Jennifer nervously shuffled through stacks of paper and sipped on her skinny steaming latte. It was 8:45 a.m. and her intellectual property attorneys were running late. Jennifer, the Chief Executive Officer of a start-up company specializing in biotechnology, was getting ready to finalize paperwork to license intellectual property from a prestigious medical research
This particular technology could possibly give her small start-up the competitive advantage she needed in the area of genetic therapy. As she tapped her pen anxiously on the conference room table, she couldn’t ignore the uneasy feeling in her gut. Jennifer was excited about the potential of solving incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s, blood disorders, and certain cancers through genetic therapy, however, she was extremely concerned about the consequences of her products if they were to end up in the wrong hands.
Jennifer’s thoughts raced: “Do I truly understand the impact of my products? How many people could live longer and be healed from incurable diseases through genetic therapy? God gave me these gifts in biotechnology and entrepreneurship, so that means I should use them right? What if my product causes harm instead of good if it is used inappropriately? Did I really conduct due diligence to determine whether or not I should develop this product?”
If any piece of this scenario resonates with you and you’ve had similar thoughts about new ideas, products, and services that you’d like to introduce to the market, read on. This article presents Christian entrepreneurs with a checklist and basic criteria to consider when determining whether or not new ideas, products, and services should be developed and released to the market.
1. Consumer Focus
a. First thing first, are the consumers, their needs, and values at the forefront of your innovation efforts? Do you genuinely care about your consumers, or are they simply a means to generate sales revenue and to grow your business? Dr. Bruce Winston, Dean of the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Regent University, presents the concept of “agapao” leadership. The Greek word, agapao, refers to a moral love, doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason.
According to Winston, “More specifically, agapao means to love in a social or moral sense, embracing the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and propriety” (Winston, 2002). As an entrepreneur, the agapao mindset toward your consumer can help to ensure that your ideas, products, and services seek to provide benefits.
2. Consumer Value
a. With the consumer in mind, determine and evaluate the value your business idea, product, or service provides. What needs (present and future) does the product or service meet?
b. What trends exist that support consumer need?
c. What consumer values are delivered?
d. How would consumers use the innovation?
3. Moral and Ethical Impact
a. Can the product or service potentially be misused?
b. Does the product have the ability to cause harm to others?
c. Could the product or service cause undesirable behavior, like lying, cheating, stealing, and violence?
4. Social Impact
To assess the societal trends and impact of your product or service, ask the following questions:
a. What is the social impact of the technology or innovation?
b. How will the product or service affect culture?
c. How will it affect the consumers’ relationships with friends, family, and coworkers?
d. What damage could be inflicted because of the creation of the innovation?
e. What are the benefits of the innovation to society?
f. What are the negative consequences of the product or service to society?
5. Technological Impact
A technical analysis looks for “changes in existing technology and the introduction of new technology” (Winston, 2009). A historic example is of the introduction of electric power in the United States. Thomas Edison was the pioneer of building power systems using direct current (DC), but when George Westinghouse introduced a new method of distributing electricity, known as alternating technology (AC), this created the famous “Battle of the Systems” (Shapiro & Varian, 1999).
Ultimately, Westinghouse’s AC technology won the battle due to ongoing innovations in polyphase AC electric distribution technologies. Consider the following questions:
a. How will the introduction of the product or service bring changes to current technologies being used?
b. Are any technological problems solved with the product or service?
c. What technologies will the new product or service introduce?
d. What are potential positive and negative consequences to technology?
6. Economic Impact
Economic impact refers to changes in the economy, such as the monetary supply, interest rates, supply and demand (Winston, 2009). For example, in the residential mortgage industry, mortgage interest rates rise and fall with the inflation rate. The low interest rates of mortgages have stimulated real estate sales, especially in the Washington D.C. area. Consider the following questions:
a. Will the product or service create jobs, encourage economic growth and consumerism, and possibly create a new industry?
b. Conversely, will the product or service take away jobs and cause other industries to decline?
c. What are the positive and negative consequences of the product or service to the economy?
7. Educational Impact
Educational impact refers to the “changes in knowledge that allow other changes to occur” (Winston, 2009). For example, the increased education and awareness of chronic diseases associated to obesity in the health industry has contributed to the growth of the weight reduction industry, also related to the health supplements and fitness industries (Hoover’s, 2011). Consider the following questions:
a. What messages are being conveyed in the media that may be affecting the perception of the business environment?
b. Does consumer behavior reflect their perceptions?
c. Does the product or service marketing send truthful and wholesome messages, or are the messages demeaning and destructive to the audience’s self-esteem?
8. Political Impact
Political impact refers to the changes in government policy, such as the creation of new laws that might affect the industry (Winston, 2009). For instance, U.S. health care reform laws are driving states to develop their own legislation on the development of health information exchanges (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 2011). Consider the following questions:
a. What laws are driving the creation of your product or service?
b. Conversely, what laws may be created because of your product or service?
c. Will laws have to be created to protect consumers from the misuse of your product or service?
This checklist is a starting point and presents basic criteria for Christian entrepreneurs to determine whether or not new ideas, products, or services should be developed and released into the market. The foundation for decision-making is based on having “agapao” love for consumers, doing the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons, and focusing on their needs, values, and benefits. Furthermore, an analysis on the social, technical, economic, educational, and political environments can help to provide a clearer picture of the impact your new ideas, products, and services.
As beings created in God’s image, the fundamental call for Christian entrepreneurs is to create, innovate, build, care, manage, and lead. By exercising business acumen, serving in entrepreneurship, and delivering products and services of value to consumers, Christian entrepreneurs are glorifying the Creator. In the realm of business and technological innovation, Christian entrepreneurs are “entrusted with the task of crafting life” and to make products, services, and processes a “work of art, a masterpiece” for consumers (Pope John Paul II, 1999).
Hoover’s. (2011). Hoover’s Industry Overview: Weight Reduction Services. Hoover’s, Inc. Retrieved November 16, 2011, from http://subscriber.hoovers.com/H/industry360/overview.html?industryId=1220
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (2011). Health IT. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt/community/healthit_hhs_gov__home/1204
Pope John Paul II. (1999). Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, The Vatican. Retrieved November 2, 2011, from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_23041999_artists_en.html
Shapiro, C., & Varian, H. R. (1999). The Art of Standards Wars. California Management Review, 41(2), 8-32.
Winston, B. E. (2002). Be A Leader for God’s Sake — From values to behaviors. Manager. Virginia Beach, VA: Regent University.
Winston, B. E. (2009). Strategic Thinking and Strategic Foresight – more Powerful than Strategic Planning. Regent University.
Karen Pruitt, PMP is an experienced federal information technology consultant, and resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband Graham. She is also a member of the ACTiVATE Program at The George Washington University, which is an entrepreneurial leadership and development program for women.
Karen is pursuing a Master in Business Administration degree from Regent University’s School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship.