Two Prisms (Mnemonics for R2O)

In November 2015, Google shared the dynamics of their successful teams: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning of work, and impact of work. Google found that the individual backgrounds of the members of the team mattered less than how the team interpreted their mission relative to the organization, and ultimately, how they behaved. Evidence clearly indicated that psychological safety was the most important. That is, trust between team members is essential in overcoming personal insecurities and the prospect of embarrassment.

I have found that it is easy to remember Google’s five dynamics with the word ‘prism’, where each letter represents the first letter of one of the five dynamics (and you change dependability to its close synonym, reliability). A prism is also a great metaphor for a team, because high-functioning teams succeed at ideation and execution based on an initial thread or concept, much like a prism disperses light from a single white band to an array of colors. That is, teams that are well constructed and guided for a specific purpose or toward an understood goal are more likely to expand upon their initial charge.

While it is true that the ‘prism’ dynamics promote success, Google has no shortage of talent, and its teams may not have to overcome barriers at the organizational or even enterprise level, like those that are faced in transitioning research to operations. Because R2O processes require a wide range of scientific and technical acumen coupled with operational expertise, a skills gap is a persistent challenge for R2O teams. Furthermore, it is important to establish personal relationships to secure trust across artificial barriers within the team. People are more likely to work with a friend.

To this end, there is another ‘prism’ that is specific to research to operations. The elements of the R2O prism are people, resources, ideas, science, and motivation. These are separate but complementary to Google’s team dynamics. Where Google’s ‘prism’ is about the dynamics of the team itself, the R2O ‘prism’ is about the qualities of the overarching process.

People: R2O activities must have the “right” people, and these people must have strong relationships that inspire credibility and trust with their team members and their management. The “right” people are not only those who fill certain roles, but those with suitable skills and experience to contribute to the transition. As Google’s findings suggest, there is not an ideal composition for a R2O team, but both research and operational perspectives must be considered, and scientific and technical expertise available.

Resources: Suitable technical systems enable R2O, and over time, enhancements to observing systems are essential to maintaining the pipeline of prospective scientific studies. Other funding may be necessary to ensure the participation of all stakeholders throughout the duration of the transition and evaluation. Without resources, it is unlikely that R2O transitions will reach completion.

Ideas: Creative and diverse ideas are important at all stages of R2O transitions, from brainstorming avenues for innovation, to determining the best applications and delivering ideal visualizations. A wide range of ideas fueling a method for identifying the most promising ideas is an accelerant for R2O activities, with available resources controlling the number of new ideas pursued.

Science: Ideas to improve operational services must be rooted in, and furthered with, scientific methods and principles. The foundation of R2O is science. There may be other changes to operational services that have no direct connection to research projects, peer-reviewed literature, or established knowledge pertaining to a scientific field, but those are not categorized as R2O.

Motivation: If the prospective impact is understood, people are likely motivated to assist in the transition of a research byproduct in a timely fashion. R2O processes must show tangible results and produce success stories to affirm the importance of the work.

As research, new product development, and delivery to operations occur, consider these two prisms to ensure a high quality and smooth R2O transition experience. Team members and senior leaders alike will be thankful for it.