Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Five things archaeologists can learn from Dragon's Den

Peter Jones
By Simontrend, via Wikimedia Commons
It's not surprising that archaeologists are, on the whole, pretty poor business people: they don't want to be business people.  But an industry that employs thousands of people in hundred of companies, partnerships and freelance operations, turning over £100m a year,  IS a business: the question is whether we embrace that fact, and see what we can do to improve, or we ignore it and trust to luck. 

It is possible to learn a lot about business from Dragon's Den: not so much from the revolutionary rubber hammers, innovative chocolate teapots, and re-engineered sliced bread that hopes to be the best thing since the original sliced bread, but from the pooled practical experience of the entrepreneurs.  After a while their questioning starts to form a pattern, from which I'd highlight these:

1  Has it been done before?

Businesses based on innovation need to think about this all the time.  Archaeology, less so, at first blush.  But of course we build out work on existing knowledge.  We should be prepared to invest in analysing results of previous work in the area before firing up the JCB on a new site.  See Step 8

2  What's the IPR position?

Working with ideas and information intrinsically raises a whole range of issues about ownership, protection and licensing. Specifically, archaeologists generally use, as part of their commercial work, mapping, structured data and images created by others.   They should be clear about what copyright they own and what copyright they use. 

3  Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity

It's depressing to see how hard archaeologists work, yet leave to chance whether their businesses produce a surplus.  Typically they rely on estimating the likely work and charging accordingly, unaware that they are effectively gambling on the absence of complex archaeology, and gambling with the company's money.  Don't do that: follow Step 6 and Coping with the crunch and Step 7

4  It's the people not the product

Every successful business is built on its staff.  If flint-hearted Gecko clones know this, archaeologists should too.  Follow Step 4 and Step 10.

5  Are there hidden costs?

Most organisations carry along with them a lot of baggage - time and resources that have been sunk into things which have yet to bear fruit, or uncosted commitments that there is a contractual or moral obligation to fulfill at some point. Maybe archaeologists don't need to tell others about them, but they certainly ought to be aware of them.  These loose ends should be reviewed, quantified and allocated to someone to take ownership of, even if they're not actually being progressed.  See Step 8

Buy 10 simple steps: the book
Transform your business with a 10 simple steps workshop.

No comments: