TABLE 5.1 Some Significant Shifts in Research

Old Research Paradigm


New Paradigm


Invention plus innovation

Isolation from business

Deep awareness of business strategies

Opaque organizational structure

Clear line of sight

Technology markets

Internal workings of Corporate Research and Technology

Creating new technologies

Creating new technologies

Creating new businesses

Creating new business models

Identifying and nurturing new core competencies

Creating destabilizing events

Obscuring responsibility

Embracing responsibilty

Ivory tower

Ivory basement

Part of the purpose of still having some centralized R&D is to create synergy among the business divisions. If you break a company up into business divisions, in what way is the whole a sum of the parts? One of the ways is by having a small centralized research group create common technology platforms that can be used by multiple business divisions. So, one of our measures is the number of technology platforms we create and how many of these get shared across business divisions. If you can show real shareability, then you have a synergy factor that justifies some centralization. Also, by creating platforms that are shared by several business divisions, you get an implicit corporate architecture across the various product platforms, and this may be the best way of getting an architecture accepted in a corporation. So, there are some subtle cultural or social issues that come out of this measure.

What I want to do is to discuss a set of shifts that we have been going through over the last three to five years. These are summarized in Table 5.1.

I want to talk a little bit about the theory underlying some of these shifts, but before I do that, I need to mention that what we are really talking about is a cultural shift. It is not just a cultural shift of research; it is also a cultural shift of the corporate world at large. So the question is, How do you bring about cultural changes in the research community? That is done partly by measures, but it also is done by basically changing the language, by reframing some of the distinctions of research and technology transfer.

What I am going to talk about is how we have been changing our discourse and some of the techniques for that which turn out to be as important as the measures themselves. In fact, although measures are important, we feel that if our success is going to turn on measures alone, we will have already lost the game! Measures, without having established the credibility of the research organization, are not going to change the perception of our credibility.

A major issue is how to establish that credibility. Then, against that backdrop, measures have quite a different tone and purpose— indeed, they then become a tool we can use for ourselves for self-improvement as much as a “monitoring” tool used by others. So, how do some of these shifts change the way we see ourselves?

The first is the recognition that our jobs as researchers are not just to produce the invention, but also to share some of the responsiblity for making it into an innovation. By “innovation,” we mean implementation of the invention. Perhaps one of the reasons top-level management often comes out of research is because we quickly learn that, often, as much creativity goes into the innovation part of the invention as into the invention itself. Why is that important? Because it transforms the arrogance of researchers. Researchers need to learn that they are not the only creative people and that, in fact, the amount of creativity it takes to unfreeze the corporate mind and to get a radical new idea accepted requires some innovative “out-of-the-box” thinking, just as the original invention did. Although this is an obvious business goal, it actually starts to change the way we, as researchers, view ourselves.

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