Interview with Jan Frick
Professor, Business School, University of Stavanger, Norway.
Keywords: Technology, lean management, entrepreneurship, startups, organisational learning, SMEs.
How to reference this article: Frick, J., 2022, How research supports business, Entrepreneurial Mindset Network, accessed [insert date], <www.e-star.academy/transfer-knowledge/jan-frick>.
First published in 2022 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 5 no 2.
How has your research evolved from the 1990s until today?
I started out with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering in 1980 and my first job was as a Researcher at SINTEF, one of Europe's largest research organisations, with multidisciplinary expertise in the fields of technology, the natural sciences and the social sciences. My next job was as a Researcher at the International Research Institute of Stavanger(formerly known as Rogalandsforskning.) My research interests at this early stage in my career were based on an assumption that technology and computers could improve the competitiveness of companies.
I defended my PhD in 1990 and started working at the business school of what became the University of Stavanger. The focus of my research shifted to using IT tools to simulate business processes so as to better understand competitiveness and economic results. In turn, this developed my interest in Lean Management and Entrepreneurship.
In 2003, a friend and I saw a business opportunity, made a business plan, went to the bank for loan, and started a ski resort. Nearly 20 years later, we have survived the ups and downs, and have a successful all-season resort. This experience has developed my research to focus more on the context, risk, and balance between income and expenses.
The world has developed as well. IT systems are close to deliver what sales persons talked about in early 80ies regarding what CIM systems could do, and competence level in most companies are significantly better. I was also at MIT in Boston following the Disciplined Entrepreneurship (by Bill Aulet) and together with the resort, it has made an impact: startups and company development as we used to do was often based on technology push (as Schumpeter ) but DE insist that one should start finding a market and develop based on who would be paying. So the right mindset would be a balance of technological opportunities together with market opportunities.
Image credit: Pixabay
What are the key research questions that continue to interest you?
Before the pandemic (and petroleum price in 2015) many companies behaved as if their surroundings were stable even if they were not. Now most companies try to cope with increased energy cost, supply problems in global logistics, changing in customer behaviors both for B2B and B2C. And everyone tries to cope with new ICT opportunities for operations.
And these issues fit well with previous lean management, digital models and an overall focus on company operations both in startups and developments of well established units. It is a mix of organizational learning and mindset.
How does your research influence your teaching?
My research and my teaching do influence each other. It feels like a chicken and egg issue since I can not state which came first. An important part of both is to find topics for master students (and PhD) and seminar topics for the CIAM cluster (www.uis.no/en/ciam)
In general, how easy is it for business to utilise the findings from academic research?
In general it is quite hard. One of the reason is that businesses often have a «not invented here» attitude. Another is that opportunities at operation level are often seen from engineers or technicians when decisions are made by business accountants, and these do not always communicate well.
What are the specific needs of SMEs that researchers could help with?
I think one of the most important thing is to train students to understand how businesses work and to see opportunities. Many SMEs also have an unbalance between available resources (both too much and too little) and their market demand, and to enable dynamic adaption in an SME is a challenge that may need someone from outside. As example there is a SME company in this area that deliver critical equipment to larger companies. Customer want items within 2-3 days when they need it, and the SME has 3-6 months resupply time. Question is how much should they have on inventory. ◼️
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