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Can scientific thinking help entrepreneurs?

Summary:
See A Scientific Approach to Entrepreneurial Decision Making: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial by Arnaldo Camuffo, Alessandro Cordova, Alfonso Gambardella and Chiara Spina (the first three are with Bocconi University, not sure about Spina).Maybe science can help, but entrepreneurship always takes place in the face of uncertainty. Maybe science can help but there will never be a sure thing. What if another entrepreneur is doing the same study you are doing right now and you both concluded the new business will be a good idea. You both can't succeed, or at least not as well as if only one of you went forward with your plan. Abstract A classical approach to collecting and elaborating information to make entrepreneurial decisions combines search heuristics, such as trial and

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See A Scientific Approach to Entrepreneurial Decision Making: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial by Arnaldo Camuffo, Alessandro Cordova, Alfonso Gambardella and Chiara Spina (the first three are with Bocconi University, not sure about Spina).

Maybe science can help, but entrepreneurship always takes place in the face of uncertainty. Maybe science can help but there will never be a sure thing. What if another entrepreneur is doing the same study you are doing right now and you both concluded the new business will be a good idea. You both can't succeed, or at least not as well as if only one of you went forward with your plan.

A classical approach to collecting and elaborating information to make entrepreneurial decisions combines search heuristics, such as trial and error, effectuation, and confirmatory search. This paper develops a framework for exploring the implications of a more scientific approach to entrepreneurial decision making. The panel sample of our randomized control trial includes 116 Italian startups and 16 data points over a period of about one year. Both the treatment and control groups receive 10 sessions of general training on how to obtain feedback from the market and gauge the feasibility of their idea. We teach the treated startups to develop frameworks for predicting the performance of their idea and conduct rigorous tests of their hypotheses, very much as scientists do in their research. We let the firms in the control group instead follow their intuitions about how to assess their idea, which has typically produced fairly standard search heuristics. We find that entrepreneurs who behave like scientists perform better, are more likely to pivot to a different idea, and are not more likely to drop out than the control group in the early stages of the startup. These results are consistent with the main prediction of our theory: a scientific approach improves precision—it reduces the odds of pursuing projects with false positive returns and increases the odds of pursuing projects with false negative returns.

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