“Technique is the easiest area of competence to learn, but it’s also one that decays the most quickly.” -Jay Gillette
Tricks of the Trade in Research and Development
In every industry, there is a way to get things done, and an easier way to get things done. Research and Development (R&D), just like all other industries, consists of a separate set of tricks to aid in the advancement of talent, resources, and discoveries.
A trick is, “a simple device that helps you solve a problem,” according to Howard S. Becker, author of Tricks of the Trade: How To Think About Your Research While You’re Doing It. “These tricks, then, are ways of thinking about what we know or want to know that help us make sense of data and formulate new questions based on what we’ve found.”
Becker focuses on four encompassing tricks including imagery, sampling, concepts, and logic. “The tricks that make up the content of this book help solve problems of thinking, the kinds of problems social scientists usually see as ‘theoretical,’” according to Becker. “The tricks that I have in mind are tricks that help those doing that kind of work to get on with it, whatever professional title they use.”
While Becker’s research is enlightening, there are a few more “tricks” that can be applied to life as well as R&D to help one get on with it.
- Patience: “Patience can cook a stone,” according to an African Proverb. This quote means that anything is possible with time. When extraordinary research is conducted it can take decades, and some researchers die in the process.
- Researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Boston University conducted the Framingham Heart Study which has taken more than 65 years and is still being conducted. In the study, thousands of people are screened for indicators of heart disease. The researchers have discovered dozens of facts regarding heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study has gone on for nearly 70 years; but, there are other studies such as The Pitch Drop Experiment that has gone on for 86 years, and The William James Beal Germination Experiment that has taken more than 100 years and is expected to finish in 2100. The point is that if you want research that can change the world or at least your business- you must be patient.
- Passion: There is hardly a greater “trick” than to genuinely care about the research being conducted. It would be a waste of your life for it to be spent researching something that does not completely fascinate you, technology or otherwise.
- Engineer and astronomer, Samuel Pierpont Langley, set out to invent the first “flying machine.” Langley worked at Harvard College and the U.S. Naval Academy, he wrote books, he was educated, and he was granted more than $70,000 by the U.S. government to conduct his research, samples, and tests. In 1903 his tests failed, and Langley quit working on the airplane. Nevertheless, just a few days later, the Wright Brothers with fewer resources, financially unequipped, and less education – had the first sustained flight.
The things worth researching in your life are things that you do not have to be paid for, your purpose in doing it is not notoriety, and it keeps you up in the middle of the night. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what you come from, but if you work hard. In time, you will reap the benefits of your research.
- Relentlessness: It is not enough to be both passionate and patient; you must be relentless in pursuit of your research. You must have grit and know when “no” is not an answer for your life.
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for, “not being creative enough.” While he is not alive, his imagination still lives on today and is known and by millions of people around the globe.
The reality is the tricks that are listed, are far more difficult to garner than they appear and certainly more difficult than acquiring a specific skill. “Technique is the easiest area of competence to learn, but it’s also one that decays the most quickly,” according to Jay Gillette, Ball State University Information and Communication Sciences Professor. When applied, the “tricks” listed will assist in conducting high-quality research.
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