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Want to succeed as an entrepreneur? Then put yourself in your customer's shoes

Want to be an entrepreneur? 

Then put yourself in your user's shoes

"Thomas Edison and Richard Branson show how they were aware of the link
between putting themselves in their customers' shoes and a successful idea."

A new study explores the cognitive traits that can spur the recognition of market opportunities in entrepreneurship. In particular, this research introduces a new cognitive mechanism called “user perspective taking”, which means assuming the user’s perspective when approaching a market, and finds that by adopting such a perspective entrepreneurs are able to enhance their ability to identify market opportunities.

Emanuela Prandelli and Gianmario Verona (Department of Management and Technology) together with Martina Pasquini (IE Business School) have published "In User's Shoes: An Experimental Design on the Role of Perspective Taking in Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities" in Journal of Business Venturing.

Entrepreneurship is about discovering and exploiting opportunities for new businesses. To recognize the right opportunities is thus among the most important abilities an entrepreneur must possess. At the same time, understanding the potential demand and customers for your business is a core feature of opportunity recognition.

Research in entrepreneurship has pointed to information corridors as a primary cause of the discovery of entrepreneurial opportunities. Recently, however, the focus has shifted to cognitive traits that, in addition to the information possessed by an entrepreneur, can spur market opportunities. Cognitive mechanisms can affect how an entrepreneur interacts with the environment, and so are particularly important when it comes to understanding demand. This is why Prandelli, Verona and Pasquini decided to investigate a specific cognitive mechanism, which they call "user perspective taking," and its effect on opportunity recognition, through an experiment involving 137 graduate students.

User Perspective Taking
Perspective taking (PT), the cognitive component of empathy, is the ability to understand others' experiences and feelings and to view the world from other persons' perspective. Extensively studied in psychology, business studies have discovered how PT contributes to marketing performance and organizational alignment. But its role for demand and entrepreneurship is still unknown. Anecdotal evidence, the authors say, points to the importance of understanding demand and customers when looking for new business opportunities. The examples of entrepreneurs such as Thomas Edison and Richard Branson show how they were aware of the link between putting themselves in their customers' shoes and a successful idea.

The results of the scenario-based experiment in the food industry support the authors' intuition. Those who were asked to help a user to invent a new product package by assuming his perspective, compared to those who did the same but without PT, were able to identify a market opportunity. Moreover, through the experiment the authors also found that prior knowledge of the market positively moderates this relationship between user perspective taking and opportunity identification.

Story Source:  Materials provided by Bocconi University, original written by Paola Zanella. Emanuela Prandelli, Martina Pasquini, Gianmario Verona. In user's shoes: An experimental design on the role of perspective taking in discovering entrepreneurial opportunities. Journal of Business Venturing, 2016.

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