Scientists, so impractical? The results are in: Commercial Targets: 0, Freedom: 1
Scientific creativity. An engine of growth and innovation, held back by a lack of market focus and managerial discipline? So a stricter commercial regime should turn science into a lean, mean, innovation machine, right? Well…
It certainly looks like a straightforward contest.
In one corner, an organisation with a tough, demanding regime:
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
Is your startup accelerator in trouble?
- is the whole thing starting to look like a ‘one hit wonder’?
- were the applicants below expectations?
- are you feeling out of your depth?
- is the schedule beginning to look unrealistic?
- are you beginning to feel that you ‘went native’ with the founders’ optimism?
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We’ve been studying startup accelerators
It turns out these problems, and a whole lot more, affect all accelerators in their early stages
They can all be put right
- review cycles are short
- deliverables are pre-defined
- renewal policies are not forgiving of failure
In the other corner, an institution which sounds like it operates much more like a scientist’s hippy dream:
- early failure is tolerated
- long term success is what is rewarded
- freedom to experiment is strongly encouraged
So far, so predictable, yes?
Even a non-scientist wouldn’t need to be too imaginative to expect both types of operation to exist.
And it wouldn’t exactly take a brain surgeon to predict that the first of these two would be a hard-nosed business, and the second example would be one of a myriad similar government-based boondoggles.
But what might shock scientist and layperson alike, is that the reality is in fact pretty much the other way round.
Even more unexpected perhaps, might be the fact that this is not some meaningless and contrived comparison between two obscure, small scale operations, with the research conducted by some unaccredited nobody in some unheard of institution.
The second is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which sounds to the uninitiated as if it has something to do with someone (who sensationalising editors never tire of reminding us was a ‘notorious daredevil air-racer, racy film producer, bra-designing obsessive playboy and delusory recluse’) called Howard Hughes, whose bequest currently stands at over $16 billion, making his legacy the largest private supporter of academic biomedical research in the US.
“HHMI investigators produce high-impact papers at a much higher rate than a control group of similarly-accomplished NIH-funded scientists”.
And if you think those findings were unexpected, you should watch this video, where he asks some equally probing questions about scientists, and gets, if anything, much more disturbing answers:
Here’s another video, where he’s talking about an upcoming course that he’s running: