Managing a research group vs. a product group

Today we got an opportunity to listen to Dr. Richard (Rick) Rashid who came to deliver a talk at IIT Bombay. He has an acclaimed career first as an academician at CMU and then as Senior VP Research at Microsoft Research Worldwide. He deliberated on relevance of basic research and its values. Reacting to one of the questions at the end of his talk, he said something quite interesting. He pointed out the difference between managing a research group and a product group. From a stakeholder’s perspective, it is more productive for a research group to be adventurous in spirits and to be able to take higher intellectual risks. But this demands that they should be given a highly stable platform. On the other hand a product group operates by aligning itself to well defined deadlines and deliverable at different stages. They work by committing themselves to established process charts and guidelines. They often run into dangers of being redundant in the changing market environments. It is seen to be important many a times to reshuffle the composition of a product group to account for changes in market requirements.

One can thus say that a research groups relies on stability to produce varying (unstable) results while a product group suffers from instability its composition owing to its commitment to produce stable results. Insightful, isn’t it?

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