The Role of the Shock

Six months is a long time in the commercial world. It is even longer in academia. The speed of learning is not for comparison. 9 months into the Cranfield doctorate seems like a lifetime but also seems like quite the mentally challenging journey. Every day is a tough new mental challenge. From quants to quals, neuroscience to philosophy, epistemology to hypothesis design, the brain never stops aching!

I came into this chapter of education, a life challenge, with my eyes firmly fixed on a business problem, that being the very modest turnover of business owners in the timber engineering space and the reasoning behind that. That was to be the thesis and the research, no question. My new academic family told me this was likely to develop from this embryonic stage and manifest into something quite different. They also told me a doctorate would completely change the way I think. Being quite a stubborn chap (I know!) I refused to believe either!

I was wrong… Quite, quite, wrong.

“A construct of consideration is a comparable of the Model of Voluntary Employee Turnover (Lee et al., 1999) which followed on from earlier work, including the 1994 paper, which considered a shock model and its influence on voluntary employee turnover. The empirical findings demonstrate a specific salient event, a shock, being more likely to result in an employee change of job.”

I wrote that. I discovered a researcher’s interpretation of the word shock. A specific salient event. So, I carried on…

“Conceptually this takes the naturalist theory, by which things occur naturally, and letting this happen followed by observation and reflection after the event to understand why and how the process unfolded. This theory replaces the more established theory of the prediction and assumptive path prior to the event happening (also see image theory) It developed and confirmed that most of our decisions are not to do things rather than to consider and act.”

Take a moment to think about that. Yes that, or this, ‘most of our decisions are not to do things rather than to consider and act’. Now that’s philosophy or maybe psychology or maybe phenomenology of sociology or sociology of phenomenology. But it is not entrepreneurialism! It is still a crazy thought.

All very well I hear you say (on the assumption you are still reading) but what does this have to do with timber engineering? Well, now nothing, but do hold fire. I went a little deeper into the human mind, this is where the school of business and the school of psychology really start to merge…

“We, as humans, have a screening, or filter, mechanism that filters out a lot of the need to make a conscious decision. For example, if we are shopping for a specific item in a superstore, pasta for example, we will filter out the thousands of other items before reaching the pasta. What can happen on occasion is something will strike through our filter, in this case perhaps a promotion at the end of an aisle, or a large font with a subjective price, that causes a strike through the filter and, in turn, a shock.”

We can all relate to this on many differing levels. Whether it be shopping, work, play; inertia, as a mechanic, subconsciously plays a very major part of our decisions not to do anything about something.

Wasn’t this about timber?

Eh and what, I hear you say further, wasn’t this about timber? Well, yes, contextually I guess that is where I started, but context in this case is slightly irrelevant, or more irrelevant than theory. But I finally went on to compose…

“By bringing this theory back to employment it is the jolt out of inertia than creates a fairly immediate path to a decision. The shock causes a consideration for change and creates a reaction to the action. The speed of this is dependent on the circumstance but differing shocks will have a different influence on the unfolding model of voluntary turnover (Lee et al., 1999 p451). Inertia, the tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged, is the environment to which employees, or for wider consideration the self-employed, remain floating around in the status quo. This potentially remains the status quo until a strike through the filter, and shock, occurs.”

So, there we have it. A move from the base of ‘an understanding of timber engineer turnover’ to the ‘role of shock in Entrepreneurial turnover’. By connecting theory, method and contribution / implications together you can study entrepreneurial exit as a kind of turnover. As you can see above there has been a lot published on employee turnover but less in the entrepreneur world and this should lead to the development of a multi-pathway model of exit.

The role of a doctoral student takes a trio of guises. You must be a historian, to understand what has gone before and to be able to apply that as a base for your foundation. You must be a researcher, you have to find the relevant documents, journals, news, evidence, if you will, to piece together the history for your foundations. Finally, you must be a detective and piece all this together, to tell the story and to be able to explain, eloquently, how your contribution to knowledge will add to those that have preceded you. It also has to have a balance, it needs to be for an audience, and this is where all researchers face their own demons and challenges. “One must usually choose between being interesting and being systematic. One cannot easily be both” (MS Davis, 1971).

How does this relate to the ongoing brilliance at RML?

Simple. The shock factor. And we have seen plenty. Businesses, as a rule, are a simply a body of humans and suffer the same inertia as humans. Leadership will sub consciously avoid making any decisions and, as the supermarket shopper, will drift with filter. But we have seen things that strike through the filter, COVID, Brexit, Raw Material Costs, Supply Chain issues, Labour Shortages, Fuel Prices, Retirements, Key Person Deaths, and we could go on with a gigantic list (I appreciate I might have metacognitive bias!) but each one is a salient event that causes a reaction and a jolt from inertia. So the business, like the human, finds a way to adapt, to survive and find a coping mechanic.

Businesses, because they are the make-up of the humans within, continue to change shape. We have seen examples of this kind of brilliance across the UK and beyond. Shocks are an integral part of life and the mechanics to react create fascinating isomorphic learning potential.

Just don’t think about it when you’re buying pasta in Tesco.

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