Getting the Word Out: inqiri and the “Startup State”

The last couple of weeks have been quite exciting for all of us at inqiri, and I wanted to share some of the highlights. Being in a startup that is growing quickly and involved with several initiatives in the Reno startup community, it is important to reflect on the experience. Otherwise, all we will remember is how the landscape looked from the window of a speeding train – just a blur.

A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday edition of the Reno Gazette-Journal ran a very nice profile on inqiri. We were interviewed by Jason Hidalgo, who covers technology in the northern Nevada area for the RGJ. We spoke about the inqiri concept and how we were helping organizations improve decisions.  He did a great job of capturing the message, translating it into an interesting article, and bonus, he included references to our Zombie Apocalypse inqiri.

inqiri CEO & Co-Founder, James Elste, and Chief Data Architect & Co-Founder, Travis Schwieger, are interviewed by the Reno Gazette-Journal.
inqiri CEO & Co-Founder, James Elste, and Chief Data Architect & Co-Founder, Travis Schwieger, are interviewed by the Reno Gazette-Journal.

One of the initiatives we have been spearheading, with several other local startup leaders, is the establishment of “Reno Startup Row.” The startup community in Reno is thriving and growing organically. We are organizing among the local startups and creating a sense of identity and community to promote the outstanding environment and support for entrepreneurs in Reno.

Reno Startup Row culminates in the identification of 1st Street in Reno as the physical nexus of many of our startups. We have established a website that lists companies located on Startup Row, along with members of the startup community located around the area. In addition to the website, and to provide a physical sense of identity, we have had banners placed along 1st Street marking the boundaries of Startup Row and drawing attention to the 1st street area as the hub of entrepreneurship in Reno.

The Reno Startup Row effort culminated in Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s press conference on February 27th. Governor Sandoval spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship to the Nevada economy and praised the efforts of the Reno startup community. He highlighted the potential that each startup represents and the energy of the community.

Governor Sandoval said something very powerful: “We’ve always called ourselves the Silver State, but now we should rename it and call it the Startup State.” Nevada has had to fight its way back from the economic collapse. But hearing Gov. Sandoval announce that in the last three years, the state has added 60,000 new jobs is proof of that the people of Nevada are hard working and resilient.

Governor Sandoval signs a Reno Startup Row banner, nicknaming Nevada, "The Startup State."
Governor Sandoval signs a Startup Row banner, nicknaming Nevada, “The Startup State.”

I had the distinct privilege, along with three other local CEOs and Mike Kazmierski from the Economic Development Association of Western Nevada (EDAWN), to speak at the press conference. Each of the speakers discussed their companies, growth potential, and why they found Reno an appealing location to start and grow their business. Eric Jennings of Pinoccio, Nate Pearson of TrainerRoad, and Joe Salesky of ustyme each brought their diverse experiences and specialties to the discussion and add incredible value to Startup Row. A special thanks is in order to Colin Loretz and the Reno Collective for hosting the event.  It was a unique experience for all of us, and I know that it helped to further galvanize the startup community. We made a video of the presentations and have posted it to our YouTube Channel and on the Reno Startup Row website.

The inqiri team at the Governor's Press Conference. From Left to Right: Travis Schwieger, James Elste, Seth Voltz, and Chris O'Sullivan.
The inqiri team at the Governor’s Press Conference. From Left to Right: Travis Schwieger, James Elste, Seth Voltz, and Chris O’Sullivan.

To round things out, last Saturday I appeared on Mike Bosma’s radio program on KOH “Bosma on Business” where we discussed inqiri and the challenges of running a startup. It was an interesting discussion and we covered a variety of topics. In the hour-long dialogue, we had the opportunity to explain the inqiri concept, our current state, and some of our goals for external fundraising. It was an interesting experience and in many respects, the conversation between breaks was almost as useful as what we discussed on air.

Over the last couple of weeks, the events we attended and opportunities to spread the inqiri message have amounted to an unplanned, but welcome PR campaign. We have had great feedback and have generated even greater interest in the inqiri solution.

Next week, we will be traveling to the Re:Think 2014 Conference hosted by the Advertising Research Foundation. We are looking forward to continuing our forward momentum and to speaking with other dynamic industry leaders. Organizations that seek to improve decisions by applying state of the art technology are looking to inqiri to provide a solution.

Overcoming Cognitive Bias for Better Business Decision-Making: Part Two

Last year, the inqiri blog touched on the topic of cognitive bias, an important concept with a profound effect on the mind. Cognitive bias affects our ability to make rational decisions and introduces prejudices into the decision-making process. There is a significant amount of research on cognitive bias, and with a growing list of over 150 cognitive biases, it is impossible to cover the subject in great detail. Our goal is to provide a basic understanding the phenomenon of cognitive bias, and by taking a closer look at three of the more prevalent cognitive biases, make it is easier to conceptualize the value of collective intelligence in the decision-making process. Applying a structured decision-making process can overcome cognitive bias and improve business outcomes.

Let’s start with one of the most common cognitive biases – confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor information that confirms a person’s beliefs or hypotheses with an unwarranted degree of confidence and tenacity. Confirmation bias, also known as perseverance of beliefs and hypothesis preservation, was the brainchild of cognitive psychologist Peter Wason.

In business, confirmation bias can occur during the hiring process, when hiring managers tend to lean towards particular candidates and shape interview questions that provides for easy answering. Kathleen M. Sutcliffe and Marlys K. Chrisitanson from the University of Michigan and the University of Toronto respectively, addressed confirmation bias in their paper, “Managing for the Unexpected.” According to Sutcliffe and Christianson, confirmation bias and other cognitive biases, “interfere with both noticing and interpreting.” Sutcliffe and Christianson suggest that “It may be easier for groups to make sense of problems, because partners make social constructions easier and because they can be an additional source of ideas and data. Interactions are critical for managing the unexpected.” The good news is that confirmation bias, a long-studied phenomenon, can be overcome, however it is necessary to remove the inclination towards these long-standing beliefs.

Availability bias involves a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind. In the early 1970’s Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman defined the availability bias in their paper, “Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases,”  noting, “instances of large classes are usually recalled better and faster than instances of less frequent classes.” (LINK). In business, “one may evaluate the probability that a given business venture will fail by imagining various difficulties it could encounter,” according to Tversky and Kahneman. In order to combat availability bias, it is essential to be aware of the diverse factors that impact a decision and be able to take each into account.

A third cognitive bias impeding the decision-making process is anchoring bias, the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered. In an example provided by the Houston Chronicle article, “Anchoring Effects to Influence Decision Making in a Business,” Rachel Levy Sarfin writes that, “if a person must make a decision about whether the Mississippi River is longer or shorter than 20 miles, he will use the figure of 20 miles as a reference point in coming to a conclusion.” Using this numerical figure is called an anchor. It is difficult to erase such anchors after they have been placed in the mind of the decision-maker. To address the anchoring bias, it is important to provide a means in which the first pieces of information presented, the “anchors,” can be vetted against other less apparent options.

By design, the inqiri solution corrects for a number of cognitive biases, and employs a structured, objective, and rational process to evaluate decision alternatives. Using a multi-criteria decision analysis methodology combined with collective intelligence limits the potential for cognitive bias to influence the individual contributors, and provides sufficient structure to produce consistent and meaningful results.

The inqiri process significantly reduces confirmation bias by limiting exposure to other participants’ inputs and eliminating the potential to seek confirming positions. In effect, each participant works independently, and is unable to reinforce belief patterns by using other participants’ inputs as stimulus.

Availability and anchoring biases are addressed in a similar manner. By limiting the exposure to rating values, we reduce the anchoring effect, and provide no clear indication of set sizes, which would otherwise trigger availability bias. The lack of additional information requires the participant to rely on their own resources, information, and expertise. This is one of the fundamental principles of collective intelligence and creates the powerful, cognitive bias reducing properties of inqiri.

Leveraging a large population of participants by involving a company’s principle stakeholders in a streamlined decision-making process diminishes the potential for cognitive bias to become a contributing factor. The inqiri solution supports decision optimization by minimizing cognitive bias, while also providing a rigorous analysis throughout the process. In this way, the inqiri solution improves decision-making and enhances business outcomes.

For more information visit: inqiri.com.

inqiri’s Upcoming Year Improving Decisions

In 2014, the inqiri blog will be elaborating on a variety of topics related to improving decisions.

Over the past year, the inqiri blog approached topics we knew would help readers better understand the core concepts driving inqiri’s mission to improve decision-making. Posts that covered topics such as understanding how the brain becomes mentally exhausted if subjected to making too many decisions and how the brain tends towards deviations in judgment known as cognitive biases. Along with a variety of other important topics that highlight the value of the inqiri solution for individuals and businesses.

Continue reading inqiri’s Upcoming Year Improving Decisions

On Our First Anniversary

Today marks our first anniversary. It’s been a full year since we began the journey that ultimately became inqiri. It has been an interesting year with lots of ups and downs, but here we are, having survived our first year.

Anniversaries are always a good time to reflect on the year gone by, take stock of your present situation, and look forward to the year ahead. This blog post will focus on those three themes.

Continue reading On Our First Anniversary

CEO and Founder, James Elste, Talks Energy and Enthusiasm Behind the inqiri Solution

James Elste

“Being an executive isn’t about making decisions. It’s about galvanizing people to action,” James Elste said emphatically, halfway through his Whiskey Wednesday interview. The apex of the Whiskey Wednesday interviews rightly concludes with James Elste, inqiri’s CEO and Founder. In 2011, after a long career in cyber-security, Elste began letting a particular idea percolate. That idea was how collective intelligence could affect decision-making.

Continue reading CEO and Founder, James Elste, Talks Energy and Enthusiasm Behind the inqiri Solution

inqiri’s First Live Tweeting Event

With the year quickly coming to a close, the inqiri team is looking forward to setting goals and strategies for the upcoming year. One of these goals is to continually find new ways to engage other like-minded individuals and organizations.

In line with this mission, the inqiri team participated in our first, “live-tweeting” event by tuning into a webinar hosted by Harvard Business Review. The webinar, “Calculating Success: Use Workplace Analytics to Revitalize Your Organization,” featured Carl Hoffman, the former Partner and Vice President of IBM’s Global Business Services group. It was an interesting first foray for the inqiri team to participate in such an event. With the exception of one other organization, the inqiri team appeared to be the only company taking the opportunity to live-tweet the event. While listening to Mr. Hoffman’s presentation, our goal was to produce thoughtful and meaningful contributions to the discussion. Continue reading inqiri’s First Live Tweeting Event

Reno Startup Weekend an Energetic Event

Reno Startup Weekend

Energy, energy, energy!

If there was a theme for the Reno Startup Weekend, this would have been it.  I couldn’t believe how many people were so energetic and passionate about the startups they were working on this weekend.  It made me a little jealous that I wasn’t participating as a team member.  Instead, I was there as a coach/mentor trying to provide any value to the teams needing some direction.  I was just happy I could be there to help out in any way I could.  In fact, that’s the question I asked of my friend, Bryan McCardle, who was an organizer for the event when I heard him talk about it.  ‘How can I help?’  He told me that they needed coaches for the weekend and I immediately agreed to participate, but more on that later. Continue reading Reno Startup Weekend an Energetic Event

Travis Schwieger, Chief Data Architect, talks Startups, Reno, and the Future of inqiri

Travis Schwieger

Chief Data Architect and inqiri Co-founder, Travis Schwieger, first partnered with CEO James Elste almost a year ago, on December 12, 2012. Since that initial meeting, Schwieger and Elste have worked tirelessly to bring inqiri to life. Continue reading Travis Schwieger, Chief Data Architect, talks Startups, Reno, and the Future of inqiri

inqiri Team Presents at Tahoe Silicon Mountain

Tahoe Silicon Mountain Presentation

This past Monday, November 11, inqiri Co-Founders, James Elste and Travis Schwieger, presented the inqiri solution to a packed room at the monthly meeting of the Tahoe Silicon Mountain Group. The meeting brought together web and software developers, bloggers, and other entrepreneurial minds from all across the Tahoe region including Incline Village, Truckee, and Continue reading inqiri Team Presents at Tahoe Silicon Mountain