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Problem-Centered Summer Internship Projects (SIP) and Business

Consultancy Projects (BCP): New Research Paradigms

Oswald A. J. Mascarenhas, S. J., Ph.D.
May 31, 2012
Revised and expanded: July 10, 2012
Business management in general and the MBA degree in particular, are professional practitioner subjects, just
like medicine, law, engineering, and architecture. Hence, MBA learning, unlike MCom or MA in economics, is
professional practitioner learning that needs the practice of summer internship projects (SIP) and business
consultancy projects (BCP), both of which pave your way to permanent placement (PP). Ideally, you must so
choose your SIP that it naturally leads to BCP, and both of which deservedly terminate in your PP in the same
industry or company. This note is premised on this hope and assumption, and seeks to maintain this ideal
transitional focus of SIP => BCP => PP. First, we briefly define a problem.

What is a Problem?
A problem is a system at unrest (Ackoff and Emery 1972). A system is anything (subject, object, property or
event) that is made of two or more parts. In this sense, everything in the universe is a system.
A market is a system. All products and services offered in the market are systems. A business that offers such
products and services is a system. Any of these systems could be at unrest at a given time - it is a business or
market, legal, social or environmental problem.
Governments, politics, laws and legislator bodies, economy, culture, religion, civilization and eras are systems
in the world. When they are at unrest, there are problems or they become problems.
A problem is a deviation from some standard or norm of desired performance (Stryker 1965/2001: 119).
Hence, problems should be distinguished from decisions. Decisions always involve a choice among various
ways of getting a particular problem resolved or a task accomplished.
Business today is problem resolution management. There are several major problems that have to be resolved
both at the global and national levels, the industry and corporation level and the internal departmental and
divisional/functional levels.
Any problem can be expressed in the following simple structure: P = f (X, Y), where X is a set of
controllable variables, Y is a set of uncontrollable variables, and f is the function that relates X to Y to generate
the problem P. In which case:

Step One: Problem description, identification and definition characterize P. The problem P occurs
whenever Y > X; that is, when uncontrollable variables dominate controllable variables.
Step Two: Problem Formulation identifies each variable in X and Y.
Step Three: Problem Specification specifies the relation of each variable in X to each variable in Y,
and relations within X, and relations within Y.
Step Four: Problem Resolution Alternatives Investigation: We investigate various alternatives that are
efficient in reducing uncontrollable variables Y in relation to controllable variables X, or which
increases the control ratio X/Y.
Step Five: Selection of the best among Problem Resolution-Alternatives evaluated under Step Four.
That is, the best resolution is that which maximizes {X/Y} over all X and Y.

Typically in SIP you handle Steps 1-5, and in BCP you explain to your client steps 1-5, and offer consulting
advise as to why steps 1-5 are correct, that your research method and methodology are valid, that your
questionnaire design was based on sound theory and hypotheses formulation-verification procedures, that your
data collection was valid, reliable, and objective, that your data analysis was technically thorough and valid, and
hence, that your conclusions are reliable, valid, dependable and objective, profitable and socially responsible.
When SIP and BCP are done professionally well and technically perfect, PP should follow.

Business Problems and Decision-Making

Business management is about making business decisions, and every business decision is a risk-taking
judgment. Hence, effective corporate executives do not make a great many decisions: they concentrate on what
is important. They try to make the few important decisions on the highest level of conceptual understanding
and corporate undertaking. They prefer depth and comprehensiveness rather than breadth and superficiality;
they want impact rather than technique; they want to be sound rather than clever (Drucker 2001: 1-2).
Decision making in the 21st century will be even more of an art and less of a science than it was a decade or two
ago. Not only is the world growing more complex and uncertain at a faster and faster pace, but the old
decision-making models are failing, and we can expect their failure to accelerate as well. With information
overload and explosion, extracting relevant data and inferences from the torrent is increasingly a daunting task,
and for all practical purposes executive decision makers must often proceed with only partial information, and
which they will have little time to fully process and analyze. Hence it becomes a humble decision making
process, according to Amitai Etzioni (Etzioni 2001: 45-57).
Formally defined, decision-making is the process of resolving a problem or choosing from alternative
opportunities. A decision maker must recognize the nature of the problem or opportunity, identify how much
information is available, and determine what information is needed (Zikmund 2003: 49).
Every problem or decision-making situation has some aspects of it certain, some uncertain and some
ambiguous. Complete certainty implies that all the information that the decision maker needs is available,
reliable and accurate, and hence, the exact nature of the problem can be easily defined, classified, formulated
and specified. You do not need research here. But most business problems are vexed with uncertainty: that is,
information about solution-alternatives is incomplete, and hence, research is needed to gather additional
information to clarify the nature of the problem. Many business problems are even mutated by ambiguity: that
is, the nature of the problem to be solved is unclear. Hence, research objectives are vague and decision
alternatives are difficult to define. Ambiguous problems need more serious and prolonged research by multidisciplinary researchers.
The degree of uncertainty and ambiguity of the research problem determines the research methodology. For
instance, if the problem is ambiguous, then we need exploratory research to clarify ambiguous problems.
Exploratory research does not provide concluding evidence for a particular action-solution; it helps to
crystallize a problem and identify information needed for further research. When the problem is partially
defined but the variables that constitute it are uncertain, then we need descriptive research that describes the
characteristics of a population that circumscribe the problem. Given exploratory research and descriptive
research, we may have by now several sets of conclusive evidence regarding the nature of the research problem
in terms of the variables that compose it, and the relationships between variables. The stage is now set for
causal research that identifies cause-and-effect relationships among variables.
Table 1 summarizes our brief discussions on market uncertainty and ambiguity and their effect on types of
research methodology adopted. Most SIP research methodology is exploratory, or at best, descriptive. BCP
research may tend to be more descriptive and occasionally causal.

The Structure of Business Problems

Technically, any problem situation must deal with a certain level of knowledge and a certain level of certaintyuncertainty regarding that level of knowledge. That is, any problem situation must confront four states of
affairs as follows:

Relevant knowledge high and knowledge certainty high: here the best decision-making approach is
rational, logical and deterministic. There is just one solution to the problem.

Relevant knowledge is high but knowledge certainty is low: here the best decision-making approach is
fine-tuning, artistic and nondeterministic. Business data and knowledge are rarely unequivocal. There
is one problem but with many possible solutions.

Relevant knowledge is low but knowledge certainty is high: we know very little about the causes of
cancer, but what we know we are quite certain about under present conditions. In other words, there
could be many connected problems even though in practice we treat them with some known solutions.
Here you follow a diagnostic or focused trial-and error approach. This is what doctors do when they
cannot pinpoint the patients problem: they try various medical regimes and converge on the one that
works best.

Relevant knowledge is low and knowledge certainty is low: for instance, we have very little knowledge
about global climate change, global pandemic diseases, global terrorism, and the like, and what we
know is hardly certain and mostly conjectural. Here we proceed by a pure trial-and-error approach of
experimentation and trial balloons. This approach often assumes no knowledge at all.

Rationalism is a deeply optimistic approach that assumes we have learnt all we need to know. Implicit in the
rational model of decision making is the assumption that decision makers have unqualified power and wisdom.
There is hardly any problem is business today that belongs to this first category. Most business problems
belong to the other three categories.
Currently, we need to know much more than ever before. Computers and search engines provide us with
abundant and often, relevant information. But information is not the same as knowledge. Without powerful
overarching explanatory schemes or theories, whatever knowledge there is in the mountain of data we daily
amass is often invisible. In short, the executives of today and tomorrow face continuing information overloads
but little growth in the amount of knowledge usable for most complex managerial decisions (Etzioni 2001: 48).
Since all decisions entail risks, decision-making almost inevitably evokes anxiety and fear strong emotions
that further cloud our decision-making process. Irving Janis and Leon Mann have addressed this problem in
their book, Decision Making. They describe certain patterns in decision making:

Defensive avoidance (delaying decisions unduly);

Overreaction (making decisions impulsively in order to escape anxiety); and
Hypervigilance (obsessively collecting more and more information instead of making a decision).

Decision-Making under Partial Information

Thanks to rapid advances in technology (e.g., the Internet), business models in some markets are changing
seemingly overnight and new competitors are emerging from nowhere. Hence, solutions of yesterday become
fresh problems today.

Etzioni (2001: 50-57) reviews other problem solving, decision-making models of the1980s and 1990s:

Incrementalism: a formal title for what is otherwise known as the science of muddling through; it does not
advocate moving towards a goal as much as moving away from trouble, trying various small maneuvers
without any grand plan or sense of ultimate purpose. Its weakness is that it is very conservative it
invariably chooses a direction close to the prevailing one. Incrementalist decisions are tentative and
remedial small steps taken in the right direction when the present course proves to be wrong. Often, they
end in drifting and in actions without direction.

Go-for-it Headlong Approach: it is also a counsel of despair like incrementalism, but is openly opposed to
reflection and analysis. Since many things are very difficult to predict, it calls on executives to rely on their
experience, intuition, and gut feelings, and whatever information is readily available, to forge ahead and
remake the world rather than seek to understand it, and then to commit. Such an approach, while
appealing to the self-image of certain executives, is fraught with danger and is likely to end in shipwreck
than in victory.

Adaptive decision making: also called humble decision making, this decision-making process implies
mixed scanning since it entails a mixture of shallow and deep examination of data for a focused
examination of a subset of most relevant facts and choices. This decision-making approach is an adaptive
strategy that acknowledges our inability to know what we need to know to make a good rational decision.
Mixed scanning makes the best use of partial knowledge rather than proceed blindly with no knowledge at
all. Doctors follow this route when they do not fully understand the patient or the disease. Based on partial
knowledge, they initiate a tentative treatment, and. if it fails, they try something else.

Adaptive or Humble Decision Making

A very useful way of resolving a problem in the midst of less knowledge and high uncertainty is to do adaptive
decision making. Focused trial and error approach is probably the most used procedure for adapting to partial
knowledge. It has two parts: knowing where to start the search for an effective intervention, and checking
outcomes at intervals to adjust and modify the intervention. This approach assumes there is important
information that the executive does not have and must proceed without. It is not a rationalistic approach but an
adaptive one; often a humbling approach to decision making. Tentativeness is an essential adaptive role it is a
commitment to revise ones course as necessary. Great doctors follow this rule in the absence of real
knowledge. They prescribe a medicine tentatively, watch for the symptoms, an accordingly, adjust the
intervention if the medicine proves to be ineffective or counterproductive.
Procrastination is another adaptive rule: delay permits the collection of fresh evidence, the processing of
additional data, and the presentation of new options.
Decision staggering is one common form of delay. For instance, he Federal Reserve Board often delays
changing the discount rate or parcels it in smaller changes.
Fractionalizing is a second corollary to procrastination. Instead of spreading a single intervention over time, it
treats important judgments as a series of sub-decisions staggered in time. For instance, the Federal Reserve
Board may decide to lower or increase the discount rate by 3% over the next two years, but may make several
interventions of a quarter percent each time. Similar would be the strategy of bank managers and their lending
rates, brand managers and their pricing rate, advertising managers and their pulse advertising rate, and so on.
Hedging bets is a good adaptive rule. For instance, the less the investors know about a specific company, the
wiser is it to spread their investments in a portfolio of several stocks and bonds. In this connection, maintaining
strategic reserves is another form of hedging bet, especially in relation cash, liquidity, and contingency. In a

world where we must expect the unexpected, we need reserves to cover unanticipated costs and to respond to
unforeseen opportunities.
All the above are reversible decisions; they avoid over-commitment when only partial information is available.
Today, most corporations are becoming increasingly bureaucratic and political, even though most executives
may pretend their decisions are professional and technocratic, but rarely as political. For instance, young and
creative managers often come up with brilliant new product ideas and projects, but soon realize that they find
difficult to get top management support from vice presidents, division leaders and labor unions. Successful
decision-making strategies must necessarily include a place for cooperation, coalition building, and differing
personalities, perspectives, responsibilities, and powers (Etzioni 2001).

Decision-Making under Gut Feelings

Our emotions and feelings might not only be important in our intuitive ability to make good decisions but may
actually be essential (Hayashi 2001: 172). Top executives are often known for their gut instincts when they
made game-changing decisions. Such decisions were not rationally or logically derived; at the least, they defied
rational or local analysis. When asked how top executives made such decisions that became smashing market
success eventually, they described that vague feeling of knowing something without knowing exactly how or
why; they used words like professional judgment, intuition, gut instinct, inner voice, and hunch, but
could not describe the process much beyond that.
Over the years, various management studies have found that executives routinely rely on their intuitions to
solve complex problems when logical methods (such as cost-benefit analysis, SWOT analysis, and statistical
methods) would not help. In fact, the higher-up you go on the corporate ladder, the more you will need wellhoned business instincts. In other words, intuition is one of the X factors separating the top corporate executives
from the middle managers and below.
Obviously, relying on gut is more conducive to corporate decisions (e.g., mergers and acquisitions, divestitures,
debt and equity restructuring, new joint ventures), while relying on data and analytics is more suited for
functional decisions (e.g., R&D, production, costing, budgeting, PR, supply chain management). In the former
case, you may gather as much information as you can (e.g., via due diligence, consulting, research), but at the
end, after looking all at the data and information, you still need your experience gut calls or intuition to make
the plunge and thats the reason why CEOs are paid more.
Ralph S. Larsen, quondam Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, explains: Very often, people will do a
brilliant job up through the middle management levels, where its heavily quantitative in terms of decision
making. But then they reach senior management, where the problems get more complex and ambiguous, and
we discover that their judgment or intuition is not what it should be. And when that happens, its a problem: its
a big problem Often there is absolutely no way you could have time to thoroughly analyze everyone of the
options or alternatives available to you. So you have to rely on your business judgment (cited in Hayashi
2001: 173). After 11 years as CEO of J&J, Larsen asserts that one thing his experience has taught him is to
listen to his instincts. Ignoring them has led to some bad decisions. One has to learn to trust ones intuition.
Richard Abdoo, Chairman and CEO of Wisconsin Energy Corporation, said, As we move to a deregulated
marketplace, we dont have this slow process of hearings and review and two years to make a decision. We
now have to make decisions in a timely manner. And that means that we process the best information thats
available and infer from it and use our intuition to make a decision (cited in Hayashi 2001: 174).
What is this gut feeling that great CEO decisions are made of? Hayashi (2001) explores various explanations:

Right-Brain versus Left-Brain Dichotomy: Henry Mintzberg, professor of management at McGill University,
Canada, and a longtime proponent of intuitive decision-making, argues that our mind continuously processes
information that we are not consciously aware of, not only when we are asleep or dreaming but also when we
are wide awake. Hence, the sense of intuitive revelation (an aha experience) occurs when our conscious mind
finally learns something that our subconscious mind has already known. One explanation for this phenomenon
is to consider our brain as divided into hemispheres: the left brain for the conscious, rational, and logical
functions, and the right-brain for the subconscious, intuitive, and the emotional. Many executives have learned
to tap into their right-brain thinking capacities while jogging, daydreaming, listening to music, showering, and
the like.
But what makes the right-brain of some people so smart? Scientists are far from the answer to that question.
Seemingly, our brain is intricately linked to other parts of our body through an extensive nervous system as well
as through chemical signals (hormones, neurotransmitters, and modulators). Thus, some neuroscientists assert
that what we call the mind is really this intertwined system of brain and body. This explains why intuitive
feelings are frequently accompanied by physical reactions.
Antonio R. Damasio, a leading neuroscientist at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, has been studying
people who have suffered from brain damage to a specific area in their prefrontal cortices, where we process
secondary emotions, such as sorrow aroused through empathy (as opposed to primary emotions, such as fear
triggered by the sight of a large rattlesnake). Such patients retain their normal functions (e.g., language and
motor skills, attention, memory, intelligence) but have trouble experiencing certain emotions (in ability to
decide, making trivial information and decisions critical).
To explain this behavior, Damasio contends that decision-making is far from a cold, analytic process. Our
emotions and feelings play a crucial role by helping us filter various possibilities quickly, even though our
conscious mind might not be aware of the screening. Thus, our intuitive feelings guide our decision making
until our conscious mind is able to make good choices. So, just as an abundance of emotion (e.g., anger, fear,
anxiety) can lead to faulty decisions, so can its paucity.
Michael Eisner, ex CEO of Walt Disney Corporation, confesses that whenever he hears about a real good idea,
his body reacts in a certain way; he gets an unusual feeling in the stomach, in his throat or on his skin. The
sensation is like looking at a great piece of art for the first time. Balanced emotions are crucial to intuitive
decision making that is, emotions and intellect in balance then you have instincts that are proper (cited in
Hayashi 2001: 177-179).
Intuition and judgment as analyses frozen into habit: Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, professor of
psychology and computer science at Carnegie-Mellon University, studied human decision making for decades
and concluded that experience enables people to chunk and classify information so that they can store and
retrieve it easily. For instance, out of the 50,000 significant patterns that grandmasters can figure out on a chess
board, they quickly chunk out a smaller number of possible offensive and defensive maneuvers that each cluster
of pieces might suggest. Experts see patterns that elicit from memory the things they know about such
situations. When we use our gut, we are drawing on rules and patterns that we cannot quite articulate.
According to Simon, even extremely sophisticated processes, such as a CEO deciding a merger or an
acquisition or a divestiture, can in principle be broken into patterns and rules. We are reaching conclusions on
the basis of things that go on in our perceptual system, where we are aware of the result of the perception but
not of the steps. Simon claims that intuition is merely those steps, that in-between mechanism that is
mysterious only because we do not yet understand how it works. What distinguishes intuitive executives is that
they have very good encyclopedias that are indexed, and pattern recognition is that index (Hayashi 2001: 181).

Truly inspired intuitive decisions seem to require an even more sophisticated mechanism: cross indexing the
ability to see patterns in disparate fields. The power of cross-indexing increases with the amount material that
can be cross-indexed. Says, Bob Lutz, ex-CEO of Chrysler that pioneered the Dodge Viper, a smashing
success, that the intuitive decision was a fruit of cross-indexing. I find that in general management, people
with varied and diverse backgrounds are, all other things being equal, going to be probably more valuable and
will learn faster because theyll recognize more patterns (cited in Hayashi 2001: 183). [A former Marine
fighter pilot, Lutz describes the decision process that launched Dodge Viper despite mounting criticisms. When
you are going too slow in an airplane, your aerodynamic drag builds up because the nose of your airplane is
positioned too high and actually you can get to the point where, even at full power, you cant get the plane to
climb anymore. So your only solution is to drop the nose and trade off some altitude to get speed. Similarly,
Chrysler in the late 1980s had lost so much momentum that it was in danger of stalling. To prevent that, the
conventional wisdom called for cost cutting to gain altitude. But Lutz knew better. Even though people
complained: You are slow and low and struggling for altitude; what an incredibly bad time to drop the nose
and dive some more by spending cash on a frivolous vehicle like the Dodge Viper. But the Dodge Viper gave
Chrysler the forward momentum it desperately needed, both internally and externally with the financial
community, the auto magazines, and all those constituencies that create the psychological climate in which your
company either prospers or does not.
Bob Pittman, president of America Online (AOL) also courts his intuitive skills by placing himself in unfamiliar
situations. Staring at market data, he says, is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle. You have to figure out what the
picture is. What does it all mean? Its not just a bunch of data. Theres a message in there. Every time I get
another data point, Ive added another piece to the jigsaw puzzle, and Im closer to seeing the answer. And,
then one day, the overall picture suddenly comes to me (cited in Hayashi 2001: 179).

Problem Centered Research

In general, problem-centered research involves the following major steps:
1. Problem Identification and Definition: That is, describe, frame, classify or categorize the problem
given various taxonomies or typologies. To which industry or cross-industry does the problem belong?
In this connection do some industry scanning in order better to identify and define the problem.
Identifying and defining wrong problems are Type Three errors that we must avoid. [For a framework
on Industry Scanning, see Appendix 1].
2. Problem Formulation: that is, identify the major controllable and uncontrollable variables that
constitute the problem. Controllable variables are those the company can handle and control given its
current resources (of manpower, capital, cash, infrastructure, technology and regulation-compliance).
Uncontrollable variables are related to the competitors, markets, legal environments and global factors.
Hence, do some competitor scanning, market scanning, legal environment scanning and global
scanning in order to formulate your problem better. A problem well formulated is half solved. Often,
the process of problem formulation indicates the path of solution. [For a framework on Market
Scanning that includes competitor and legal scanning, see Appendix 1].
3. Problem Specification: that is, explore, examine and understand the relationships (actual and potential)
between your controllable variables, between your uncontrollable variables, and between your
controllable and uncontrollable variables. One of the fundamental laws in systems thinking is that
everything is connected with everything else in a global web or network of relationships. Hence, all
your variables, controllable and uncontrollable, are connected, related, and they influence each other.
Identify the major connections and influences. Note the relationships could be complex. Complexity in

systems thinking is twofold: a) variables complexity: the more the number of variables involved, the
more complex is the problem; b) dynamic complexity: the more the relationships between these
variables, and more the relationships change constantly, as often the case is, the more is dynamic
complexity. Hence, at this juncture, you may need variables scanning such as product scanning and
customer scanning to specify your problem better. [For a framework on Product Scanning and
Customer Scanning, see Appendix 2].
4. Problem-resolution Alternatives Investigation: Given problem identification, formulation and
specification, we now investigate various problem-resolution alternatives that might have occurred to us
during the previous three steps. In systems thinking, we do not solve problems, but only resolve
them; problem solutions are permanent, and there relate to simple problems where problem
formulations and solutions are known. But when problems are complex (that is, problems may be
formulated but solutions are not obvious), or unstructured (that is, problems cannot be formulated,
but we can guesstimate their possible resolutions) or wicked (i.e., problems have neither known
formulations nor resolutions), then we can only try to tame them with resolutions.
Problem resolution alternatives relate primarily to uncontrollable variables that involve aggressive
competition, uncertain or turbulent markets, economic chaos, new consumer lifestyles, new consumer
needs and demands, new regulatory challenges, new market opportunities, new product development
opportunities, new brand equity drives, new financial crises, new corporate frauds, political corruption
and bribery, and the like.
Solution-Hypotheses Formulation: In this connection, when resolution alternatives are not clear, we
may, based on good theory, need to speculate and frame various hypotheses regarding what would work
and what would not work in seeking better control over our uncontrollable variables. Do we need to
redesign the product? Do we need to re-bundle the product in terms of complementary accessories with
attractive prices? Will a new pricing strategy work? Will a new product promotion strategy be
effective? Will a new retailing strategy be needed? Will we need to explore new markets or new
customer segments hitherto underserved by us? Do we need to focus only on big lifetime-loyal
accounts? And so on.
Solutions-hypotheses-verification: Each solution alternative needs to be tested either by pre-test
marketing or test marketing experimental designs. Or, using survey designs we may investigate target
customer perceptions, feelings, emotions and attitudes about our resolution-alternatives, about our
products, product policies, retailing policies, pricing policies, promotion policies, consumer credit
policies, and so on. In which case, we need suitable survey questionnaires to be designed, constructed,
and pretested for reliability (using Cronbachs )and validity (face validity, content validity,
discriminant validity, convergent validity, nomological validity, and so on).
5. Best Resolution Selection: Based on observation-experimentation or solution-hypothesis verification
results from the previous step, we should be able to select or elect the best resolution alternative to
the original problem we started with. Thus, if we were testing different product price designs using
pretest marketing or test city marketing, then results should indicate which price or product mix design
is most effective in generating highest sales revenues. On the other hand, if we investigated target
customer perceptions or attitudes, then we should single which product or price design evoked the most
positive perceptions and attitudes. Either method would converge toward an optimal resolution
selection. At this stage we need to consider the cost and benefits of each resolution alternative and
choose the best. In case, your research based on Steps One through Five did not yield an optimal
solution, then perhaps you need to re-formulate the problem. That means, we go through steps 1-5
again. Good research is recursive, repetitive, and replicated.

We detail each of these steps One to Five in the following sections.

Step One: Problem Identification

We must describe or define a problem precisely; even properly frame the problem and draw a boundary around
it e.g., this is the domain (the what) of the problem, and this is not its domain; this is where the problem
occurred and this s where it did not; this is when the problem occurred, and when it did not; this is the extent to
which the problem occurred, and so on. When we describe the problem precisely, then we do not need to gather
all the facts and figures about the problem, but just the relevant ones.
While you look for similarities between this problem and another related problem, also look for differences
between the problems for instance, the differences between the is of the problem (what it is, where it is,
when it occurs, to what extent it occurs, etc.) and the is not of the problem (i.e., what it is not, where it does
not occur, when it does not occur, and the extent to which it does not occur). All these steps help to describe
and frame the problem precisely. For a detailed illustration of this type of problem specification see Stryker
(1965/2001: 97-142). Note: A problem correctly identified and well formulated is half solved.

Identify and classify your Problem

One way of identifying your problem is to classify or categorize it. For instance, is the problem generic, or is it
exceptional and unique? Or is it the first manifestation of a new genus for which a rule has yet to be developed?
For instance, an effective decision maker asks: is this problem a symptom of a fundamental disorder or a stray
event? The generic problem must be always answered through a rule, a policy, a principle, or a standard; once
the right principle has been found or developed, all manifestations of the same generic situation can be handled
pragmatically that is, by adaptation of the rule to the concrete circumstances of the case. Whereas the truly
exceptional and unique problem can only be handled as such, treated individually, as it comes; the executive
cannot develop rules for the exceptional, and he must wait for a rule yet to be developed (Drucker 2001: 3-7).
Peter Drucker (2001) distinguishes four types of problems:




A problem that is truly a generic event, of which the individual occurrence is only a symptom. Most of the
problems executives confront belong to this category. For instance, most inventory situations are not
problems or decisions, but are just adaptations to a generic problem of purchasing or sales. A product
control and engineering group will typically confront hundreds of problems in a given month, great
majority of them being just symptoms of a major generic problem such as couplings in the pipes that
carry steam or hot liquids. The couplings holding the various lines together may have to be redesigned
to greater loads.
A problem which, while a unique event for the individual situation, is actually generic. For instance,
should a company accept the merger offer from a larger company or not? This is a unique problem or
non-recurrent situation. The same offer may never happen again given the company, its management,
and its board of directors. But the problem is really a generic that requires the general rules of due
diligence or consulting.
A problem is a truly exceptional event. For instance, the huge power failure that plunged Northeastern
North America from St. Lawrence to Washington DC in November 1965; the thalidomide tragedy that
led to the birth of hundreds of deformed babies in the early 1960s; or, the Bhopal crisis in India in
1986; the Katarina tsunami event that devastated the city of New Orleans in Louisiana, USA, in the late
1990s. All these were exceptional events with very low probability of occurrence (less than one in ten
million) that are rare. These unique problems require unique solutions.
A problem that is an early manifestation of a new generic problem. For instance, we know now that the
Northeastern power failure and the thalidomide tragedy were only the first instances of what, under
conditions of modern power technology and of modern pharmacology, are likely to become fairly

frequent occurrences unless generic solutions are found. Similar is the case of the 9/11 attack on
America and global terrorism.

Problems must be distinguished from their symptoms. For instance, Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
(2011: 7-10) in their latest book That Used to be Us: What went wrong with America, and How it can Come
Back, investigate the problem that currently America is declining and distinguish the decline from other
symptoms of decline such as terrorism or al-Qaeda, trade and budget deficits, national and international debts,
and energy and climate change (these are just symptoms beyond repair of a major generic problem). The main
cause of decline they argue is that America has stopped investing in education (that is, in educating the
workforce it needs), or admitting the energetic immigrants it seeks, or investing in the infrastructure it requires
(the problem of delayed maintenance is getting out of control), funding the research it envisions, or putting in
place the intelligent tax laws and incentives that its competitors have installed. A great country with enormous
potential, America is currently falling into disrepair, political disarray, and palpable discomfort about its present
condition and future prospects. America has not been able to fix its problems or reinvest in its strengths because
its political system has become paralyzed and its system of values has suffered serious erosion.
The problem in India is no different. Britain ruled the 19 th century, America dominated the 20 th century, and
now China is sweeping the 21st century leaving India behind. We are our own enemies. We are getting so much
less than we can, should, and must get out of our great and largest democracy.
Once a problem has been framed, classified as generic or unique, and categorized, defining the problem is
relatively an easy task. Pertinent questions in this regard are: What is this all about? What is pertinent here?
What is the key to this situation? And so on. For instance, the American auto industry did not define auto safety
precisely; they indulged in plausible and incomplete definitions. It was far more than any reluctance to spend
money on safety engineering; it was in understanding what auto safety was. Was it passenger safety from injury
during collision, from accidents caused by unsafe pothole-ridden roads or unlicensed drivers, during a tire bust,
during a gas explosion, during drunken driving, during road rage, during a car burglary, in sub-zero icy
conditions, during carbon monoxide emissions, or during over-speeding? Even to this day, the wicked problem
of auto safety remains imprecisely defined. Even though the ratio of accidents per thousand cars or per
thousand miles driven has been going down in USA, the total numbers of accidents and their severity have kept
creeping up. Accidents keep occurring despite safety laws and safety training. Besides designing safe cars,
USA is now engaged in making auto accidents themselves safe. That is, whereas cars have been engineered to
be safe when used correctly, they will also have to be engineered for safety when used incorrectly (Drucker
2001: 7-8).
In arriving at a complete definition of a problem, a good decision maker always tests for signs that something is
atypical or something unusual is happening, by asking questions such as: Does the definition explain the
observed events, and does it explain all of them? Check the incomplete definition against all facts, and throw
out a definition the moment it fails to encompass any of them. Or, think trough the problem again whenever
you see something atypical, when you find unexplained phenomena, or when the course of events deviates from
expectations, even in small details.

Taxonomies for Classifying Business Management Problems

You may identify or define your problem along any one or more of these areas:
Is it market-related? Is it an unmet need, want or desire? Or, is it an under-served market in the inner city,
urban or rural areas? Is it an over-served market dense with competition and market entry barriers? Is it a new
market, an unexplored market? Is there a distribution problem, a logistics problem, a delivery problem, or a
retailing problem? Is it an advertising or promotional problem? Is it a redlining problem, a monopoly, a

monopsony, or a dominant supplier problem? A minority supplier suppressed and harassed by dominant
suppliers? Converging industries? Converging markets? Converging trade zones? Converging continents?
Converging countries (e.g., EU)? Converging consumer lifestyles? Converging consumer values? Converging
consumer expectations?
Is it product-related? Is it cost-related (cost overruns, high wage, high salary, organizational slack, outdated
technology, )? Is it overpriced via gouging? Is there predatory pricing? Is there dumping? Is it quality
related? Is it technology related? Is it revenue related (low sales, market share erosion, low profits, low ROS,
ROM, ROQ, ROI, ROA, ROE)? Is it an outdated or obsolesced product? Does the product involve long
product cycles? Does the product involve very short life cycles via planned product or service obsolescence? Is
it a much needed, wanted or desired product and service? A new product that is new to the firm, or new to the
industry, or new to the country, or new to the world? Lack of product or service instructions and information?
A defective product? A harmful product? A confusing label or package? Confusing product or service
instructions? Are there any confusing product warranties and guarantees? Lack of adequate financing
programs? A confusing brand? A confusing product bundle? A confusing price bundle? Poor quality?
Confusing quality-surrogates via pricing, branding, bundling, advertising, promoting, and retailing? Converging
technologies? Converging industries? Converging core products? Converging core processes? Converging
Is a legal problem? Does the product or service violate any written or unwritten law, ordinance, or contract
(e.g., antitrust, OSHA, equal access)? Does it violate any tort law such as deception, under-disclosure, overdisclosure or information overload, misleading, misrepresentation, negligence, or lack of due care? Does it
violate patent law? Is there any trademark infringement? Any trade law (GATT, WTO, NAFTA, and EU)
violation? Does the product or service violate consumer rights such as right to information, right to choice or
variety, right to safety, right to consumer education, right to complain, right to redress? Does it violate
individual, consumer and social privacy?
Is it environment-related problem? Does the product harm land, water, sea and air? Does it protect local and
social landscape? Does it prevent from ecological harm? Does it benefit ecology and ecosystems? Does the
product or service offend any social, national, cultural, religious, political, racial and ethnic sensitivities,
customs and mores? Does it undermine local communities, local businesses, local institutions and markets?
Does the product or service promote global inequalities of income, opportunity and entrepreneurship? Does the
product or service meet global lifesaving needs? Does the product or service eliminate or progressively
eradicate global poverty, hunger, health-hazards, homelessness, joblessness, illiteracy, crime and disease?

Upstream, Midstream and Downstream Value-Chain Innovation

Besides the above partial classification of problems, there could be many other methods for identifying and
classifying business problems. Some problems are corporate and organizational in nature, degree, magnitude,
latitude, and kind, specifically in relation to the corporate mission, vision, goals and objectives. Other problems
are functional in nature, reach, severity, ramifications and consequences. Both sets of problems can be identified
along the value chain of upstream, midstream, and downstream technologies, policies and strategies. Upstream
value chain relates to ideation, concept development, planning, budgeting, and the like until the new
product/service is designed and engineered; midstream value chain relates to the proper sizing, shaping,
streaming, packaging, bundling and the like stages until the product/service is market ready; downstream value
chain deals with commercialization and relates to pretest marketing, test marketing, and accordingly, pricing,
promoting, retailing, advertising, and national launching strategies and processes.

Identifying Problems around Value Chains


Regardless of industry, almost all companies are operating on faster evolutionary tracks and at greater risks
than ever before. In this context, a companys real core capability is its ability to redesign continually its value
chain and to reshuffle its structural, technological, financial and human assets in order to achieve maximum
competitive advantage. Nevertheless, competitive advantage is, at best, a fleeting commodity that must be won
again and again. That is, all players in the value-chain - producers, suppliers, employees, retail channels, and
customers are also seeking their own competitive advantage. This competitiveness makes every value-chain
dynamic. Organizations today must continually disintegrate and reintegrate in order to quickly and continually
assess which parts of their value chain are vulnerable, which parts are defensible, which corporate alliances
make the most strategic sense, and which competitive threats are deadly (Fine et al. 2002). In this value-chain
assessment process the value of the customer must be reinforced and recognized throughout the chain (Prahalad
and Ramaswamy 2000, 2003).
Conventional wisdom affirms that what a strategist should achieve is sustainable competitive advantage
(SCA). Cynthia A. Montgomery (2008: 59-60), professor of strategy at the Harvard Business School (HBS),
challenges this view. Although critically important, SCA is not the ultimate goal. SCA is a means to an end
and not an end in itself. Strategizing only in terms of SCA, mistakes the means for the end and missions
managers on an unachievable quest. SCA is essential to strategy but it is only a part of a bigger story, one
frame in a motion picture. Strategic advantage changes from time to time, even as the world, both inside and
outside the firm, changes not only in big, discontinuous leaps but also in frequent, smaller ones. Corporate
identities are changed not only by cataclysmic restructurings and grand pronouncements but also by strategic
decision after strategic decision, year after year, and CEO after CEO. An organic conception of strategy,
therefore, recognizes that whatever constitutes strategic advantage will eventually change. Thus, the very
notion that there is a strategic holy grail of SCA, that is, a strategy brilliantly conceived, carefully implemented,
and valiantly defended through time, is dangerous.
In general, major corporate and organizational management problems are (Set A):

Upstream Corporate Value Chain Innovation:


We need to look into new markets, new products and new support systems;
We need to look into new industries, cross-industries and opportunities;
Hence, there is a need to realign our corporate resources with market opportunities;
Hence, we may need several major capital investments to be made;
There may be a need for corporate debt and equity restructuring for better leveraging;
There may be a need for refinancing and re-leveraging our businesses;
There may be a need for divestitures in relation to underutilized capacities;
There may be a need for market expansion via corporate mergers and acquisitions;
There may be a need for new market reach via joint ventures from the Bric countries;
There may be a new business venture to be identified, designed and strategized;
Hence, there may be a need to restate our corporate mission, goals and objectives;
We need to build corporate-wide innovation platforms for holistic growth;
We need to explore corporate-wide forgetting (unlearning), borrowing, and innovating;
We must develop corporate brand image and brand equity strategically;
There is a need for new corporate strategic alliances with our major competitors;

Midstream Corporate Value Chain Innovation:

16. We need to look into our corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and strategies;
17. We need examine our creativity-innovation drives within each department and product;
18. We need to review our law compliance policies, models and strategies;


There is due process and justice regarding employees to be investigated and achieved;
There is a need for upgrading worker safety, security and privacy policies;
We need to refine our performance appraisal system division- and department-wide;
There is an organizational value and morale conflict to be resolved;
There is a lending policy to be reviewed since corporate borrowing capacity is weakened;
There is an imminent cash crisis with serious disability to make payroll and taxes;
There is, consequently, corporate distress and financial insolvency brewing;
We need major cost-containment and reducing cost-overrun policies and control;
We need strong revenue generating models, strategies and execution;
We need to reappraise our trade policies and trade credit strategies;

Downstream Corporate Value Chain Innovation:


We need to undertake performance and profitability appraisal by product/service;

Old and new dividend and retained earnings policies;
We need to review our internal corporate audit reports;
We need to reflect on our external corporate audit findings and suggestions;
Accordingly, we need to adopt lean management policies and strategies;
Or, we need organizational downsizing with massive labor layoffs in the offing;
There is a need for plants redesigning, relocating, downsizing, or shut downs;
There is a need for domestic and/or offshore outsourcing of major operations;
Our very existence as a business is threatened by investor sharks;
There is, consequently, possible employee strike or boycott, and
The threat of corporate bankruptcy in the immediate future is real.
Can we avoid bankruptcy by seeking plea bargaining outside courts?

All these are typical corporate level problems that occur frequently and cyclically. Other organizational
operational and functional problems relate to (Set B):

Upstream Business Functional Value Chain innovation:


Old and new market research methodologies and strategies;

Old and new industry scanning technologies;
Old and new country scanning technologies;
Old and new market scanning technologies;
Old and new global scanning technologies and strategies;
Old and new customer scanning technologies;
Old and new client and account centered strategies and lifetime loyalties;
Old and new customer co-option, collaboration, and co-involvement strategies.
Old and new departmental business models; budgeting; and control strategies;
Old and new departmental entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship strategies;
New product/service ideation technologies and processes;
New product/service concept development technologies and procedures;
New product/service prototype designing and testing technologies;
Old and new supply chain management technologies;
Old and new trade credit policy reviews;
Old and new trade payables management policies;
Old and new departmental financing policies and strategies;
Old and new talent recruitment, retention and development technologies;
Old and new employee motivation and morale boosting strategies and procedures;


Old and new worker health and safety, security and privacy technologies;
Old and new labor and personnel appraisal processes and validation procedures;
Old and new materials quality assessment technologies;
Old and new production technologies;
Old and new product designing procedures;
Old and new ecology and sustainability policies and procedures;
Old and new legality, ethicality and morality concerns of hiring and firing processes;
Old and new product safety, security and law-compliance technologies;
Old and new materials, process and quality control technologies;
Old and new work-in-progress inventory management technologies;

Midstream Business Functional Value Chain Innovation:


Old and new product prototype testing strategies and procedures;

Old and new product sizing, shaping, texturing, streaming and packaging technologies;
Old and new product/service bundling technologies
Old and new price- or price-product bundling technologies;
Old and new product warranty/guarantee policies and support technologies
Old and new market pretesting processes and experimentations;
Old and new test-marketing methodologies, policies and strategies;
Old and new finished goods inventory management technologies;
Old and new product bundling technologies;
Old and new product warehousing and logistics technologies;
Old and new distribution broker-partner relationship capabilities.

Downstream Business Functional Value Chain Innovation:


Old and new product/service distribution strategies;

Old and new retail product depletion-scanning and replenishment technologies;
Old and new product/service pricing, premium pricing, and discount-pricing strategies;
Old and new consumer credit policies;
Old and new receivables management strategies;
Old and new product/service revenue management processes;
Old and new product/service profitability management policies and strategies;
Old and new product and personnel promotion strategies;
Old and new advertising and PR strategies;
Old and new distribution and retail outlets;
Old and new customer safety, security and privacy policies and strategies;
Old and new customer servicing strategies;
Old and new customer feedback solicitation processes;
Old and new customer complaints redress procedures;
Old and new customer satisfaction/dissatisfaction research processes;
Old and new total customer experience enhancement models and strategies, and

Most of our Summer Internship Projects (SIPs) or Business Consultancy Projects (BCPs) may not involve
serious corporate problems from Set A. Often they may relate to problems in Set B. But even the little
problems that you may get to research are connected with the major ones listed under Set A and hence, need
serious and concerted research focus.
Both SIP and BCP have common starting points: Problem centered projects. SIP is primarily engaged in
problem identification, problem definition, problem formulation, problem specification, and secondary data

collection to situate the problem, primary data collection to throw further light on the problem and its solution
alternatives; problem-resolutions investigation and alternatives assessment, final problem resolution selection,
and final resolution consequences assessment. BCP reviews the problem, its investigative research, its alternate
resolutions, and accordingly advises the management on what solution to accept, why, and with what

Step Two: Problem Formulation

Problem formulation is very specific. You need to identify the major sets of variables that compose or
constitute the problem. Any problem is composed of two major sets of variables: controllable and
uncontrollable. There are two perspectives to control scanning: there are controllable or uncontrollable from the
producer viewpoint, and there are controllable and uncontrollable variables from a customer perspective.
Hence, given your main problem that you have identified and defined under Step One, do the following:

Identify almost all the relevant variables that cause the problem.
Categorize variables into controllable and uncontrollable from the companys viewpoint.
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with cost?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with pricing?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with quality?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with technology?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with employees?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with supplies and materials?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with exports or imports?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with suppliers?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with creditors, banks and shareholders?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with competition?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with market demand or glut?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with governments, laws and ordinances?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with globalization, outsourcing, and global


Categorize variables into controllable and uncontrollable from the consumers viewpoint.
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with pricing as perceived by the consumers?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with quality as perceived by the consumers?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with technology as perceived by consumers?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with convenience of saving time?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with convenience of saving energy?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with saving anxiety and worries?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with changing fads, fashions, and lifestyles?
To what extent are the uncontrollable variables associated with shifting demographics, sociographics,
psychographics, ergographics, ethnographics, or chirographics?


Hence, correctly identify and formulate the main problem together with subsidiary or embedded subproblems. That is:


Identify the various contexts the problem is nested or embedded in (e.g., economic, political, global,
technological, cultural, social and cultural).


Understand the connections and ramifications (e.g., antecedents, determinants, concomitants, consequences)
of the problem on these contextual environments.


Recognize the good or bad consequences of the selected alternative (i.e., best solution) on these contextual

At this stage, in order more completely to formulate your research problem, you may need to do your specific
industry scanning and target market scanning. Appendix 1 provides a framework for industry and market

The contextual environment does beyond the domain of internal and external stakeholders. In a highly globalized and networked
world the contextual domain is ever expanding. It is a borderless world. Students should be taught to think globally. Local and
domestic problems have international and global connections and consequences.
Antecedents are factors and events that precede but influence the problem at hand.
Concomitants are factors and events that accompany and influence the problem at hand.
Determinants are factors and events that cause (are necessary and/or sufficient conditions) the problem.
Consequences are effects and outcomes that are causally connected to the problem or its selected solution.

Step Three: Problem Specification

If the problem we started with is real and if it is caused by some variables identified at the problem formulation
stage, then the inter-variable relationships that are explored now at the problem specification stage will enable
us to trace the causes of the problem. Most of these relationships operate within certain boundary conditions
(e.g., the minimum or maximum thresholds with which the inter-variable relationships are relevant and
meaningful; will these relations satisfy corporate needs or enable us to realize our goals and objectives). For are
these relationships best under centralization conditions that seek for unity and control? Or do these relations
empower decentralization, and autonomy of decisions units that respect strength and responsibility in the chief
operating positions?
Hence, understand the relationships between the controllable and the uncontrollable variables. For instance,

Are these relationships just sequences?

Are these relationships mere associations?
Are these relationships weak or strong correlations?
Are these relationships necessary conditions?
Are these relationships sufficient conditions?
Are these relationships necessary and sufficient conditions or causal connections?
What are your dependent variables in your problem-solution equation?
What are you independent variables in your problem-solution equation?
What are your residual (unaccountable) variables in your problem-solution equation?
Are the relationships between dependent and independent variables linear or non-linear?
How can you establish or verify these relationships?
Do you have representative and random samples of relevant data or responds to empirically verify
these relationships?
Have others tested these relationships that you can follow?
Are there any theories that can hypothesize these relationships?
Are there research streams to enable you to verify these relationships?
Are there any strong trends or managerial hunches to support these relationships?
Do the past data, practices, relations and trends support the present projected relationships?
Do the past data, practices, relations and trends condition the present or future relationships?
Are the market, cost, scale, price, technology and innovation discontinuities so strong so as to totally
force you to reinvent the present and the future relationships between your dependent and independent
variables in the problem-solution equation?

If a problem is defined as a system at unrest or as a deviation from a standard or norm, then after
identifying and classifying the problem (Step One) and formulating the problem in terms of its major sets of
controllable and uncontrollable variables (Step Two), the third stage of problem specification involves searching
for real causes in terms of factors, determinants, antecedents, concomitants that bring about the unrest or
deviation in the system. Problem specification involves asking the relevant questions about every problem.
Problem specification investigates who did wrong, what went wrong, how, when, where, how often, with
whom, how and why? The more relevant questions you ask the right way with the right people, the more
complete is problem specification.

At this stage, in order more completely to formulate and specify your research problem, you may need to do
your specific product/service and customer scanning and target market scanning. Appendix 2 provides a
framework for product scanning and customer scanning.
A precise problem specification may involve a twofold descriptive inquiry of is and is not in relation to at
least eight classical investigative questions such as:

Who caused the unrest or deviation? Who did not cause it?
What did they do and what they did not do to bring about this unrest or deviation?
How did they do it and how not, such that it generated this unrest or deviation?
Where did they do it and where not, such that it generated this unrest or deviation?
When did they do it and when not, such that it generated this unrest or deviation?
With whom did they do it and with whom not, such that it generated this unrest or deviation?
How often did they do did it and how often not such that it generated this unrest or deviation?
Why did they do it and why not such that it generated this unrest or deviation?

The last set of questions that deal with why, why-not, and hence what, are more analytical than descriptive. All
eight questions specify the problem by contrast, and that may not be enough. We need further problem
specification by seeking differences as follows:

What characterizes those who caused the unrest or deviation? What characterizes those who did not
cause it?
What characterizes what they did and what characterizes what they did not do in relation to this unrest
or deviation?
What characterizes how they did it and what characterizes how they did not do it relative to this unrest
or deviation?
What characterizes where they did it and what characterizes where they did it not in relation to this
unrest or deviation?
What characterizes when they did it and what characterizes when they did it not in relation to this
unrest or deviation?
What characterizes with whom they did it and what characterizes with whom they did it not in relation
to this unrest or deviation?
What characterizes how often they did it and what characterizes how often they did it not in relation to
this unrest or deviation?
What characterizes why they did it and what characterizes why they did it not in relation to this unrest
or deviation?

Table 2 captures all these relevant questions in relation to problem specification by contrasts and problem
specification by differences. In general, the cause of every problem is a change of one kind or other. This
change that causes the problem may not be so much in terms of contrasts as much as in terms of differences.
Hence, problem specification should specify more on the differences than on contrasts (Stryker 2001b).
Any change that causes the problem should explain all the contrasting features and characterizing differences in
Table 2. Failure to do may lead to a wrong cause or not the actual cause. That is, we must find a possible cause
that accounts for every fact in the specification list of Table 2. The Table 2 process may be long and arduous;
but it will stop us from prematurely jumping to a conclusion about the cause. In general, every contrast or
difference listed in Table 2 could be a possible cause of the problem, but more so the differences. Conversely,
you can test the possible cause against every facet of contrast and difference in the specification list of Table 2.
Often, the most likely cause turns out to be a change in a distinction plus a second distinction (Stryker 2001b:


Step Four: Problem Resolution Alternatives Investigation

Steve Jobs in describing the iPod said (Newsweek, October 14, 2006): When you first start off trying to solve a
problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep
going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very
elegant and simple solutions. Most people just dont put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that
customers are smart and want objects which are well thought through.
The simplest way to solve a problem is to think of it as something thats wrong, thats out of kilter, something
we want to fix. If we identify that for sure, then we can begin to look for what caused it; and when weve found
the cause, then we can get into decision making, which is choosing the best way to correct the cause (Stryker
1965/2001: 120). However, the cause of one problem is itself a problem, and its cause is another problem, and
so on. It is like a stair-stepping sequence. Usually, if you correct the cause of the basic problem or the key
problem in such a sequence, the other problems and their causes will automatically disappear.
In general, every problem has only one cause in the stair-stepping sequence. All problems are, therefore,
interlinked. Everything in the world is connected with everything else, as systems thinkers assert.
Given your findings under Steps One, Two and Three, now do the following:
Identify almost all feasible and viable alternatives to resolve the identified problem.

Feasibility relates to possibility, capability of being done or used.

Viability reflects whether the company has resources to implement this alternative.

Identify almost all efficient ands effective alternatives to resolve the identified problem.


Efficiency of an alternative to resolve the problem relates to outcomes: generating revenues,

reducing costs, meeting obligations, improving labor relations, etc.,

Effectiveness of an alternative to resolve the problem relates to good means for realizing good
outcomes that are beneficial to all relevant stakeholders.

Efficiency concerns doing things rightly; but one could do wrong things rightly too.
Efficiency supposes thinking that maximizes benefits and minimizes costs.
Effectiveness, on the other hand, concerns doing right things rightly.
Effectiveness supposes critical thinking that maximizes benefits and minimizes costs to all

Table 3 for a Fourfold Typology of Critical Thinking].

Stakeholders within the company are employees, unions, suppliers, retail partners, other divisions and
Stakeholders outside the company are customers, creditors, brokers, media, shareholders and local
Present a good comparative analysis of all the identified alternatives in terms of:
a) Feasibility and viability;
b) Efficiency to resolve the main problem;

c) Least net costs to internal stakeholders, and

d) Least net costs to external stakeholders.
The comparative analysis should be objective with no biases or prejudices to any solution.
Clearly distinguish between facts, opinions and value judgments in the selection of the best alternative.

A prejudice implies a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known. It is a preconceived idea,
favorable, or usually, unfavorable, marked by a suspicion, intolerance or irrational hatred for other
races, creeds and occupations.

Identify your basic assumptions underlying the best selected alternative.

An assumption is more basic act of assuming a fact, property or event for granted without critically
assessing its accuracy and veracity, reliability and validity.

A presumption is a subset of assumption and implies taking something for granted or unjustifiably
accepting it as true, usually on the basis of improper evidence.

Identify your basic presuppositions underlying the best selected alternative.

A supposition is the act of assuming something to be true for the sake of an argument or to illustrate a
proof. It is regarding something as true without actual knowledge, hence, often tantamount to
conjecture, guessing or mere imagination. In this sense, it is a subset of assumption.

A presupposition is an act or statement of supposing or assuming beforehand. It also means to require

or imply as a preceding condition for something.

Hence, select the best solution alternative given all your analysis above and provide convincing evidence and data to
support the selected best solution alternative.
At this stage of SIP, you may need to collect primary data from relevant market segments from your target markets
in order to better understand all four steps of problem research. This is a crucial stage where uncertainty,
ambiguity and ambivalence regarding your research problem may be clarified by directly contacting your target
customers. You need to design your survey research now, do some carefully questionnaire (QQ) designing and
pretesting. Appendix 4 has all the relevant details in this regard.

Step Five: Problem Resolution Assessment

At this stage, we objectively assess the net costs to internal or external stakeholders in terms of loss of revenues,
increased expenses, loss of morale and goodwill, non-compliance with laws and ordinances, ecological hazards
and loss to local communities. The following considerations should help in this regard:
Correctly assess the efficiency of these alternatives to resolve the main identified problem.
Correctly assess the ramifications of these alternatives on various stakeholders within the company.
Correctly assesses the ramifications of these alternatives on various stakeholders outside the company.

Assess the problem solution in terms of the goals and objectives that the problem failed to realize. Thus, does
the problem resolution:
Generate adequate and increasing sales revenues?
Generate adequate and increasing market shares?

Generate adequate and increasing profitability?

Generate adequate and decreasing costs of capital and labor?
Generate adequate and increasing return on sales (ROS)?
Generate adequate and increasing return on quality (ROQ)?
Generate adequate and increasing return on marketing (ROM)?
Generate adequate and increasing return on assets (ROA)?
Generate adequate and increasing return on equity (ROI)?
Generate adequate and increasing return on investments (ROI)?
Generate adequate and increasing earnings per share (EPS)?
Generate adequate and increasing price/earnings ratio on stock (P/E)?
Generate adequate and increasing market evaluation of the firm (MV)?
Generate adequate and increasing Tobins Q ratio (= MV/replacement value of the assets)?

Assess the problem solution in terms of the consumer and social goals and objectives that the problem failed to
realize. Thus, does the problem resolution:
Generate adequate and increasing consumer satisfaction?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer total experience?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer loyalty?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer lifetime loyalty and value?

Identify the legal (e.g., OSHA, EPA, FDA, FEC, CPSC, and DOJ) ramifications of the best alternative.
Legality relates to compliance or noncompliance to existing laws that apply to the selected alternative.
Thus, does the problem resolution: (each question can serve as a verifiable hypothesis for further research)
Generate increasingly decreasing consumer complaints?
Generate increasingly decreasing producer deceptions?
Generate increasingly decreasing producer negligence?
Generate increasingly decreasing consumer product liability?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer redress when harmed?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer safety?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer privacy?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer quality of life?
Generate increasingly decreasing consumer theft and crime?

Identify the relevant ethical issues (e.g., privacy, consumer rights, justice, fairness, equity, wage inequalities,
unjust structures) with respect to the selected alternative.
Ethicality goes beyond law to mores, customs, ethical codes, international agreements and imperatives.
Thus, does the problem resolution:
Generate increasingly decreasing consumer oppression and injustice?
Generate adequate and increasing social ecology?
Generate adequate and increasing environmental development?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer ethics and morals?
Generate adequate and increasing corporate social responsibility?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer social responsibility?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer justice?
Generate adequate and increasing social justice?
Generate adequate and increasing consumer distributive justice?
Generate adequate and increasing social distributive justice?


Study the moral (e.g., conscience, compassion, human rights and dignity, natural rights and duties, respect for
life, religious freedom) dimensions of the chosen alternative.
Morality relates to natural and positive, rights and duties of all internal and external stakeholders.

Examine the spiritual (e.g., inner harmony and peace, worldview and path, faith in humanity, hope, love, trust,
personhood, sacred parenthood, self-sacrifice and generosity) dimensions of the selected alternative on all
Spirituality relates to uplifting and empowerment of the human spirit (personal and social) within and
without the organization. [See Steven Coveys Eighth Habit or Spiritual Intelligence (SQ). SQ
represents our drive for meaning and connection with the infinite. SQ is thinking with your soul. SQ
relates to the whole reality and dimension that is bigger, more creative, more loving, more powerful, more
visionary, and mysterious than the materialistic daily human existence]

Concluding Remarks
Two Schools of Thought
How do businesses advance knowledge, and create and capture value? Roger Martin argues that there are two
schools of thought responding to this question. One school of thought holds that the path to value creation lies
in driving out the old-fashioned practice of gut feelings and instincts, replacing it with strategy based on
rigorous, quantitative analysis, optimally backed by decision-support software. In this model, the basis of
thought is analytical thinking that combines deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning to declare truths and
certainties about the world. This model seeks knowledge and mastery through rigorous, continuously replicated
analytical processes. This model and the organizational culture that backs it privilege analysis over intuition
and mastery over originality. Judgment, bias, and variations are the enemies of this school of thought. If these
are vanquished, the school presumes, great decisions will be made and great value will be created.
The opposing school of thought is centered on the primacy of creativity and innovation. According to this
school analytical thinking has banished creativity, imagination and innovative management, has driven
creativity out of the product and services, and has doomed organizations to boring stultification. Great products
like iTunes, iPhones, Xbox, Dell, Intel and Toshiba spring from the heart and soul of a great designer (like Steve
Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Andy Moore); they are flashes and insights that surface, unencumbered by
analysis, quantitative research, survey designs or processes. This is the school of intuitive thinking, backed by
creativity, imagination, design thinking and innovation. This is the art of knowing without reasoning. This is
the world of originality and invention (Martin 2009: 6).
Table 4 captures the differences between these two opposing schools of thought. Neither analytical
thinking nor intuitive thinking is enough for driving innovations and capturing value. Instead of a dichotomous
approach to either analytical thinking that drives out intuition or intuitive thinking that drives out analysis,
Roger Martin (2009) proposes a combined approach that he calls design thinking for optimal business
performance. The most successful businesses in the years to come, argues Martin, will balance analytical
mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay of analytical reasoning and intuitive thinking. Design
thinking firms will stand apart in their willingness to engage in the task of continuously redesigning their
business. They will create advances in both innovation and efficiency the combination that produces the most
powerful competitive advantage.

A Taxonomy of Research Methods


All research needs focus: your research domain is either past/present or future, and your research focus is
problem versus non-problem orientation. Accordingly, we have a 2 x 2 research focus paradigm detailed in
Table 5. The predominant type and field of thinking within each of the resulting quadrants are also outlined in
Table 5. Both SIP and BCP involve problem centered research orientations, but their methodology is different.
SIP clearly falls in Quadrant One where the dominant method is Empirical Positivism (appeared in 1930s),
which is an inductive method characterized by the methodologies of empirical testability (verifiability/
falsifiability) via mostly quantitative Analysis. On the contrary, BCP falls under Quadrant Three where the
predominant method is Logical-Experimental, Experiential, and Hermeneutical Interpretationism (that has
emerged since 1995). Table 6 provides an historical development of research methods and their comparative
This methodology uses mixed methods qualitative and quantitative methods deductive-inductive methods
a multivariate approach that draws upon logic rather than probability embedded case studies that employ both
case design and survey design, and basic consulting research. Its dominant resource is social reality of data,
behavior, social interactions, narratives, oral traditions, and cultures. Its dominant inquiry is observing and
listening to people and registering their gestures, signs, symbols, proverbs, similes, parables, metaphors,
themes, humor, traditions and cultures; comparing peoples and their cultures. Its dominant outcomes are
engaging in different types of research practice methods are tools or lens (optics) to investigate several types
and kinds of research questions (See Table 6).

Appendix 3 suggests a structure for the SIP Report.

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Table 1: Market Uncertainty and Ambiguity and their Effect on Types of

Research Methodology
Nature of the Problem
State of Nature of the
State of Market
Variation Sequence
Typical Research

Typical Marketing
Research Questions

Typical HRM Research


Typical Financial
Research Questions

Types of Research

Descriptive Research

Causal Research

Ambiguous and
unstructured and
wicked Problems
Market Ambiguity

Uncertain or partially
defined Problems

Problems clearly defined,

explored and described

Market Uncertainty

Market Certainty

Problem formulations
and solutions are
Concomitant and
circular variation of
causes and effects
Explore plurality of
causes and effects
working concomitantly.

Problem formulations are

known but solutions are
Antecedent and sequential
variation of
Causes and effects
Describe and weed
spurious effects between
causes and sequential

Problem formulations and

solutions are known

Our sales are declining

and we do not know why.

What kinds of people are

buying our product? What
are their demographics?

Who would be interested

in our products?

What features do buyers

prefer in our product?

Is our labor force

suffering from chronic

What are the

demographics and
psychographics of our
labor force?
What are the situational
characteristics of our
declining worker safety

Why is our labor force

suffering from chronic malaise?

What are the

demographics and
psychographics of our
individual investors?
What are the situational
characteristics of our
eroding borrowing

What is ailing our investor

community and what are its

Judged by accidents our

worker safety conditions
are declining and we
dont know why?
Our stock prices are
plummeting downwards
and we cannot fathom
Our eroding borrowing
capacity will affect our
working capital for the
next two quarters and
what can we do about it?


Cause precedes effect linearly

Establish the appropriate causal
order or sequence of events;
measure the concomitant
variation between presumed
causes and the presumed effect;
recognize alternative plausible
explanations or causal
Given this price-quality
combination, will buyers
purchase more of our product,
repeat-buy, and be loyal?
Which of the two advertising
campaigns will be more
effective in generating sales
revenues and net profits?

Hence, what are the causes of

increasing accidents in the

Hence, what are the causes of

our decreasing working capital
and cash position?

Table 2: Problem Identification-Specification Stages

[See also Stryker (2001: 127)]

Domain of

Problem Specification by
Is not?


Who did it?

Who did not?


What did they do?


Where did they do it?


When did they do it?

With Whom?

With whom did they

do it?

What did they not

Where did they not
do it?
When did they not do
With whom did they
not do it?


How did they do it?

Problem Specification by
What is
What is
distinctive of
distinctive of
the Is?
the Is Not?


Why did they do it?

Why did they not do


What characterizes
those who did?
What characterizes
what they did?
What characterizes
where they did it?
What characterizes
when they did it?
What characterizes
with whom they did
What characterizes
how they did it?
What characterizes
how often they did
What characterizes
why they did it?


What is the problem?

What is not the


What characterizes
the problem?


What caused the


What did not cause

the Problem?

What characterizes
the cause that
caused the problem?


What caused the


What did not cause

the Problemconsequences?

What characterizes
the cause that
caused the problemconsequences?


What is a solution?

What is not a

What characterizes
the solutions?

How Often?

How often did they do


How did they not do

How often did they
not do it?


What characterizes
those who did not?
What characterizes
what they did not?
What characterizes
where they did it not?
What characterizes
when they did it not?
What characterizes
with whom they did
not do it?
What characterizes
how they did it not?
What characterizes
how often they did it
What characterizes
why they did it not?
What does not
characterize the
What does not
characterize the cause
that caused the
What does not
characterize the cause
that caused the
What does not
characterize the

Table 3: A Fourfold Typology of Critical Thinking

Take means
that are:

To Achieve
Right Ends or



Wrong Ends or Outcomes

Critical Thinking to Achieve:

Critical Thinking to Avoid:

Theory, Value and Wisdom

Spiritual Intelligence (SQ)




Fortitude, Courage
Compassion, Kindness
Fairness, Justice
Truth and Rectitude
Honesty and integrity
Balance and maturity

Collateral damage
Love to kill
Serve to dominate
Dieting to anorexia
Merger to kill competition
Acquisition to kill competition

Critical Thinking to Avoid:

Critical Thinking to Avoid:





Villains courage
Murderers fortitude
Preemptive war
Stealing to donate
Lie to save ones life
Losing to win

Avarice, greed
Verbal or physical violence
Coveting neighbors goods
Coveting neighbors spouse
Conspiracy and murder
Exploitation and oppression

Using this fourfold critical thinking paradigm, where and why would you classify the following properties or events,
and with what consequences?
Severance pay, retirement benefits, street smarts, jobs outsourcing to reduce costs, child labor, sweatshops,
employing illegal immigrants, transferring outmoded technologies, forced obsolescence, planned obsolescence,
artificial shortages, market gluts, downsizing to improve efficiency but creating ghost towns, bait and switch,
deceptive ads, deceptive contracts, dumping, price war, predatory pricing, insider trading, round trip sales,
underdisclosure in ads, information overload or overdisclosure in media, hostile takeover, mergers, divestitures,
acquisitions, plant closing, declaring insolvency or bankruptcy, executive compensation, greenmail, golden
parachutes, and bribing.

Table 4: Opposing Schools of Thought in relation Value Creation and

Capture in Organizations
Dimensions of

School of Analytical Thinking

School of Intuitive Thinking

Primary Goal

Mastery of knowledge and Decision making based

on rigorous quantitative analysis that can be
validated through replication

Inquiry into knowledge for originality and

inventions that empower explorations into decision
making based on creativity, intuition, imagination
and innovative thinking

Primary driver of
value creation

Analysis and analytical thinking;

Logic of explanation, prediction and control

Intuition and intuitive thinking;

Originality and creative thinking


Deductive and inductive reasoning as the source

of truth and certainty


Linear quantitative numerical data analysis

backed by analytical software (e.g., SPSS, Excel);
hence heavily based on past data, well groomed
and loyal leaders; no movers and shakers.


Hierarchical, vertical, top-down, resistance to

change, preferring status quo
They can build size and scale, enjoy low risk, rely
on the tried and true, reduced bias, reduced
variation, less judgments, safety and security of
incremental innovations

The art of knowing without deductive-inductive

reasoning, but through intuition, insights,
imagination and design thinking
Circular, qualitative, non-numerical synthesis based
on gut feelings, instincts, emotions, intuitions,
experimentation, imagination, etc.; hence heavily
based on understanding and predicting the future
this school never systematizes what it does; it waxes
and wanes with individual intuitive leaders.
Democratic, horizontal, down-up, ever-adapting and
resilient to change
Innovations may come fast and furiously with many
market breakthroughs, technological breakthroughs,
radical innovations, disruptive innovations, catalytic
innovations, growth and longevity representing as
tremendous challenges


Organizational rigidity, stagnancy, status quo,

shunning risk and ambiguity and thereby
forfeiting opportunities,

Organizational over-flexibility and resilience, too

forward looking, over risk prone, indulging in
uncertainties and ambiguities,

Much sought
after outcomes

Analytical mastery via tried and proven

Intuitive originality via untried and unanalyzed

truths, doctrines, dogmas, certainties, norms,

standards, rules and routines that stabilize
decision making and minimize risk, reduce
uncertainty and ambiguity.

flashes of insights, intuitions, discoveries, creations,

imaginations, designs, and experimentations that
empower strategic decision making that, in turn,
capitalize on risk and uncertainty, ambiguity and
ambivalence, economic chaos and market


Decentralization, democracy, bias, judgment, risk,

uncertainty, ambiguity, ambivalence, conflicts,
economic chaos, financial crisis, market

Centralization, hierarchies, imposed truths, dogmas,

certainties, absolutes, routines, best practices,
traditions, norms, rigid rules, discipline, and control,


Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Exxon, most US

and UK banks, most Indian nationalized banks,

GE, IBM, P&G, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Sony, Sun

Microsystems, Toyota, Toshiba, Honda, Nokia, Tata
Motors, Infosys, Wipro,

products and

Most US and UK Governments and

bureaucracies; USA domestic auto products such
as Ford, M and Chrysler vehicles, most USA, UK
and Indian universities, most USA, UK and
Indian MBA programs,
Conservative, static, linear, occasionally regressive

Most West and East European governments and

universities (e.g., Germany, France, Switzerland,
Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland), West
European cars (BMW, Mercedes), Japanese cars and
laptops, Korean Cars, Chinese computers
Progressive, dynamic, spiral, prospective, forging,

Future Prospects




Table 5: A Taxonomy of Research Inquiries

Domain of Research

Past and

Non-Problem Centered:

Anomaly Centered;
Knowledge-gap centered;
Technology-gap centered

Innovation centered;
Design thinking centered

Methodology of

Empirically Testable, Verifiable,

Quantitative Analysis

Logic of

Judgmental Thinking Process:

Investigative Thinking Process:

Seeking Explanation,
Prediction and Control
of Phenomena,
anomalies, conflicts,
truth, laws, norms,
principles, rules and
standards discovered
through the Logic of

Problem identification,
Problem description,
Problem definition,
Problem formulation,
Problem specification,
Best solution selection,
Best theory selection,
Best law-like generalization,
Best truth/norm/mores selection,
Problem reformulation,

Intuition, insights,
Discussion, discernment,
Hindsight research,
Demographic analysis,
Economic analysis,
Sociographic analysis,
Psychographic analysis,
Ergographic analysis,
Ethnographic analysis,
Clicographic analysis,
Chirographic analysis,
Anthropological analysis,
Consensual analysis,
Retrospective analysis

Critical Thinking

Design Thinking

Critical thinking research,

Global values enhancement thinking,
Global systems research thinking,
Global scarce-resources research,
Global energy conservation thinking,
Ecological thinking research,
Sustainability research thinking,
Global poverty eradication thinking,
Pandemic disease eradication thinking,
Global injustices elimination thinking,
Global terrorism eradication thinking,
Global hunger prevention thinking,
Global illiteracy eradication thinking,
Global school reformation thinking,
Global research university thinking,
Global healthcare research thinking,
Global peace research thinking,
Global racial harmony research
Global optimal futures thinking

Creative thinking,
Imaginative thinking,
Innovative thinking,
Productive thinking,
Divergent thinking,
Lateral thinking,
New paradigm thinking,
New design thinking,
New methods thinking,
New methodology thinking,
Radical innovative thinking,
Disruptive innovative thinking,
Catalytic innovative thinking,
New process thinking,
New product thinking,
New services thinking,
New markets thinking,
New challenges thinking,

Logic of



Seeking new lands, new

elements, new laws,
rules and standards,
new formulae, new
products & services,
new processes &
procedures, new
explanations, new
theories, new
paradigms, new
knowledge, new laws,
norms, principles, rules
and standards

Logical Empiricism:


Experimentation and
Certifiable, Agreeable,
Acceptable: Mostly Qualitative Analysis

Table 6: A Chronological Survey of Research Methods and Methodologies

Time Period/
Philosophy of
Social Science


Dominant Resource

Dominant Inquiry


(The Vienna

Formal syllogistic
logic, critical
observation and
the analytic critical

Philosophical, scientific and

mathematical statements
and other law-like

The purpose of philosophy is the

logical clarification of thoughts
and language; hence philosophy
is not a theory or a science but
an activity through which the
meaning of different statements
is revealed or determined.

Philosophy not as a
system of cognitions
and propositions, but
as a system of acts and


statistical methods
the Inductive Method
Survey Designseeking explanation,
prediction and
methods the
method Case study
of behavior

Numerical data, attitudinal

data, satisfaction data, fieldsurvey data; explication
scientific laws; Seeking data
for Survey research,
hypotheses formulation and

The purpose of science is to

discover and justify laws that
explain and predict real-world
Emphasis on justification,
objectification, replication, and


Text data, script data, voice

data, sound data, color data,
image data, sign data,
symbolic data, gestural
data, perceptual data,
emotions data, feelings data,
beliefs data, graphics data,
strategy data, decisions
data, action data,
implementation data,
narrative data

Observing people for behavioral

research, hypotheses
formulation and verification.

data- to-Theory

Emphasis on experience and

subjectivity (postmodernism).

Biography, sociogeography, and

Mixed methods
qualitative and
quantitative methods
methods a
approach that draws
upon logic rather
than probability
embedded case
studies that employ
both case design and
survey design; basic
consulting research.

Social reality of data,

behavior, social interactions,
narratives, oral traditions,
and cultures.

Observing and listening to

people and their gestures, signs,
symbols, metaphors, themes,
cultures and humor; comparing
peoples and their cultures.
Engaging in different types of
research practice methods are
tools or lens (optics) to
investigate several types and
kinds of research questions

Behavioral Data- toTheory-to-Grand

Case studies and
approaches to explain
the human

Analytical, synthetic,
interpretive methods

Social media (e.g., blogs,

YouTube, twitters,
Facebook): content
creation, content sharing,
content diffusion, content

and Investigation


2006 Social
Phenomenological Research

Demography, sociography and ergography

Phenomenology, social
constructionism, socialepistemology and


Content analysis,
Conversation analysis, Narrative
analysis, Graphics analysis,
Value analysis
Event analysis

Culture of advocacy,
and globalization

Appendix 1: Industry and Market Scanning Frameworks

Type of



Typical Scanning Domain Questions


What is the industry? What are its content, markets, and trade centers?
Is the industry a capital-intensive versus labor-intensive industry?
Is it a monopolistic versus duopolistic industry?
Is it an oligopolistic versus perfectly competitive industry?
Does it have pockets of industrial concentration?
What are the relevant cross-industries?
What industries does it depend upon for its trade or operations?
Is it a homogenous or heterogeneous industry?
Is it an old or versus new industry?
Is it a growing versus slowing or stagnant industry?
Is it an expanding or contracting industry?
Is it a divergent versus convergent industry?
Is it an inflationary or recessionary industry?
Is it an underutilized versus over-utilized industry?
Is it a regulated versus deregulated industry?
Is it a centralized versus decentralized industry?
Is it a domestic dominated industry or globally controlled industry?
Is it a corruption-free versus corruption-ridden industry?
Is it known for corporate fraud or corporate honesty?
Are the industry operations transparent versus opaque and deceptive?
Is there an industry ethics code or industry mores?


What is the market? What are its contents, retail structures, and trade centers?
What is the market structure in terms of major competitors?
What is the market structure in terms of major market entry barriers?
What is the market structure in terms of competing design brands?
What is the market structure in terms of line extensions, me-too products?
What is the market structure in terms of product categories?
What is the market structure in terms of product accessories or supplements?
What is the market structure in terms of product substitutes?
What is the market structure in terms of promotions and media planning?
What is the market structure in terms of product prices and price regimes?
What is the price structure in terms of price cartels or collusions?
What is the market structure in terms of discount prices?
What is the market structure in terms of product-price bundles?
What is the market structure in terms of consumer credit?
What is the market structure in terms of product financing schemes?
What is the market structure in terms of product gluts, if any?
What is the market structure in terms of product dumping?
What is the market structure in terms of product warranties and guarantees?
What is the market structure in terms of product complaints and feedback?
What is the market structure in terms of product-consumer redress?
What is the market structure in terms of domestic regulation and legislation?
What is the market structure in terms of domestic foreign regulation and legislation?
What is the market structure in terms of foreign markets?
What is the market structure in terms of foreign trade zones?
What is the market structure in terms of multinational players?
What is the market structure in terms of globalization?
What is the market structure in terms of Internet markets or online markets?


Appendix 2: Product and Customer Scanning Frameworks

Type of



Typical Scanning Domain Questions


What is the product structure in terms of new product ideation?

What is the product structure in terms of new product concepts?
What is the product structure in terms of new product prototypes?
What is the product structure in terms of new product designs?
What is the product structure in terms of new product materials supply?
What is the product structure in terms of new product parts?
What is the product structure in terms of new product components?
What is the product structure in terms of new product form, size and texture?
What is the product structure in terms of new product prototype testing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product ad-testing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product pretest marketing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product test-city marketing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product premium pricing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product penetration pricing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product discount pricing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product packaging?
What is the product structure in terms of new product-price bundling?
What is the product structure in terms of new product cannibalization?
What is the product structure in terms of new product obsolescence?
What is the product structure in terms of new product defect liability?
What is the product structure in terms of new product safety & security?
What is the product structure in terms of new product service?
What is the product structure in terms of new product complaints handling?
What is the product structure in terms of new product retailing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product consumer-financing?
What is the product structure in terms of new product consumer credit?
What is the product structure in terms of new product warranties & guarantees?
What is the product structure in terms of product return or exchange or refund policy?


Who is a typical consumer, customer or client for this product/service?

Is there a definite customer segment, market niche, or target market?
What are the typical demographics (e.g., age, gender, and race) of this target market?
What are the typical sociographics (e.g., income, occupation) of this target market?
What are the typical lifestyle psychographics of this target market?
What are the typical ergographics (i.e., work, work schedules, workplace, workpatterns) of this target market?
What are the typical chirographics (e.g., celebratory events) of this target market?
What are the typical clicographics (e.g., Web-search, web-visiting, web-marketing) of
this target market?
What are the typical cultural-graphics (e.g., religion, hobbies, leisure-products,
entertainment channels, vacation-patterns) of this target market?
What are the typical shopping-graphics (e.g., what, where, when, how, how often, with
whom do they shop) of this target market?
What are the typical financing-graphics (e.g., do they buy against cash, credit, credit
cards, debit cards, consumer financing) of this target market?
What are the typical complaint-graphics (e.g., positive versus negative feedback, wordof-mouth, litigious versus plea-bargaining) of this target market?
What are the consumer-involvement graphics (e.g., brand communities, co-designing,
co-production, co-marketing, co-promotions, co-pricing, and co-product-bundling) of
this target market?



Appendix 3: A Suggested Structure for the SIP Report

Chapter #


Major Contents


Draw a bullet-point summary

of major findings from your
SIP that will be useful to the
The Importance of the Problem

Summarize only your findings based on your

questionnaire design, primary and secondary data
collection, data analysis and objective inferencing. What
are your major recommendations to the organization.
Describe and investigate the genesis, urgency, uniqueness,
critical benefits, intended purpose of the research
problem, and the desired outcomes
Is the problem market related? Product related? Legality
related? Environment related?
Is it upstream, or midstream or downstream value-chain
innovation related, either at the corporate level (Set A) or
at the divisional/functional level (Set B)?
Which industry or cross industry does it belong and why?
Do some industry scanning to define the problem better.
Identify and define controllable versus uncontrollable
variables from the companys perspective, and from the
target customers perspective.
Do some competitor scanning, market scanning, legal
environment scanning and global scanning in order to
formulate your problem better.
Explore, examine and understand the relationships
(actual and potential) between your controllable
variables, between your uncontrollable variables, and
between your controllable and uncontrollable variables..
Hence, do some variables scanning in the form of product
scanning and customer scamming to specify your problem





Describe, identify, classify and

define the Problem



Identify the controllable and

uncontrollable variables that
constitute the problem



Describe, identify and specify

relationships between variables
that constitute the problem





and Data




Given problem identification,

formulation and specification,
now investigate various
problem-resolution alternatives
that might have occurred
during the previous three steps.
Certain hypotheses are made,
in this regard, and verified, and
accordingly, problemresolution alternatives assessed.
Based on feasibility, viability,
economic desirability, legality,
ethicality and morality, the best
problem-resolution among all
alternatives resolutions is

Problem resolution alternatives relate primarily to

uncontrollable variables that involve competition,
uncertainty or turbulent markets, economic chaos, new
regulatory challenges, new market and new product
development opportunities, etc..
Frame proper solution-hypotheses regarding their
relative merits and based on theory design a concise,
precise and unequivocal questionnaire to verify the
hypotheses. Collect and analyze data using statistical

Based on observation-experimentation or solutionhypothesis verification results from the previous step, we

should be able to select or elect the best resolution
alternative to the original problem we started with. We
also assess the consequences of the best solution selected,
especially in relation to the externalities on all
stakeholders of the firm.
Limitations & Indicate SIP limitations and Objectively analyze strengths and weaknesses of your
SIP. Suggest directions for further research to minimize
research Directions for the
weaknesses or strengthen the results. Highlight major
findings and their consequences in your concluding
Append complete references used in your SIP by alphabetically listed authors, year of publication, titles of
books or articles, publisher details; dates in case of newspaper or news magazines.
Include here properly numbered and referenced Figures, Charts, Tables, Exhibits, Appendices, Timelines, and
other out materials that support and supplement your SIP text.


Appendix 4: On Survey & Questionnaire Designing for Primary Data Collection

The purpose of survey research is to collect relevant primary data data designed, gathered and assembled
specifically for the (summer research) project at hand. The growth of survey research is related to the simple idea
that to find out what consumers think, you need to ask them. Surveys require asking people (called respondents) for
relevant information important for the SIP using either verbal or written questions. We can collect survey data
either through questionnaires or interviews, which can be done through mail, the telephone, the Internet, or face-toface. The more formal term sample survey refers to the information collected from a random and representative
sample of the target population.
The type of information gathered through surveys varies considerably depending upon business objectives.
Typically market surveys describe what is happening in the market and why it happens. Most market surveys
involve clients, customers and consumers, while some also involve industrial buyers, wholesalers and retailers.
Consumer market surveys relate often to attitudes of target market customers or their purchasing patterns or their
reactions to promotions and advertising campaigns. Most market surveys are descriptive and hence, most market
survey research is essentially descriptive research. However, during the last 50 years or so, survey research
techniques and standards using some quantitative tools (e.g., SPSS, Amos) have become quite scientific and
accurate. When properly conducted some survey research may enable the researchers to derive causal explanations
of certain market phenomena.

Errors in Survey Research

Two major sources of survey errors are random sampling errors and systematic errors. Random sampling errors
are statistical fluctuations that occur because of chance variations in the elements selected for a sample. These are
mostly unavoidable. Large sample sizes can minimize or obviate the effect of such errors. However, there are
scientific methods for estimating such random sampling errors.
Systematic errors or bias result from some imperfect aspect of research designs or from the execution of survey
designs. Systematic errors can come from respondent errors or from administrative errors. Respondent errors, in
turn, are either non-response errors (errors of inaction) or arise from response bias (wrong respondent action).
Response bias arises from either deliberate falsification or from unconscious misrepresentation. Both sources of
response bias could lead to: a) acquiescence bias, b) extremity bias, c) interviewer bias, d) auspices bias, and e)
social desirability bias. Appendix 4, Table 1 captures the normal taxonomy of research design errors.
We have several scientific statistical methods for estimating and reducing sampling errors using confidence
intervals. A standard course or text book on Social Research Methodology would cover these techniques in detail.
The techniques of estimating and reducing non-sampling or systematic errors are less precise. For instance, a good
research design will reduce the errors of wrongly defining the research problem, and a good questionnaire design
will reduce errors of response bias.

Questionnaire Design
Given the nature of the research problem, you must first decide what type of survey research method you will use
among several known methods: e.g., door-to-door personal interviews, focused group interviews, telephone
interviews, computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI), internet interviews, e-mail surveys, self-administered
mail or internet interviews, shopping mall intercept interviews, electronic kiosk-based self-administered
questionnaire, and the like. Each survey research method has its own costs and benefits, advantages and
disadvantages, limitations and structures. Common concerns across all survey research methods are anonymity,
confidentiality, respondent safety and security, respondent privacy, time and space invasion, threatening or
discomforting questions, interviewer intrusions and compulsions, questionnaire length and complexity, question or
statement ambiguity, non-representative or over-representative samples, respondent non-cooperation, and the like.
Some of these concerns are captured in Appendix 4, Table 2.


A survey is only as good as the questions it asks. Questionnaire (QQ) design is one of the most critical stages in the
market survey research process. The art of QQ design needs much more than common sense, good grammar, and
good vocabulary. Relevance and accuracy are two basic criteria every QQ should meet. People must understand
the questions asked. Assuming that people will understand the questions asked in a QQ is a common researcher
error. A QQ is relevant if no unnecessary information is collected and only the information needed to resolve the
research problem is obtained. Hence, be specific about your data/information needs and have a rationale for each
item of information you seek. A QQ is accurate if the information obtained is reliable and valid. Hence, ask the
necessary information using simple, understandable, unbiased, unambiguous, unequivocal, and non-irritating
words. Design your QQ (e.g., structure, sequence, wording, length of items) such that you facilitate respondent
interest, motivation, cooperation and easy recall.

What to ask?
Basically, three factors determine what you ask?


Given your clear SIP problem identification, classification, definition, formulation, specification, now
determine what information you need to ask from the target audience in order to make the problem
identification, classification, definition, formulation, specification, and alternatives investigation
clearer, more focused, and to better realize your research objectives.
Further, your choice of survey method in terms of personal interview, mall intercept, telephone
interview, mail self-administered QQ, or Internet survey, will further determine what, whom, how,
when, where, and why to ask certain questions and to avoid others.
Thirdly, the type of quantitative versus qualitative data analysis you plan to pursue will also partly
determine what you ask and observe, and under what numeric or alphanumeric form.

How should questions be phrased?

Based on the amount of freedom respondents have in answering, there are two basic types of phrasing questions:
Open-ended Response versus Fixed-Alternatives questions. In open-ended questions, the researcher poses a
problem or a topic and requests the respondents to answer in their own words. For instance, in a personal interview
you may ask the respondent:

What do you know about Pepsi as a company?

What do you think about Pepsi brands?
What comes to mind when you see this Pepsi advertisement?
What would you suggest that Pepsi do for the coming year?

Open-ended response questions are free-answer questions. These are most beneficial in conducting exploratory
research, especially when the range of responses is not known. Open-ended responses may generate spontaneous
reactions and words and expressions that you could use in phrasing questions for the final close-ended
questionnaire. In contrast, the close-ended fixed alternative versions of the above questions are:

What do you know about Pepsi as a company? Very much [ ]; Average [ ]; Almost nothing [ ].
What do you think about Pepsi brands? Very good [ ]; Average reputation [ ]; almost unheard of [ ].
What comes to mind when you see this Pepsi advertisement? Superb [ ]; Average [ ]; Terrible [ ].
What would you suggest that Pepsi do for the coming year? Develop more brands [ ]; Stay as you are [ ].

Of course, close ended questions can be expressed in many ways, depending upon:

The typical scale measurement used (e.g., simple attitude scales, category scales, the Likert scale, semantic
differential scale, numerical scales, staple scales, constant-sum scales, graphic ratings scale, Thurstone
Interval scale, and so on). Much would also depend upon the measurement type (e.g., ranking, sorting,
rating, labeling, comparing) used.


If the QQ is based on a theoretical construct (e.g., worker satisfaction, product loyalty, total customer
experience), then the question items asked must be consistent, comprehensive and logical such that the
construct scale that emerges has both reliability (e.g., high Cronbachs alpha) and scientific validity (face
and content validity, criterion and construct validity, discriminant and convergent validity, and
nomological validity).

The means of data collection (e.g., telephone interview, personal interview, self-administered QQ) will
influence the question format and question phrasing. In general, question items for mail, Internet, and
telephone surveys must be less complex than those used for personal interviews. QQs for telephone and
personal interviews should be written in a conversational style.

The Art of Asking Questions

Research experience provides some guidelines that can help you avoid some common mistakes.

Words used in a QQ should be readily understandable to all respondents.

In general, use the every-day simple conversational language of the people (without talking-down to
better educated respondents). Most of your respondents would not have gone to college.
Hence avoid technical jargon such as brand image, brand equity, marginal cost, brand positioning, and
the like. Simplify or paraphrase them if you have to use these terms.
Avoid leading or biasing questions. They contain researcher bias. Leading questions suggest or imply a
certain answer. Examples: Carbon emissions are increasing these days. Dont you agree? India is the
most corrupt country in the world: do you deny? Do you think that patriotic Indians should buy
imported cars when that would put Indians out of work?
Avoid loaded questions. They also contain researcher bias. Loaded questions suggest a socially desirable
answer or are emotionally charged. Examples: In the wake of todays global financial crisis, India is
suffering the most: do what extent has your company suffered? Intelligent people can see meaning and
opportunity in today economic chaos: Do you? Most of our MBA students are rank holders. What
rank did you get and when and in which subjects? These are sensitive questions, which if forced, the
respondents may give biased or untrue answers, especially during personal interviews. If you have to
ask them, ask them at the end of the QQ. By then, initial mistrust has been overcome, rapport has been
created, and the legitimacy of the research project might have been established, and respondents may
be more willing to share delicate information.
Avoid asking unnecessary and embarrassing questions: Do not ask questions that do not relate directly
to your research problem. Embarrassing questions such as: How often do you beat your wife? How
often were you caught for drunken driving last year? When did you last go to Church? and the like,
are mostly unnecessary and very burdensome to answer.
Avoid double-barreled items: These are questions containing too many issues, such as: How do you feel
and about being a St. Aloysius student? [One this is to feel and another is being a AIMIT student;
which do you want to know?] Wholesalers and retailers are responsible for the high cost of meat: Do
you agree? [The respondent may agree with respect to wholesalers, but not retailers or vice versa!]
When multiple questions are asked in one question, aggregation problems arise, and the researcher
may find it difficult to interpret as to what the respondent is responding to.
Avoid making implicit assumptions: Consider the question: should Macys continue its excellent giftwrapping program? [Here you assume that gift-wrapping program is excellent in itself; a yes answer
could mean that the assumption is true, or that Macys should continue with the gift-wrapping
program; similarly, a no would mean a no to both]. Take a macroeconomics question: Are you in
favor of a balanced budget? versus Are you in favor of a balanced budget if it would result in an
increase in the personal income tax? Implicit in the first question are various means balanced budget
can be brought about (e.g., cut in defense expenditures thus jeopardizing national security, cut in social
programs thus increasing poverty). Question two avoids these implicit assumptions and clearly states
them (Malhotra and Dash 2009: 313).


Avoid Implicit Alternatives: An alternative that is not explicitly expressed among the options is an
implicit alternative. Making an implicit alternative explicit may increase accuracy and percentage of
responses. For instance compare these two questions: Do you like to fly when traveling short
distances? Versus Do you like to fly when traveling short distances, or would you rather drive? The
second question makes an implicit alternative (of question 1) explicit, and hence, the first question
would yield a greater preference for flying than the second question. When alternatives presented are
large in number, the alternatives at the end of the list have a greater chance of being selected. To
overcome this bias, the split ballot technique of rotating the order of alternatives should be used.

Avoid generalizations and estimates: Make questions specific, not general. Do not ask respondents to
estimate complex variables when you can do it as a researcher. Example: What is the annual per capita
expenditure on groceries in your household? To answer this accurately, a respondent would have to
recall monthly average groceries expenses and multiply by 12, or weekly groceries expenses and
multiply by 52, and then divide that number by the number of people in the household. Most
respondents do not like calculations nor are capable and accurate for doing them. Instead ask two
simple questions: What is the weekly (or monthly) expenditure on groceries in your household? How
many members are there in your household? You may then perform the necessary calculations yourself
(Malhotra and Dash 2009: 313-14.

Avoid ambiguous words and questions: We often use general words in questions such as often,
occasionally, regularly, frequently, many, good, fair, poor, and the like that may have different
meanings to different people. For instance: Do you read Forbes India frequently? [What is frequently:
twice, thrice, five, eight, or ten times a year?] A less ambiguous question would be: How many times
during a year do you read Forbes India? Or, Please indicate the number of times you read Forbes India
in a given year: 1-3 times [ ]; 4-6 times [ ]; 7-9 times [ ]; 10-12 times [ ].

Avoid burdensome questions: Some questions tax the memory too much. For instance: How many times
in your life did you fail to file for taxes? Do you recall auto commercials in the last IPL game? When
did you take your last aspirin?
Use filter questions for clarity: A filter screens out respondents not qualified to answer the sequential
questions. Thus, a filter minimizes asking non-applicable questions. For instance: Do you have a bank
account? If yes: Do you have check-cashing problems in Mangalore? If yes: Are these checkcashing problems to a specific bank in Mangalore? [The first two are sequential filter questions that
prepare the respondent for the more specific third question].

Ask questions about which the respondents are informed: Researchers should not assume that
respondents can provide accurate and complete answers to all questions. Often respondents may not be
informed, may not remember, or be unable to articulate certain types of responses. For instance, a
husband (whose wife does all grocery shopping) may not know or remember what brand, how often,
what quantity, and when soft drinks are bought for home use. Similarly, a wife (whose husband does
all the banking chores) may not be informed about or remember when the last check bounced or an
interest payment was overdue or a utility bill paid through the bank was overpaid.

Avoid the errors of omission, telescoping and creation: Omission is the inability to recall an event that actually
took place. Telescoping takes place when an individual compresses or telescopes time by remembering an event as
occurring more recently than it actually occurred. Creation error takes place when a respondent creates or
fabricates an event that did not actually occur. Example: What brands of soft drinks do you remember being
advertised last night on TV during the IPL Cricket game? An unaided recall to answer this question may suffer from
all three errors.

Concluding Remarks:
Check the format, layout, spacing and positioning, length and clarity of your QQ design. See Appendix 4, Table 3
for a complete QQ design checklist. All these factors have significant effect on your results, especially for self38

administered QQs. Print your QQ and check for spelling, grammar, punctuations, vocabulary, clarity and
interest. Get your companions or mentor to critique it. Pretest the QQ on a convenient sample of the target


Appendix 4: Table 1: Errors in Market Survey Research

Total Error

Type of Errors


Source of

Sub-types of

fluctuations in
elements selected
for a sample



Deliberate or
omission or inaction

Specification of Errors

Several ways non-response errors

may arise (e.g., the respondent is

not at home, or too busy to

respond; selective denial to
respond using called ID)
Acquiescence Bias

falsification or

Response Bias

Extremity Bias: Self-selection bias:

People who feel strongly about an
issue are more likely to respond to
survey questions these can easily
over-represent extreme positions.
Interviewer Bias

Errors or Bias

Auspices Bias
Social Desirability Bias


Data Processing

Wrong software

Software errors

Sample Selection

Biased sample

Planned sample selection to match

expected results


Deliberate or

Wrong recording or faulty coding


respondents or

Manipulating responses or
doctoring data or filling empty
spaces deliberately skipped


Appendix 4, Table 2: Advantages and Disadvantages of Typical Survey Methods

[See also Zikmund, William G. (2003: 240) Exploring Marketing Research, Thompson South-Western]
Speed of Data


Mall Intercept


Moderate to


Very fast






Moderate to






Probing by




could be used


Mail Survey

Internet Survey

Slow as researcher has

no direct control over
return of QQ

Instantaneous 24/7

Varies upon the dynamics

of website and fast
ubiquitous connectivity
Extremely versatile

Moderate to

Moderate: poorly
designed QQ will have
low response rate
Not versatile; QQ
requires highly
standardized format
Low unless through

Taped voices

Graphics besides text

Could be long

materials could
be used
moderately but


Varies upon incentive


Item Non-response








Influence on




High since there is no

interviewer present for
None as interviewer is

Instantaneous and depth

probing when
interact and share
Audio-VideoSoundSurround and Animation
via streaming media
software could be used
Moderate depending
upon user friendly and
interesting QQ
Depends upon interactive
High, unless software
prevents or warns
None unless interviewer


Moderate to

Not applicable

Not applicable

Call-back or
Follow-up Ease


Very difficult

High if
taps phones




Moderate to
Low given open

Low to

Easy via reminders, but

takes time

High when not

intercepted by
third parties



High unless
mall environment is not

Easy unless email address

is not known
Low other than set-up
High unless the
respondent prefers



Low: respondents can

block cooperation




Low to moderate

High unless respondents

are fraud-conscious





High and worldwide


Appendix 4: Table 3: A Questionnaire (QQ) Design Checklist

[See also Malhotra and Dash (2009: 321-22)]

Specify the
information needed

Specify the
Determine the
content of individual

Things to be done or checked

Ensure that the information to be obtained addresses all the components of the research
Hence, review components of the problem and the approach, particularly the research
questions, hypotheses, and he information needed.
Have a clear idea of the target population.
Based on the type of research problem and the information required, determine if you would
need a personal structured interview, a mall intercept, a telephone interview, a mailed selfadministered QQ, or an Internet survey. See Appendix 4: Table 2.
Is the question necessary, embarrassing, sensitive, too general, asking for too much, double
barreled, leading, loaded, ?
Make the information you seek legitimate and justified to the respondent by a proper
introduction of your company, research problem, QQ design and your role.

Simplify and
motivate the QQ

Is the respondent adequately informed about what you are looking for?
If the required information is sensitive and important, then are several sequential and filter
questions needed to obtain the required information in an unambiguous manner?
Can the respondent remember and recall with ease?
Avoid the errors of omission, telescoping and creation.
Can the respondent articulate the required information?
Is the information sensitive? If so, place such questions at the end, and preface the questions
with an explanation and justification. Provide for response categories instead of asking for
specific figures.

Decide the question


Determine the
question wording

Determine the
question order


Identify the form

and the layout
Reproduce the QQ


Pretest the QQ

Open-ended questions are useful in exploratory research.

Use structured questions whenever possible: all multiple choices should MECE.
In dichotomous questions allow a neutral position if a major portion of the target sample would
choose that position.
Rotate choices (or use split ballot technique) to avoid order bias.
When response alternatives are too numerous, divide in them into two or more questions.
Define the what, who, when, where, why, with whom, how often of the issue.
Use ordinary words to match the vocabulary of the majority of respondents.
Avoid leading, loaded, and ambiguous questions.
Avoid implicit assumptions and implicit alternatives.
Avoid generalizations and avoid forcing respondents to make complicated estimates.
Use a balance of positive and negative statements.
The opening questions should be simple, interesting and non-threatening.
Respondent qualifying questions should be part of the opening questions.
Ask questions in a logical order.
Branching questions should be designed carefully as MECE and close to each other.
Seek basic information first, followed by classifying, and identification information.
General questions should precede specific questions.
Place difficult, sensitive and complex questions at the end.
Divide the QQ into several meaningful parts, and number questions under each part.
Pre-code the QQ.
The QQ should have a professional appearance; lengthy QQ should be put to a book format.
Use vertical response columns.
Use matrix grid format when many related questions use the same set of response categories.
Do not crowd the QQ to make it look shorter.
Introduce or explain complex questions just before the question,
Pretesting (sample size 15-30) should precede finalizing the actual QQ.
Pretest all aspects of the QQ: form, layout, content, wording, sequence, order, and instructions.
Pretest respondents should be similar to those in the target audience.
Begin pretest by personal interviews; use also mail and telephone, if those methods are used.
Multiple pretests may be necessary for complex research problems and complex QQs.