Can a Scientific Soul be an Inconvenience for Innovation?

Einstein Tower in Potsdam.
Einstein Tower in Potsdam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People imagine always that any researcher is similar to Einstein. Einstein was a genius; he could imagine a lot of things that many other people could not see. This special ability to understand physics was what made him able to develop his most famous theories. However, most of scientific work is tedious. Scientific work requires to define hypotheses that is a creative part of the work but later it is necessary to design an experiment to validate the hypothesis and this can be, sometimes, very mechanical and boring. But this is not what can make a scientist incompetent for innovation because the creativity of a researcher to create hypotheses usually is more productive than the creativity of a publicist or a writer.

A scientific soul is permanently submitted to the methodic doubt. Science can advance because knowledge, even on solid foundations, is permanently questioned. Many times, the same researcher that has got a new discover is the first person that begins to search for defects in his own theory. Here it is where a scientist can be a barrier for innovation. Practical innovation requires putting a new technology at the markets in form of new products.

Markets are saturated with many other products that are in competition for the money in the consumer’s pocket. With a common Spanish expression that we use in order to designate an excessive exaggeration or a great lie to convince other people, a publicist, or even a politician, is accustomed to “sell the motorbike (or the she-donkey) to other people”. However, a good scientist is accustomed by its profession to consider that his own work is imperfect.

Passing from the fundamental scientific field to practical innovation can be even harder. Many innovations that get a place at the markets are very simple compared with a typical scientific work. How can people accustomed to find solutions for very difficult problems transmit that a typical product that simplifies our lives can be as important as the Higgs’s boson?

This fact is well-known by innovation managers. A lot of years ago, I decide to change a career in the world of fundamental research for a work related to innovation management at the private sector. The first thing that my new boss told me in my job interview was I would not be involved in great innovation projects of advanced technologies, and he was worried about if I could find it demotivating. Some years after I abandoned that job, we met again for a lunch, and he told me that I have improved hugely my ability to sell consultancy management products from the first time we met.

If we look at the current situation in Europe in this time of a debt crisis in many countries, we can see where some badly named austerity policies are being more hazardous. I can see how scientists do not know how they can defend his own work while many other people are “selling the motorbike, the she-donkey or both simultaneously” to the rest of the society.

For instance, don’t you think that a country with the size of Spain should have the correspondent number of scientists in relation to Germany instead of several times more politicians than Germany?

Politicians are needed to organize properly the society, but if their proposed organization consists in destroying the productive and innovative fabric preserving unproductive employment, something must not have been analyzed adequately.


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