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Dating advice for researchers

Posted 3 years ago

When a researcher meets a potential industry partner at an event, selling mode generally kicks in. They see an opportunity for their research project and start angling the discussions towards it.

But should researchers be selling research on what is effectively a ‘first date’? It’s a bit like talking about marriage too soon in a new relationship – it’s awkward, unwelcome, and off-putting.

If researchers were focused on helping, rather than selling, they would form much stronger relationships. Let me paint two scenarios.

Scenario one: (Which I have witnessed – like a spectator of a train crash). A researcher is introduced to a company executive at a networking event and they find they work in the same industry.  They start talking about industry problems, and the researcher eagerly suggests they apply for an ARC Linkage Grant. The executive looks a bit confused; the conversation stalls and they make their excuses and leave. Nothing happens.

Scenario two: A researcher is introduced to a company executive at a networking event and they find they work in the same industry. Only this time, the researcher doesn’t mention a research project. Instead, the researcher asks the executive about the problems they are facing in their industry. The researcher listens. Then, the researcher suggests some ideas that might help solve those challenges. Afterward, as a follow-up, the researcher provides some additional ideas and introduces the executive to someone else that might help the business.

At this stage, the problem might be solved, which is a great outcome. The researcher could then ask the executive what other problems they have. The researcher has demonstrated they can solve problems and be of value, so the solid foundations of a professional relationship have been formed. A much better basis to start an ARC Linkage discussion, when the time is right, and after trust has been established.

Researchers will be ‘luckier in love’ by providing solutions first, and demonstrating their value to the business, rather than jumping straight to a proposal at the initial meeting. My advice to researchers is to “play the long game”. It’ll pay off in the end.


Author: Brian Ruddle, Managing Director of Impact Innovation Group.