Cranfield Doctorate 3 Months In

Three months in and I committed to my team an update of the usefulness of my doctorial research to the business, and my head hurts.

I’ve just completed the second week of lectures at Cranfield, ranging from Ethics to Quants, Critical Reading to Critical Analysis. The primary learning is that everything is critical!

Getting the task done

When you commit to any kind of continued development your mind certainly does question your sanity (I appreciate these are inexplicably, and biologically, linked!). How do you commit a further 15-20 hours per week on top of normal CEO activities, family time, rest time, exercise and life? The key is to make sure they are linked, but also to decompartmentalise the tasks in hand.

The Greeks have two words for time, Chronos, meaning chronological or sequential, and Kairos, time for action, getting a task completed. One is quantitative, one is qualitative, which for any research study is quite apt! So actually it is about getting the task done, rather than the time it takes. A quick example is that it might take someone one hour to run a 5k or it might take 20 minutes. The task completed is the same. Clever Greeks. (next month’s blog will contain a deconstructed analysis of Oedipus).

So why does this matter?

The first part of the Cranfield DBA is to get the research question nailed (academic term) and also get started on some journal reading. It’s been a while since I read any academic papers (I completed my MBA in 2005) so it’s been fun getting my head back into them.

The DBA is unique in the way that you need to prove a contribution to knowledge (very PhD) but you also need to provide a professional angle. How is this useful? A good deal of academic papers are borne from PhD research so you have to be very careful not to shrug your shoulders a lot and say, yeah, and? Something I have battled over the first few months.

It’s all about the evidence

Everything in doctorate research space is about evidence. Demonstrate to me. This doesn’t come at too much of a price because it has been integral to our RML business strategy from day 1. Evidence based growth. What is also good fun is using the academic side to keep challenging the status quo in the business world. I often challenge my team around the ‘science’, a term that was greeted with absolute confusion when I first landed at Meadow Close. What does the science tell us, how do we use that as a base for consistent growth?

The ethics of number crunching

I’ve enjoyed the diversity of the second week. A session on research ethics lands well for comparison to the ‘outside world’. How we act, how we behave. We live in a world now where not enough people challenge the ethics of number crunching. It was Cohen who said something like, ‘if you torture the data long enough if will tell you what you want to hear’. How apt is that in both the current global challenges but also in our own sales, production and efficiency metrics?

Quantity or quality?

Critical thinking lectures provided a good opportunity to revisit Bloom’s Taxonomy, something I’d put down for a few years. Coupled with Nilson’s (2014) of process proficiency, practice and persistence, providing two great models for generating some exercise for the grey matter.

I must confess to be less enthused with more quantitative methods and statistical analysis. Understanding and critiquing numbers at a basic level I find quite fun. Z scales and algebra are things I steered clear of at school! But both sessions lead me to thinking that despite my initial thoughts that this research would be wholly qualitative, there is certainly some room for quants, so I have dusted down my plan to learn how to understand empirical frequency slides!

The hypothesis

I have landed on this, ‘To what extent is there a relationship between entry strategy, the reluctant entrepreneur and missed exit opportunities, in the UK Timber Engineering Sector’. With care to not be too biased before I start, I have hypothesised that there is a relationship between negative entry strategies and passive exits, with positive entry strategies and proactive exits.

Next steps

I’m excited to continue to research and start asking these questions of our timber friends. But before that it is another year of becoming learned on those three areas across the globe, entry, reluctancy and exits.

I’ve committed to delivering my next blog when my 10,000-word deliverable 2 is submitted in June. Essentially a decent literary review. I’ll speak to you all then, in the interim have a lovely festive break, remember the data torture quote and enjoy the Sophocles!

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