For 27.4.17

Your assignment this week is to reformulate your four part research question and with emphasis on your question’s third part.

  • Write up your revised research question using the four part structure discussed in Chapter Four, especially 4.2.1 and 4.2.2.
  • The third, conceptual part must be associated with a real world business problem and be based on concepts, factors, or other high-level issues which relevant professionals are discussing in high-level reports such as those produced by the consulting firms EY, KPMG, PWC, Deloitte, and possibly such journals as HBR and Wharton
  • While you get to specify the first, second, and fourth parts, this third part is, by definition, something the professionals define as important, hence refer to where you find this


For topics in business, one of the easiest ways to do this is to search for “current trends 2017 YourTopic xxx” where xxx stands for any of the major consulting firms or business journals that survey your field, such as PWC, KPMG, Deloittte, McKinsey, and often more narrowly, Harvard Business Review, Wharton, The Economist, etc. If you are working with NGOs or less general topics then look for specialised journals.

  • Until now, most of you have found excellent articles, but most are much too specific and limited

Thibault’s example

As we discussed, we see that he found very interesting articles by Steven Banker and others, but they are much too detailed for this third, conceptual part; for example, when he writes:

  • “Bonded warehouse improves companies’ cash-flow : example of a foreign company with a European bonded warehouse”
  • “Complexity of setting up a bonded warehouse in the EU
    But from the perspective of an interviewed Strategic Manager clear that logistic and compliance folks don’t speak the same language”

He is discussing an important positive asset (“improves cash flow”) and an important problem (“folks don’t speak the same language”)

How better to approach these important issues

Exploring the key words he uses, such as ““current issues third party logistics bonded warehousing deloitte,” we found and where we found such larger issues as:

  • Financial: How will industry disruption affect our cash flow models? What are the balance sheet implications of using a shared platform?
  • Operating: How might the changing landscape impact our operating model, decision rights, and funding mechanisms? How can we create and sustain a new ecosystem within the organization?

That is, where Thibault rightly identified cash flow as a topic, he presented it as an ideal and not a problem — something we might examine from different perspectives and which features considerable complexity and dimension. Deloitte offers such complexity and dimension when they refer to a cash flow model, and so not take cash flow for granted, but frame it as a mental model, a concept, and as a concept which will inevitably change. They also tell us where to look for this change, in this model’s disruptions, and in this way invite us to imagine context, agency, and so forces of change. This is what we mean by problematizing a concept — having studied this, you will never see “cash flow” the same, it will always appears to you as a concept — that it is understood, measured, adjusted, forecasted, etc., differently depending on ….

You do well to compare the second paragraphs in this light, how the second problematizes what the first sees as a simple problem of optimization.

This is complex stuff, and I think the best way is to learn how to find it in such sources as I list above and read it in such complex ways as I have outlined.

Such discussion of mental models is what we mean by your research question’s third part, and as you work with the four part structure you’ll see how it complements the other parts.