I saw a young man closing his eyes and doing meditation under the shade of a tree.
I went closer to him, he heard the sound of my steps and opened his eyes.
I greeted him saying hello, and also expressed my sincere sorry for the disturbance, he didn’t respond except with a simple smile.
I asked him, “what was happening in your mind when your eyes were closed?”
He replied, “I wanted to walk across the land, but the earth was covered with thorns.”
“One option came to my mind, it was to pave my road, to tame all of nature into compliance.”
“Suddenly, a second option appeared in my mind, I wanted to make sandals so that thorns couldn’t stop me walking.”
Once I heard this, I said to myself, the second option is what R&D is, the internal solution to solve the existing problem.
Of course, R&D is not a single individual but is a unified approach.
R&D is not a submissive force of unity, R&D is not an overpowering force either.
R&D is intelligent thinking and preparation, it is a cultivated resilience which helps us to gain the ability to bounce back and try again with more experience and wisdom.
Can you guess?
What happened over the last 300 years?
Of course, there were a lot of changes over the years.
Some very prominent transformations that changed our lives were the industrial revolution, discovery of penicillin, electricity, the light bulb, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, and space traveling.
Just few to name major transformations that changed our lives in many different ways.
At present, we are in full fledged technological revolution with the invention of microchips, computers, and smartphones, all connected to the world wide web.
With these tools in hand, we have become a globalized community and each of us is one click away from what we intend to do.
Let’s check a little bit of history.
There were at least five technological revolutions from the 1770s to 2000s.
The industrial revolution began with Arkwright’s water-powered cotton spinning mill in Cromford, England in 1771.
This was followed by the age of steam and railways, the rocket steam engine for the Liverpool-Manchester railway in 1829.
The age of steel, electricity, and heavy engineering was the next big move. Andrew Carnegie’s Bessemer plant in Pittsburgh, USA in 1875 revolutionized the world.
Then came the age of oil, the automobile, and mass production of the first Model-T at the Ford plant in Detroit, USA in 1908.
And, the age of information and telecommunications began when Intel unveiled the microprocessor in 1971.
At present, our technology revolution includes information gathering, decentralized approach, and globalization. Information gathering means knowledge as capital in the value added society.
Our global communication system enables instant globalized interactions between local segments. This is a powerful tool to create economies of greater scope and scale and it turns into a huge economic market.
In all of these efforts, the R&D’s role is in the top level and it’s changing at a very high speed. One of the most important changes is the valuation of R&D which can not be defined by numbers anymore. Valuation runs through human’s mind, science, technology, and psychology.
In the past, businesses were defined by their physical structure; more plants, more property, and more equipment. They were considered as tangible assets.
At least, we could make an R&D valuation based on them.
Nowadays, the concept of growing a business has been transferred to the intangible components more. They are more of intellectual properties such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, brand marketing, brand value, attractiveness of product, and the delivery of the product through various outlet channels.
Currently in the USA, the intangible investment rate of the corporate sector is roughly twice that of the tangible investment rate and it keeps growing.
We have come very far, the value of creating aspects of knowledge, information, and entertainment, all of this is possible through the global internet.
The cost of the physical input has gone down but the value part has grown exponentially.
Think of Uber technology, how come a single app can democratize and revolutionize the whole transportation industry in approximately 72 countries and 10,500 cities.
What are the tangible assets of Uber?
Look at Google, can we think of life without it?
The single small box appears on our screen which is very clean and simple, every person knows where to type and just click go.
It has changed human society completely in so many ways which are impossible to explain.
What are the tangible assets of google? Where are its office buildings and infrastructures globally?
Remember, Google spends more than 15% of its revenue on R&D. Their R&D spending has more than doubled since 2016.
Any science and technology company’s product portfolio is created by R&D endeavors which are dedicated to invent, design, and produce products and services for us.
The higher the technology, the more R&D is embodied in a company’s products and greater the asset value of its product portfolio.
The genius Albert Einstein is very relevant here.
“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”
R&D is a source for the next level, it is key for waves of disruption and obsolescence.
In recent years, the bigger companies are spending a lot of money on R&D.
For example, Facebook is spending almost 21% of its revenue towards R&D spending.
Amazon’s R&D spending is more than 10% of its total revenue.
This tells the story where we are going.
R&D always moves in a slow fashion as a series of accepted notions and theories because it is science driven by the market.
We always think that scientific discovery is a process of adding intellectual bricks to an established norm. Many times scientific progress occurs by stepwise process but sometimes also happens by crisis.
But R&D’s role is the same both times.
Take an example of covid-19 vaccine development.
The crisis completely destroys the intellectual deposition of the existing phenomenon and takes us into the direction of new territory.
Normal scientific development works in a normal condition which is the scientific community’s common path. But the crisis violates the common scientific path and leads us into a new direction at very high speed.
Max Planck, a German physicist and Noble laureate has said beautifully, “ A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
Past R&D used to be a prudent way of doing things.
But now when you tell people you are a traditional R&D member, you are considered old-fashioned, out of step, clinging to an old idea for a time that has come and gone. The world we are seeing is on the move.
If you are not constantly running computerized model algorithmic experiments, you must be falling behind in R&D.
Any kind of R&D is a noble endeavor because it identifies people’s self-discipline, psychological endurance, and civic community dedication.
Scientists understand that outstanding creations are often born of small modifications or small thinkings or sometimes by small errors.
Problems persist if the R&D scientist has the brittle dependence on the safety of absolute perfection. In such a scenario, any small error triggers fear, uncertainty, and confusion that muddies the decision making process.
We always glorify the essence of teamwork in a corporation’s success but there is also another part in R&D. Many companies’ intangible assets are created by a single R&D person, working and thinking alone.
I’m not discrediting the team effort, what I’m emphasizing is the culture of thinking which is possible when you are alone.
The sistine chapel ceiling is one large fresco that depicts nine separate scenes from the book of Genesis. The amazing fact about this phenomenal work, in addition to its never ending attractiveness, is that it was created by one person working alone, under extremely difficult conditions.
Johann Wolfgan Von Goethe once said, “Without having seen the sistine chapel , one cannot form a truer picture of what one person is capable of.”
R&D scientists fall exactly into the same category.
Our world has already shown over and over again that pure discovery and invention is one person’s capability under extremely passionate conditions.
There is nothing except pure human spirit and interest.
The good R&D managers should always think about how to increase the intrinsic value of business. The manager of the organization who misleads scientists may eventually mislead himself or herself.
This has a grave consequence for the organization. A good R&D manager should nurture the atmosphere of self-confidence among R&D personnel.
Self-confidence is directly linked to self-reliance, and self-reliance, in turn, is the foundation of R&D management.
Here is one way to improve self confidence among R&D scientists.
All R&D scientists and managers must read philosophy and psychology.
Just think about this: why Plato and Aristotle always said practical wisdom involves the combination of skill, conviction, and opportunity.
Any R&D’s mission is to bring practical wisdom into reality.
When we become R&D scientists and managers, skill always indicates right knowledge, conviction indicates good judgment, and opportunity indicates effective application.
In today’s world, each one of these is an intangible asset for the organization.
The whole function of philosophy is to produce habits of action.
In any organization, R&D begins the action. Our beliefs are really rules for taking actions.
For R&D scientists, there will inevitably be times when they need to try new ideas, release their current knowledge to take in new information. But it is very critical for them to integrate the new information in a manner that doesn’t violate who we are and what we want.
Let’s bring William James for a while, the “father of American psychology.”
William James always advocated that nobody understood better than him the role of philosophy in human life.
He is considered the creator of American Pragmatism.
William James did not begin as a philosopher, he had a medical degree but never practiced medicine.
He studied psychology and Roman stoic Marcus Aurelius, Ralph Waldo Emerson was his intellectual godfather.
We as R&D scientists can learn a lot from William James, as we are creators of actions in our organization.
Remember, psychologists, philosophers, and R&D scientists are not far, all they do is study the human mind.
Psychologists study the mind’s defection and philosophers figure out ways to improve thoughts for better decision making, and finally R&D scientists assimilate both and create products and services for human beings.
Thank you for your time.
Why is your R&D falling behind?
I saw a young man closing his eyes and doing meditation under the shade of a tree.