St. Norbert researchers analyzing growth strategies to manage risk

Jamie Lynch, a researcher at St. Norbert College in De Pere, is working to demystify the process of business growth to better control risk.

“The argument here is simple,” Lynch said yesterday at KinnektorCon, a conference held in Appleton focused on startups, innovation and investment. “Our collaborative goal is to reduce risk by defining the terms and providing new intelligence for ideas that are already there, providing new insight into looking at the current market.”

He compares the current business climate with the field of human health in 1930, when there was no classification for obesity so little was done about it.

“Over the next 20 years or so, we started to understand that obesity was a risk, and from that we developed improved advice on how to cure obesity and manage it,” he said. “We also generated a $60 billion diet industry that was associated with this risk profile.”

In much the same way, the research project seeks to identify opportunities for business growth improvement that already exist, but aren’t yet understood. Researchers are relying on data from Wisconsin businesses to map “clear patterns in business for growth,” that haven’t been identified before.

“If we can identify the risk factors, change the language around risk so that we can control it and understand it, then we’ll be able to reduce the incidence of failure dramatically,” he said. “We’re just in the beginning stages of that.”

This research project is being undertaken in partnership with Aurora WDC, a global research and technology company. Researchers from Aurora WDC and St. Norbert are trying to “reverse engineer best practices” using data from other businesses that have successfully brought new products to market.

Arik Johnson, the company’s founder and chairman, has been studying market factors for over 13 years. For this project, his work incorporates elements of disruptive innovation theory and competitive intelligence doctrine. Johnson says that second school of thought came into play in the 1980s and 1990s when corporate America was experiencing explosive growth.

“We were coping with offshore competition that we couldn’t understand… We couldn’t understand how they could make products that were just as good or better than ours, and sell it for 10 cents on the dollar,” he said. “So that was a lot of the impetus behind trying to figure out how disruption works.”

The eventual goal of this project is to create an index with insight and statistics that other businesses can use to shape their own strategies.

–By Alex Moe