“Research universities make us safer. Imagine the fight against terrorists without facial recognition, detection technologies that sensitively trace bomb-making materials, satellite surveillance, secure communications, and tracking capabilities … not only do these institutions innovate with vital technologies, they also produce the engine of new growth … “
In reality, the journey from lab desk to economic growth is not that clear cut. The more likely series of events begins with the need for research funding, and ends with a number of workshops attended by industry partners, who, while checking smartphones for upcoming meetings contemplate the unspoken: “Why exactly did we invest in this research project?”.
In order to survive in the modern academic jungle, it is increasingly important for career academics to think like CEO’s. The suggestion of brilliance and pursuit of passion are not enough. The modern academic must learn to present their research in the language of their client.
Three simple things to keep in mind when preparing for your next workshop:
• Don’t confuse your goals (i.e. research outcomes, publications, creation of new knowledge in your field) with those of your client (i.e. return on investment, and indirectly, innovation).
• Articulate the link between your research and the client’s goals. This should not be left as homework for the client to complete.
• Communicate “in plain terms”. Don’t make research outcomes unnecessarily complicated, or you run the risk of losing your audience to their smartphone.
Research is imperative for innovation, and innovation in turn, is key to profitability in an increasingly competitive world. For innovation to happen, an intersection of focus, passion and obsession must be present … characteristics held by the researchers working to improve your bottom line.
“If you have too many things to think about, you’ll get to the superficial solution, not the brilliant one”.
— Evan Williams in Evan Williams’s Rule for Success: Do Less