James M. Wilson III, PhD, among researchers examining Tokunbo trend in Nigeria
Author: Nicole Soucy, Senior Writer, Bay Path College
LONGMEADOW, Mass.—Interacting with new cultures can offer companies more than an understanding of different civilizations and better business relationships; it can provide innovative avenues for reshaping their business models. Ethnographer James M. Wilson III, PhD, an assistant professor of business at Bay Path College, is doing just that as he examines the successful operations of various industry cultures to resolve challenges faced by other businesses.
In collaboration with Kevin Taylor Anderson, PhD, and Anaele Diala Iroh, PhD, Wilson has contributed to research focused on the “Tokunbo” (high quality, used-automobiles) of Nigeria. To supplement research funding, Dr. Iroh, a native of Nigeria and visiting faculty at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, had purchased several American used-vehicles at auction for resale in Nigeria. When Iroh’s colleagues Dr. Anderson, a lecturer and visiting scholar at University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Wilson learned of his innovative funding, they saw an opportunity to study Nigeria’s economy and the Tokunbo approach. “This was an opportunity Dr. Anderson and I couldn’t ignore,” said Wilson. “This unique industry is reshaping a sector of the Nigerian economy.”
The Tokunbo industry emerged as Nigeria’s economy evolved toward a more developed economy. As the middle class grew, more residents were in need of vehicles. However, automobile companies were hesitant to build and sell vehicles in the African country. Transnational entrepreneurs in the U.S., England and Germany recognized the Nigerian need, and began the Tokunbo trade, which is the sale of high quality, used automobiles. “Tokunbo has really opened up the doors for transnational entrepreneurs,” said Wilson. “Unfortunately, we have found that with the entrepreneurs’ success and the continued development of the Nigerian economy, the large automobile companie, and more powerful economic players, are taking another look at the Nigerian market, which could ultimately impact these smaller scale entrepreneurs and capitalists.” Wilson and his colleagues will present their findings and Anderson’s film documenting the research in April during Syracuse University Whitman School of Management’s Conference on Entrepreneurship in Africa. This conference will examine business and investment opportunities on the continent. Their paper will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship.
In addition to their work on the Tokunbo project, Wilson and Anderson are studying the correlation of special effects in movie previews and “blockbuster” films since 1995. With a research team comprising of Bay Path students who are recipients of the Walmart College Success Awards*, Wilson and Anderson will examine special effects-coded previews to determine if they play a role in the films success at the box office. “Special effects have changed the way we view films, and it is part of the alchemy of the optimal film viewing experience,” said Wilson.
Wilson is often an invited lecturer to discuss his studies. Later this month, he and his colleague Greg Jones, chief executive officer of Cannes Associates, will address students at Emerson College to discuss their recent research on the production of rock ‘n’ roll concerts, focusing on this form of event management and its contributions to organizational theory. This spring, he and colleague Aldo Fabrizi, a former classical bassist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, will share their insights on the qualities that can promote or limit high performance in organizations, drawing from their examination of the intensive management practices in symphony orchestras. Currently, Wilson is working with Omega Optical to explore the operational practices and business model of deploying the company’s new state-of-the-art 3-D lens and glasses for motion pictures. He hopes this work will evolve into a case study for the Harvard Business School.
“Through these collaborative research projects, we are enhancing the traditional business models, changing the way companies approach partnerships, their organization, their management, and their customers,” said Wilson.
* The Walmart College Success Awards program is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and is made possible by a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation.