Rethinking Business Foundations: Why Context Matters

business intelligence context analysis

Rethinking Business Foundations: Why Context Matters

Our research, carried out from 2015 to 2021, provided a significant revelation: the high rates of failure in entrepreneurship frequently arise from a disconnect between observed symptoms and the underlying root causes. These root causes often exist on different levels or "layers" of activity, which makes them easy to overlook. Consequently, entrepreneurs find themselves treating only the symptoms, thereby contributing to a high rate of business failures and bankruptcies.

Albert Einstein once said, "You can't solve a problem at the same level where it originated. One must rise to a level above the problem." This raises a crucial follow-up question: at what level can we find this solution? Enter contextual analysis, a method developed to address this very question. Much like how contextual analysis in linguistics uncovers hidden meanings, its application in entrepreneurship reveals hidden yet impactful factors affecting a business.

In practice, this involves "stratifying" the business activities into various "layers" or "levels." The objective is to locate the layer where the actual problem resides. Doing so provides the entrepreneur with an opportunity to do more than just apply a temporary fix or a "magic pill." Instead, it allows them to address and eliminate the root cause of the issue, thereby resolving the symptoms that manifest as a result. By adopting this multi-layered approach, entrepreneurs increase their chances of tackling the real issues plaguing their ventures, thus improving the likelihood of long-term success.

The crux of contextual analysis lies in identifying what can be termed "categories of meaning" within a specific field of activity. These categories do not emerge in isolation; they come to life through the entrepreneur's interaction with consumers, facilitated by the product. When entrepreneurs have a keen understanding of these categories, they are able to gain a directional focus for their business—which we can refer to as a "development vector."

Understanding these factors is critical for establishing a sustainable competitive advantage. It prepares entrepreneurs to act decisively, fueled by optimism for the future. Additionally, it enables them to pinpoint two key aspects within their business: 1) the guiding principle that drives their activities, and 2) the strategic roadmap for growth. These elements are vital for maintaining control over any area of operation. Without this clarity, a business is at risk of descending into disorder.

As alluded to earlier, the heartbeat of entrepreneurship is the interaction between the entrepreneur and the consumer, typically facilitated through products. This intersection is often fraught with complexities, particularly when trying to understand how consumers perceive the value of products. Unlike more concrete metrics, this perception is molded by less tangible and quantifiable factors, such as emotions, opinions, and thoughts. The value of the same bottle of water, for instance, varies depending on whether it is in a supermarket, an airplane, or a desert. The context defines the value; it's not about the bottle itself but rather, where it happens to be "placed." Unpacking this contextual backdrop is at the heart of contextual analysis.

Our six-year study revealed a systemic issue contributing to the high failure rate in entrepreneurship. On average, seven or eight out of ten entrepreneurs do not survive past their fifth or tenth year in business. The flaw is not internal to the organization; it exists at the interface between "the world of the entrepreneur" and "the world of consumers." It boils down to a recurring pattern: entrepreneurs often overlook crucial factors that are essential for understanding their consumers. By leveraging contextual analysis, entrepreneurs can address this blind spot, enhancing both their understanding of consumers and the longevity of their businesses.

The old adage "know your client" has evolved; it now demands a deeper understanding, one that can only be acquired by delving into the customer's system of relationships and interactions with their environment. Decades ago, Lee Iacocca boiled down the essence of any business to three words: "Personnel, Product, Profit." If you had an issue with the first, he said, forget about the last two. Although once relevant, this view seems antiquated in today's rapidly changing digital landscape.

A more contemporary formulation might be: "The essence of any business hinges on consumers' perception of product value, influenced by the Entrepreneur, the Product, and the Consumers themselves. A failure in the first element (Entrepreneurial Personality) spells trouble for the other two."

To keep pace with rapid change, our thinking must evolve just as quickly. Clinging to outdated perspectives can lead to catastrophic mistakes. As paradigms shift, our language sometimes struggles to catch up, leaving us with archaic terms for emerging concepts—consider how we still say "sunrise" and "sunset," despite knowing for centuries that the Earth orbits the sun. It is not wrong actions that doom companies, but outdated mental frameworks. Every action springs from a decision, and flawed decisions often originate from inflexible ways of thinking.

In today's ever-changing business landscape, quick decision-making is as crucial as speed in a game of chess. It's not enough to have the right tools to execute actions; we also need fresh ways to think and analyze. The main hurdle for modern entrepreneurs is rapidly pinpointing where their products will be highly valued by consumers. Without this understanding, the traditional pillars of business—staff, product, and profit—could evaporate before you know it.