Some pearls of wisdom from Prof. John Roberts

IMG-20160301-WA0002I was very happy to host one of my mentors, UNSW Professor John Roberts this week. He gave a well-attended seminar where he discussed how we could use a strategic framework to address the feasibility of any strategic initiative, including what research area to pursue. He boiled this strategic framework down to the following eight questions.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

1. What are we good at? Includes technical skills, motivation, project management, and communication skills.

2. Can we do this? Includes self-assessment of time, knowledge, and skills.

Customers’ Needs:

3. What do customers want? Includes considering the desires of editors, colleagues, deans, managers, and students.

4. Will customers value this? Includes relevance, elegance, rigour, and contribution.

Corporate Objectives:

5. Where do we want to go? Includes an assessment of short-term desires such as an interest in working with interesting ideas and people, and long-term desires such as career progression and having real-world impact.

6. Will this get us there? Includes reflecting on whether there is a gap in the market, and whether there is a market in the gap.

Market Characteristics

7. What is the market like? Includes an assessment of the dynamics of a research area’s lifecycle and finding the sweet-spot, which is before interest in the area peaks.

8. Will the market support this? Includes an assessment of what competitors are doing and recognition of the long time to market.