What did a polar explorer say?

Recently in a talk session at IIT Bombay, we got to hear Sir Robert Swan. He is a polar explorer, an environmental leader and the first person ever to have walked to the North and South poles. He gave an interesting talk, although almost close to a performance on stage, on his experiences as a member of a polar exploration team.

Many a times people do a lot of things in their life, mostly in a sense that they achieve these things and feel satisfied. However it is often the case that they forget their childhood dreams. Something which they have thought to accomplish in their life as a child fades in a chase to achieve other things in life. Perhaps one can just do the opposite i.e. remember ones childhood dreams and make plans to realize those.

Secondly it is important to find good friends and constitute a good team. Often a team where individuals disagree performs better than the one where individuals agree. Well this seems quite something like a management mantra but to an extent it seems reasonable to say so. People could have common goals but they may have different methodologies to realize these goals. It is important to acknowledge this plurality in individual opinions and use this to best suit the purpose.

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?