I was scrolling through the morning business headlines – as I often do – and there was an article discussing how Nebraska was a tech innovation champion. After the initial shock I decided to look into the reasoning behind this.
It seems that the Consumer Technology Association did a study and rank states on their policies and current situation. If the laws favored tech they got a bump up in the ratings, and vice versa. If they had a good tech workforce it meant more points and if they didn’t, less points.
You get the idea.
But their map of where the tech innovation champions (their term for the best states for tech) were was quite surprising. California with it’s Silicon Valley didn’t make the top category. Nor did Texas which often brags about Austin as being a tech center.
In fact a lot of the Midwest did really well. Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas were all noted as innovation centers.
So I went a bit deeper.
Let’s talk about what I found and let’s think about what we might need to know for looking at other similar studies.
Key 1: State Map Studies Are Common And Interesting
It’s always fun for me, and I presume for others, to look at these studies of the best state for this and the best state for that. They seem to have become commonplace on the internet.
Everyone loves where their state wins some award.
When I am at my Florida office in DeLand, Florida I’ll see signs noting that DeLand has the best Main Street in America. All based off of a 2017 study.
When I was in Texas recently meeting with clients in the Dallas area I drove through a northern suburb, Frisco, Texas, and saw tons of signs saying that Frisco is the best place to live in America.
There is a lot of pride in winning one of these awards and it’s interesting to see how things are ranked. I know from the article I read that Nebraska was proud of it’s rating in tech.
But before we rely on these things too much we have to think a little deeper.
Key 2: The Art Is In The Ranking Criteria
All of these studies – best Main Street, best place to live, best places to retire, etc. – are generally based on some scoring criteria. And the truth is the criteria wag the dog. Depending on how the criteria are ranking, weighted, and scored the outcome could change completely.
Looking at the Consumer Technology Association map of states we can click on a given state and see their scores in various criteria. Some categories include “attracts investment”, “drones”, “entrepreneurial activity”, “self-driving vehicles”, among others. In this study each category was graded A to F.
The map did not have a link to the scoring criteria – how the A to F’s were assigned, the weight of each category in the final score, or how the categories were chosen.
But it’s easy to see that adding, or deleting, categories could have a big impact in the final results. Also the weighting of those categories could be key.
Is self-driving cars as important as having investment in technology? I guess it depends on who you ask.
Key 3: Someone Else’s Ranking Criteria Might Not Be Yours
So that brings us to the next major point. Just because someone else has a certain ranking criteria doesn’t mean you will too.
If you are running a self-driving car business regulations and friendliness to self-driving cars is critical!
But if you are running a laboratory to find a cure for cancer the ability to test self-driving cars and drones are, at most, a tangential benefit (i.e. it might create a bigger tech community to network with).
So it’s important to look at how these studies set their ratings, why they set their ratings, and what your criteria are. And know you can’t base your business decisions off of other’s arbitrary criteria.
Key 4: Don’t Ignore The Study Completely Based On The Ranking Criteria
Some studies, like the Consumer Technology Association’s, are very helpful in that they show you the scores of individual categories. This allows you to possibly zoom in and reweight the scoring to find the best location for you and your circumstances.
Usually these studies will have grains, or more, of information that you can use to evaluate your situation on your criteria.
The key is to know what is important to you and how to weigh things. And do it based on your needs.
Key 5: In The End Study Your Situation, Don’t Just Read A Study
So if you are trying to decide where to locate your business, or expand, look at lots of studies like this. Zoom in on the criteria. Get to as much of the raw research as you can and start investigating.
The truth is where to do business, or relocate, or vacation, or whatever, will be based on your criteria – not theirs. Many retire to states that are terrible in the ranking because they like them, or have family there, or have an interest in something that is unique to that state. That’s OK.
If you put a little work on digging into the study you’ll find you can find your answer.
And if you don’t have the first clue on how to do that call someone that does. It’s a good investment to have good information for your decision making.
What To Do Now
So the next time you see a study on the best this, or the best that stop and think about the study. Understand the how and why in the rankings. Then re-rank things based on your criteria.
It might be more work but the information you get will be more valuable to your business.
In the meantime I got to run. I’m moving my business to Nebraska based on a random study (kidding).
By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd and long-time business attorney that focuses on changes of ownership in businesses. He works with business owners that know their business is about more than themselves to get ready for their future through keynotes, training and personalized solutions. In furtherance of this he hosts The Future Done Right(TM) Show where he collects, digests and gives lessons and insights on The Future of Business. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
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The Our Shawn is based in DeLand, Florida (between Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida) and Dallas, Texas where he keeps offices. You can also find Shawn on webinars or traveling nationally or internationally for speaking engagements.
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