Methods applied: ISMA 360®

The effectuation approach, ISMA 360® Method


At a time when innovation is crucial, what do we really know about the best ways to facilitate it? 
One can often hear that the ability to innovate and create is a natural gift. Wrong! It is something that can be learned.

This can be affirmed by Dr. Dominique Vian, associate professor of entrepreneurship at SKEMA Business School  and a specialist in entrepreneurial cognition who spent more than ten years focusing on identifying and finding a solution to the key issues innovators face. Many people encounter obstacles and become discouraged. Through exchanges with entrepreneurs and those with an entrepreneurial mindset, he discovered that there is a specific type of questioning that leads to innovation.

The modeling of this pattern of questioning has helped shed light on how many innovative entrepreneurs think and navigate the complex labyrinth of the innovation process.

Expert innovators often follow this process partially; novices almost ignore it. His interaction with various entrepreneurs made Dominique realise that it was possible to model the necessary information, the nature of the invention at its origin notwithstanding.

What is ISMA360®?

ISMA360® is a method that enables innovative people to design a strategy without having to make a hypothesis about the future, but by analysing the facts and their direct consequences.
     It is defined as:
  • A standard questioning which makes it possible to transform an invention into a market
  • A method that allows a novice to think like an expert
  • An approach that mobilises individual and collective cognitive "resources".

Theoretical underpinnings of the ISMA360® method

The method is based on two complementary theoretical frameworks for mapping and navigating complex and uncertain environments.

Navigating complex environments makes it difficult to predict the future. Moreover, any hypothesis on a final result to be achieved can prove to be unrealistic. While it is not possible to answer the question: “What do I have to do to reach this future?”, the two questions relevant to an entrepreneurial venture become: “What do I know?” and “What can I do that is a direct consequence of what I know?” 

This approach is particularly effective when it is impossible to set a final goal. This is the case when innovation makes no reference to a past; when it is disruptive. This logic of reasoning — available means and related possible effects — is called the effectual logic (Sarasvathy 2001).

FOCAL method

Any entrepreneur may be confronted with complex problems that seem impossible to solve. In such situations, the “usual” means to act on the problems seem inappropriate or irrelevant. Quite often, this is because individuals are “trapped” by their own representation of their context of action. They become myopic and self-limit the scope of action.

What is FOCAL?

In response to this issue, Focal is an analytical method that allows entrepreneurs to identify new levels of context and open the scope of possibilities, thus offering new means of action.

How does it work?

Developed by SKEMA professors, this method is based on the effectual logic, which analyses a succession of means and effects without the constraint of an a priori hypothesis of the final solution. For further information, email: dominique.vian@skema.edu

SKICE method

When entrepreneurs are working on an innovation project, or are in the process of conceptualising it, they might ask themselves questions such as: “Should I go ahead or not?”, “Did I forget anything important?” SKICE allows them to verify if the project is feasible or not.

What is SKICE?

SKICE is a coherence index to measure the gap between a mental projection of a potential innovation and the reality of the market. It acts as a “fantasy detector” of this projected image. It also allows entrepreneurs to detect the strong and the weak points of the project, find out what they need to pay attention to, and check if everything is going well.

SKICE is an expert system that integrates the cumulative knowledge of 10 years of research on entrepreneurial cognition.

The core of this system was the subject of a doctorate thesis defended in 2010 by Dr. Dominique Vian, associate professor of entrepreneurship at SKEMA Business School.

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