Sunday, November 10, 2019

Data!!! Data!!! Checking on Secondary Data Sources!

Data can come from all types of sources and piles up in our dashboards and can be of great help or hindrance to the achievement of our goals. If the data isn't managed properly you can make fatal errors that can destroy your business or cost you a lot of money down the road. Because research is expensive most people rely on secondary sources. Secondary sources are cheap but do require a level of care to ensure the data is saying what you think it is saying.

Let us start by saying that secondary data can be expensive! There is a reason why secondary data makes more sense versus inventing and conducting your own research. It can be expensive and time consuming to create new studies. If you don't have the expertise in your business you will likely need outside consultants.

Those businesses that rely on secondary data may want to consider a few issues.....

1. Make sure the data fits your purposes. Secondary data may or may not meet your needs. Just because someone counted the amount of cars it may have no relation to the type of radio those cars use.

2. Check the sources of data. need to read the fine print! How the data is collected, organized used and managed is key to deter validity for your study.

3. Look for similar type studies that may support or not support the data collection methods of the study.

You would be amazed but there are times when studies look to create a biased result. This can often happen in political or corporate arenas where a specific outcome has consequences. Academic and government data is more likely to be non-biased when compared to corporate research.

4. Look for non-profits, government, and others who collected data and have a stake in accurate information.

Sometimes the secondary sources are not enough and you must try and build your own knowledge on an ideas. Surveys are often used to help gauge opinions about services and needs. While surveys are generally easy to build if you ask straight forward questions there are all types of caveats and mistakes you can make when you don't have "in house" scientific knowledge. The best bet is to use experts when you plan on using the information for significant investments.

Here is a little advice when determining in house or secondary sources. First try and use secondary sources that provide contextual information about the problem. If there the available information doesn't necessarily answer your question consider an in-house study. Be very sure the answer is worth the time and expense. If you are gauging your customers opinions in a small business just ask them what you want and take notes. If you are poling 20K customers you may want to have someone look at your survey and delivery methods before proceeding.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Industry-Curriculum Alignment Through Skills Assessment

It was great to work with my colleagues presenting a project started a while ago. We found a way to assess market readiness of graduates by using market research mixed with current assessment practices. The methodology worked great for something new! Will likely discuss a little more in the future. :)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Chewy Outdoor U.P. Adventures-Thoughts from a Dog :)

Not sure where he taking me but I hope there are treats!
I know this is silly but I can't keep talking about wildlife, hiking and stuff over and over so I thought I would spice it up a little with thinking about hiking from a dogs angle.....

This is Chewy! He is a sock thief and a convicted potty violator. Despite his shortcomings he loves the outdoors.

We try hunt, hike, cross country run, snow shoe and other stuff as much as we can. This little guy can jump in the water and play around as much as the big dogs.

Must have been an elephant path.
Today's adventure was hiking back on some ATV trails in search of fitness, outdoors, and maybe some small game.

Supporting wild life, habitat restoration, sustainable hunting, pollution clean up, and a lifestyles that allows for outdoor activities is helpful to our lives. There is a part of us that must reach back to our natural state every once in a while to feel more at ease. This is one of the reasons why I love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!
Refreshing water to drink.
Every time I put one in my mouth I get yelled at!
You can read a little about the U.S. Wildlife Services to learn about what they do. You pay their service through our tax dollars so understand where your money is going and how it helps our environment.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Discovering Problems with Exploratory Research

When we think of research an image comes to our mind of the lab coat professor going over calculations, long formulas and test tubes to come up with the next greatest discovery. No need for the coke bottle glasses that move into the finite details of "fineness". Exploratory research may ask a question but doesn't necessary seek a specific answer. Its main goal is to get into the weeds to understand the inner workings of their subject without coming to an pre-conclusions.

Exploratory Research:

When you are not sure exactly what is going on but you got a solid "hunch" you may want to explore ideas and concepts to better understand a problem. It focuses in a broad area and continues to adjust and changes as the situation changes. It is possible to start with one understanding and end with a completely different one later on.

The essential purpose of exploration is to go into the unknown and explore what seems to be an appropriate path of discovery. You really don't know what to expect and instead allow elements to go forward unimpeded so that you can start to see some relations between elements in a way that leads to future research.

Description of Occurrence.

As you explore ideas and concepts you want to include as much descriptive detail as possible. Because you don't know what the elements are you want to record as much pertinent information as you can so as to further your analysis. Sometimes things that seem important today are not so important tomorrow. At some other time you very well may find the opposite to be true.

Describing what is occurring and taking proper notes, recordings, and other documentation helps in the overall evaluation down the road. You will want to document any study you have conducted from start to finish. There should be some logic and method you are following throughout your work and the type of documentation will relate to your design.

There is no Causality in Exploratory Research

There is no causality in exploratory research. We don't know what the variables are but have an idea of where to look for them. While you may end up making some inferential judgments about causality the strength of those connections and whether they are relevant relies on a more quantitative approach.

Don't go into the research with a lot of pre-beliefs and bias or the directions you take will end up leading to false conclusions. The goal is to find new associations among ideas and concepts and not necessarily to prove that existing one's exist. Time again and again the bias of the research makes it into what they are discovering.

Why its not like a Lab?

In a lab you can design studies that manipulate variables. In the field the variables are at the mercy of their environment making cause and effect much more difficult to determine. Exploratory research allows one to determine potential connections while quantitative determines the strength, or insignificance, of those connections. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

First Snow in the Upper Peninsula

The first snow is one of the most beautiful. White, fluffy, soft with a dusting on the tree tops. With pristine beauty comes a price. You must make the effort to get out and see it! There are miles upon miles of hiking and hunting trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan just waiting for you to explore. When you need to get out of the city and into nature to gain peace of mind head north!  These pics were taken on Days River. I'm pretty sure "Chewy" my dog is wondering whether he has some husky blood in him. 😮

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Market Research as a Process and Decision Making Tool

Creative Commons
Market research allows companies to understand the market and what types of products and services have value for revenue generation purposes. Without this knowledge companies are blind making intuitive judgement about things they don't really understand. That works great when your company is small and doesn't have a lot of capital. Exploratory behavior can make a big difference, but when companies are big and there are investors involved it makes more sense to have a scientific understanding of the market. Science can give you a road map.

When I used the term "scientific" I don't necessarily mean it has to follow the highest level of scientific scrutiny. I have some colleagues that will disagree with me because they are scientific purists. Something simple like a survey needs 3 years of preparation and contextual literature review. Don't forget validation! Silly!

If you are trying to change public policy with a survey you should go through all of the steps...but if you are simply trying to gain some understanding of what your customers want then you might be ok asking straight forward questions. Conducted in the right way gracious customers will give you more information than you want or need.

A problem arises when we want to justify the answer through a line of research. In our head we believe we know what the study will tell us and in turn subconsciously design the questions that give us the answers you seek. I see people do this in their everyday conversations when they have a point to make and skip over all the logic. The conclusion is not justified in the least! Leaving out important information, framing things incorrectly, designing leading questions, etc...all lead to biased results.

What you measure will also determine what results you get so make sure you are get into the details. Read this article on digital economy and its influence, or lack thereof, on GDP calculations (Click Here). If your really really really motivated you can read the full study and understand the studies design and what it truly indicates (Click Here) You will see that the way we calculate things can have some serious economic consequences.

How that data is collected and processed determines the overall value of the outputs. This is one reason why studies have limitations. It can't be everything to everyone and the inherent design of the study creates limitations! You should be well aware of what they are before you collect data!

Designing strong studies that have internal validity are important in the overall process of understanding the market and creating some predictive modeling. Be sure you know what you want to measure, do your background research and design the study in a way that leads to answering that specific question. If your lucky you can create a model and apply that to other places.

Sometimes you must complete preliminary research to ask the right questions. You think it would be easy but it really isn't. Having a general sense of the problem but might need to explore the idea a little to define it specifically for a research question. This research question becomes the basis for everything else within the study. Your single focus is/are to answer this question (s).

You will find as you begin to collect the data that it can start getting jumbled up and you will lose track of what you are trying to accomplish. Data is the source of all experiments and you might want to find some way of taking in that data, analyzing it, manipulating the variables, etc... Consider that collection may require specialized equipment or round about ways of getting the information while the encoding and analyzing of that data is more statistically oriented.

Once you have this mountain of data and it has been scrubbed and categorized there will be a need to analyze that data. The type of analysis you do will depend entirely on what you want to accomplish and what type of data you have. Some scientists want you to conduct huge analysis for a survey. In the business world you used what is most prudent and provides the most useful data. Statistics, regression analysis, etc.... is a little too complex for this discussion.

Three points of key advice:

1. Define your problem as everything revolves around this.
2. Design your study to ensure it is measuring what you say it is measuring.
3. Ensure you collect and encode data properly so as to create a stronger analysis at the end.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Corazon de Vida 25th Anniversary for Orphans Celebration

This organization is near and dear to me. I have met some of these children and I can say they are truly worthy. There was a new orphanage that didn't even have running bathrooms that they came in to help out on. This is money well spent that changes lives!

Here is a donation page if you are not attending but still want to help

Join the Corazon de Vida family at the most anticipated gala of the year in San Diego! Our Noche de Gala is only two weeks away and it's promising to be an unforgettable night in celebration of our 25th Anniversary at one of the most magnificent venues in San Diego, the Crown Room of the Hotel Del Coronado.
Guests will be greeted with an ocean view champagne reception featuring live music and beautiful sunset backdrops. Beverages tastings will also include tequila, Baja wine, and mezcal. Guests will then proceed to the famous Crown Room for a mouth-watering Baja inspired dinner. The live and silent auction will feature incredible experiences, vacation packages, jewelry, and more for bidding on. The night’s festivities with DJs and dancing!

Explore our amazing silent auction HERE for more incredible items like the one above!
And remember that even if you can't make it to the event you can still bid on your favorite items! Make sure to register and check back on Monday October 28th when the online auction opens!
Noche de Gala tickets will be available HERE until Monday, October 28th at midnight and include: 

  • Outdoors Champagne Reception
  • Delicious Baja Inspired Dinner
  • Cash Bar
  • Live and Silent Auction
  • Live entertainment and DJ 
  • Baja Wines, Raicilla and Mezcal Tastings

If you have any questions or would like a little extra help purchasing the tickets please call our office at (949) 476-1144

We look forward to seeing you on November 2nd!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Old Mackinac Point Light House

The Mackinac Lighthouse has a long history that pre-dates European arrival. Native Americans lite fires on the banks so they could navigate the straits. When larger European ships arrived a light house was constructed to determine points of entry. When the Mackinac Bridge turned on its lights in more modern times no one needed the light house anymore as a navigational tool.

It is helpful to understand that lighthouses were a key part of the supply chain. Without them our economic world would be limited and expansion difficult. The Great Lakes were a major shipping lane. The cost of lighthouses was a type of insurance policy.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Mexican Orphans as a Vulnerable Group-Can we do something?

Orphan children don't have the natural protections that come with being part of a family, community, and people who support them. For one reason or another, they have lost their families. Sometimes it is circumstance, while at other times it is because the children have been seriously abused or neglected. No matter what their horror they are vulnerable to all types of mistreatment and need the protection of caring and loving people.

Without help most of these kids are likely to continue their lives as homeless, sexually abused, malnourished or exploited in some way. It is hard to imagine a world without anyone at the tender age of 10 or even 7 years old. They do what one has to do to survive on the streets avoiding the constant traumas from a harsh world. The pain of life's poorly dealt cards may crush their sole before they are old enough to have a chance.

I think its important to reflect on this for a moment. When you were seven what were you doing? Playing with toys, hanging with friends, watching movies, playing soccer and having birthday parties? These kids have no clue about what a "normal" life looks like and some of them need to spend their time finding food versus watching cartoons.

In Mexico there are over 700 orphanages with over 650,0000 children (1,2). That number isn't accurate as other figures put the numbers between 400,000 to 1.8 million (2). Many may not find themselves in the protective environment of an orphanage and those that do still may not have enough resources for a descent life.

A lack of records makes any real projections as to what happens to orphans when they leave the orphanage on their 18th birthday. Well run orphanages like Corozon de Vida provide a sense of family so the children have some place to return even when they become adults. Those that are working or going to school have a home are always welcome and many of these adult orphans come back to help their "siblings".

Without education, holding the baggage of a tough background, most will slip back onto the streets.  The goal at Corozon de Vida seeks to end the cycle of poverty and crime through educational programs. The non-profit will pay for college or skilled trade programs so that they give these children a chance to succeed in life.

Not All Orphanages Succeed

Mexican orphanages are not always well run and the U.N. has declared the situation to be a humanitarian crisis. While the people of these orphanages are doing their best they don't have access to resources, have little oversight and few records. Under these gruesome circumstances the good hearts of the people who are trying to help can only do so much in the often violent and chaotic environment these kids live in. Squeezing money for donation is difficult out of pressed budgets.

What can you do?

Much of it is about money to provide basic food, clothing, facilities and education. Other times it is more akin to encouraging our officials to put pressure on Mexico to do more for their orphans. It is a little like fighting an uphill battle where the children's concerns are below all the other stakeholders in society. They don't have much of a voice and it takes people like you and me to give them one.

The U.S. give approximately 290 million a year to Mexico (5) of which much is for narcotics. A lot of drugs move their way across the border to high priced markets in the U.S. The victims of drug wars and narcotics are these kids who have no parents directly due to fighting. They are also America's kids who have addict parents and have been neglected. I wonder if there is a way to rearrange the aid a little to help fund orphanages or other activities for kids? We love to give money for the drug wars and other pet projects but may be overlooking the people directly affected by this money. My argument is that the kids are true victims and by helping them we show the U.S. has concern over the young people in the world and wants them to think of us as partners to their futures.

If you want to Donate You can Do it Here

The Main Site


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Bravery in the Face of a Shooter-Rethinking Mental Health in Society

Your faced with that defining moment where a student threatens to do the impossible and you can't stand there and do nothing. Your adrenaline kicks in and you must act on instinct. Your brain stops processing and your heart starts pumping. That is what happens to almost all of us...but in this situation.... the teacher did something different....he hugged the gun-toting shooter. A little love went a long way! That does get us thinking about long-term mental health.

We can start resolving some of these problems before they become an issue by thinking about mental health and health plans. While a hug may save the day today it may do nothing tomorrow. A student that is unsure of what he/she is doing might be willing to hug but one that is bent on causing pain on others might not be so responsive. Its time for us to think about a better long-term approach.

It takes a lot of insight to understand that this teenager wants recognition for his/her pain but has never received any help. With the proper skills that teenager might have came forward and asked for help, someone would have cared enough to step in years ago, and this problem would have never existed in the first place! The root to this stems way back in chronic failure to love.

As a man of science, I seek to understand so we can find solutions to these issues long before they become issues. We are in a bigger world and lost many of our social connections. With a loss of social connections comes a lost of empathy and with that....we have a perpetual problem.  Without a more effective mechanism we need to rely on insurance companies to better cover mental health services and that in turn create more problems of cost and plan management.

It will be a political mess to even think about......

Mental health in this country is a big concern. Our experts think they understand it but often mislabeled, skip over, misjudge, and mishandled these issues all the time. Many of the people in our prisons are suffering from mental health issues that if they would have dealt with a long time ago would ensure they are productive members of society (Yes there is a cost to not rethinking mental health and its relation to prisons).

What we might do....

1. Get experts together and start formalizing what the essential root of the problem is and the potential solutions
2. Develop better national guidelines and encourage legislative change when appropriate.
3. Encourage health insurance companies to consider adding better mental health coverage.
4. De-stigmatize mental health. People who need the help don't often ask for it.