilst, this structure of reflection provides the flexibility within the process I want, it does not structure the middle process sufficiently. Especially, as I struggle with brevity when I begin to analyse. Moreover, applying Cunliffe (2002) definition of reflection, as something giving “order”, I think there needs an element of a structure that gives directed layers to reflection and something to build a reflective routine around, following distinct stages.

Another structure I looked at was John’s (1995) reflective model. It is one that exploits the view that reflection should be under our conscious control and to an extent objective; i.e. removing the emotional bias (Burgoyne 1992). It goes without saying that reflection can be an emotionally directed activity, which is why I often chose to reflect a while after the event, when emotional feelings have been defused. John’s (1995) structure is useful here, as the reflector engages in a process of reflecting initially internally “looking in” and considering the situation from a completely internal basis. The second stage is “looking out” where the reflector analyses what happened around them. The rest of the model involves a lot of questioning, which again seems quite restrictive, but I highlighted the model, as it reminds the reflector that they need to balance their reflection with internal and external considerations. A good reflection should be balanced with both.

The final model of reflection that I settled on, as the one to take forward as the core basis of my own reflective practice, is one that uses Dewey (1933) model which has four stages; collecting data, reflecting on the data, conceptualising and theorising and finally, translating into new actions and behaviours. For my own writing, I have relabelled the sections of the model which will involve, stating the experience/situation, deconstructing and analysing, making sense of it by applying theory and then reconstructing what I’ve learnt into something I can take forward and apply in the future. Furthermore, my model of reflection will also take the internal and external considerations forward from John’s (1995) model during stage two and four, ensuring a balanced reflection. At these two stages, the internal and external is important, as they heavily influence the deconstruction in terms of objective analysis and during reconstruction, learning must have applicability to yourself and the external environment around you.

My model of reflection (based on Dewey 1933 and Johns 1995)

Stage one

Stating

Stage two (external and internal factors)

Deconstruction

Stage three

Theorising

Stage four (external and internal factors)

Reconstruction

 

Consequently, this structure will now be the basis of my reflective writing. It provides enough of Gibbs (1988) structure, to inform and guide my reflective journey but is not too restrictive or based on answering questions. It takes its primary influence from Dewey’s model, but also embraces elements of Schon’s (1983) reflective conversation and Johns (1995) external and internal considerations.

“New economic progress depends more than ever on innovation” Bill Gates

Economic success is more than ever dependent on innovation, adapting, beating the competition and standing out from the crowd (Worthington 2005). Moreover, in our economic climate, the fate of our recovery is not only place in the hands of the consumer but also in the hands of businesses. Entrepreneurs can and will help the recovery, especially in the UK (Worthington 2005).  The ability to create, innovate, revolutionise and develop are not just ideals, they are starting points and the foundations for most business start-ups. It is a crowded market place, so what makes you and your product different? This process, all involves creativity and innovation. As such, it can be assumed that entrepreneurs need to be creative and innovative in order to start their entrepreneurial journey. But what is creativity? How does one become creative and think of a business idea, in everyday life?

The notion of success and especially, the success of an entrepreneur is often treated like a secret and some unidentified formula. It isn’t. Entrepreneurs are ordinary people. They don’t follow a set of stages in order to be successful; it is hard work, luck and an idea. The idea doesn’t have to be mind-blowing or brilliant, there just has to be an unanswered need and a created solution to fulfil it.

A key barrier, to my business journey so far, is the concept that an entrepreneur has to be innovative and creative.  I have often found myself thinking “I can’t start a business because my idea isn’t good enough” or “I’m not really an ideas person”. This partially based on my idealistic view of what an entrepreneur “should” be rather than what they actually are (Burns 2011). My view of someone who is creative was someone who is artistic, has lots of brilliant ideas and makes them into a reality. Someone who literally spends their day tripping over excellent solutions to problems. When I was a child, I really struggled with creativity in the artistic sense. I can’t draw, I’m not musical; I can’t physically create things of beauty, therefore I considered myself uncreative. Consequently, until recently I waited for the idea for a business to come to me; I’ve always felt I’ve had all the business skills to make a successful entrepreneur, but if only I had the idea. Within my early business life, I sat back and watched people thinking “I wish I could have thought of that”. But then I realised, innovation is within everyone’s reach; you just have to try and open your mind to the possibility. Creativity is a challenge you can set for yourself.

As I’ve developed, I’ve realised innovation and creativity in the business sense, spans a range of skills and abilities. Anyone can be creative, including me. When I was a child, my introversion would lead to hours spent inside my own head; considering different possibilities, different scenarios and situations and constantly questioning everything. I was brought up to challenge and to develop my own opinions. As an only child, from an extremely middle class background, I rebelled in order to stand out, be different; I embraced my quirks as my USPs. I became creative in the sense, I saw things differently and I challenged the status quo.

Consequently, I am creative or more correctly, I became creative through increasing my self confidence in my own ideas. I accept I’m not going to have that eureka moment and suddenly feel overwhelmed by divine inspiration; I’m not going to develop a new product. But what I can do is identify problems and gaps in the market; I seek to solve them and fill them.  Like my Father, I seek out effective and efficient processes; I look at services and routines and seek to revolutionise them. I’ve developed this skill, by taking time out of my day to think and to discover. As such any budding entrepreneur should set time aside to be creative and to question, a form of business mediation. Not just to reflect, but to consider the “what if?” Of course, this has involved the creation of a lot of TERRIBLE business ideas. My time spent as a business consultant, working with start-ups and idea incubation, taught me that entrepreneurs often have many terrible ideas, before having a good one. I remember working with one gentleman who wanted to create a Russian vodka importing business and had done a lot of research into it. Speaking to him about his idea and critically looking at, he wasn’t deterred. Weeks later, he came back with the skeleton idea for “stuff 4 unit”, which has been a runaway success. Consequently, innovation isn’t just about getting it right; it is about being open to the creative process and willing to try.

Another aspect of my creativity is my self-confidence in my own ideas. This self-confidence, drives me forward to consider and explore, shaping them up into the best idea possible. Many aspects of entrepreneurship are considered to be genetic traits (Burns 2011), things you are simply born with. But, I couldn’t disagree more. The ability to change and develop into who you want to be is a far more important factor. As a child and an early teen, I was the sort who gave up when things got difficult, I panicked and was unable to systematically deconstruct a problem and I was not confident in my own ideas. Today, the reverse is true. I seek out challenges, I love deconstructing things and I’m very confident in my own ability. My mum always taught me as a late teen, that (aside from her), no-one else was going to be my number fan, so I may as well take that role and champion myself into success. If I don’t believe in myself and my own creative ideas, then why on earth would anyone else? As such, creativity is not a personality trait; it is something that is developed.

A crucial aspect of creativity, is what Clutterbuck (2013), expounds as psychological safety. This is a key element to creativity. As an individual, you must feel safe and comfortable to explore ideas and to innovate, without reproach. This process involves thinking of ridiculous and unworkable ideas, having them deconstructed, but working through the process in order to develop the innovation process. This is even more crucial when working with others and bouncing off their creativity. It is a fine line, between critically looking at their ideas and pulling them unconstructively a part. Within any organisation, my academics and my own business, I want an ethos where every single person feels like they can make a different; they are more than just a cog into the corporate machine. Consequently, I want their ideas and input. But I also want them to respect my ideas too.

Zwilling (2013) in his article puts forward several ideas surrounding entrepreneurship and creativity. He discusses corporation’s perceptions of creativity and how as a business, we often perceive how to innovate, which has led to business incentivising creativity, changing the ethos of their company to foster creativity and that creativity is restricted by resources. As such, innovation is labelled as something that needs to be encouraged, needs to have a certain facilitative factor and that not all people can do.  

Being an entrepreneur, starts with the ability to create and build on ideas. Instead of focusing on the idealise entrepreneur, we should be looking at how to encourage innovation. However, like with any output, creativity and idea generation is different to everyone; it is a skill that can be developed over time. Business idea generation is daydreaming; dreaming and developing a perception of your idealised world, with something you have created in your mind in it (Zwilling 2013). To boost creativity and innovation, we need to promote more of this day dreaming and considering the “what if?”

There will always be people in the world that can take ideas and make them into a reality. But there may not always be new ideas and innovation. To ensure progress, we should not encourage this elitist view, that innovation and entrepreneurship is for the gifted few. Businesses and success start with idea generation, a process that is accessible and open to all. There isn’t a successful formula to developing a good business idea or a method of promoting idea generation, it all comes from self-discipline. For me that starts with my little note book, a quiet space and a pen. The more I’ve opened myself up to the business idea process and believed in my ability, the list of business ideas I’ve thought of has been remarkable. My notebook is full of terrible ideas, with no practical application or any hope of success, but then once every so often, there develops a good idea, with enterprise mileage (Zwilling 2013).