What is in your suitcase? Why is that a challenge for R2O?

Almost everyone brings a suitcase when they travel. The size of the suitcase and its contents depend on the length of the trip, the destination, and the personal preferences of the traveler. Some people travel light while others travel with many different forms and options of attire, as well as varying amounts of personal items. In almost all suitcases, there will be shirts, pants, socks, shoes, and toiletries, but one person’s suitcase may have dozens of different shirts while another may have just a few.

If you examine how practitioners perform their jobs and specific tasks, you will find that there are many different ways to create the same deliverable, or information product, such as a meteorologist creates a weather forecast. There are some practitioners that use a few reliable tools or sources for crafting their deliverables while others elect to have a broader selection at their fingertips, even if they do not use each item regularly. This is no different than the suitcases, each with some of the same types of items mixed along with a few unique items.

It is not a matter of right or wrong, but instead an example of how different people can approach the same task (or trip) in different ways. In rare circumstances, there may be instances in which someone uses too few or too many tools or sources, and in those extreme scenarios, quality can suffer, but that is generally an exception. Few people pack for a weeklong trip with only a single shirt and pair of pants or haul more than one or two suitcases when departing for a few days.

In the context of R2O demonstrations, these individual preferences can make determining the value of new research byproducts more challenging. This is because the benefit of a new innovation (such as a tool, source, or other research byproduct) compared to one practitioner’s set of tools and sources may be different than compared to another’s. To extend the suitcase metaphor, suppose two travelers were headed to a tropical island: one traveler packed light button-down shirts while the other packed polyester t-shirts. If we introduced a polo shirt with breathable, moisture-wicking fabric to both travelers, it may be more beneficial to the traveler who packed the polyester t-shirts. But suppose neither traveler packed any hats, in which case a baseball cap would be a welcome addition to each suitcase.

Some innovations are incremental improvements and others are new and unique, and that will impact the perceived value during a demonstration depending on the scenarios and the practitioners. The role or function of certain demonstrated research byproducts may also be different relative to each other and the existing set of tools or sources that a practitioner actively uses. Or one practitioner may find a new function for a research byproduct than another.

These are important reasons why R2O demonstrations must involve multiple different practitioners, particularly those with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills. Some practitioners may find new innovations more suited for their particular workflow, or they may be more open to changing their workflow, particularly if they recognize challenges with creating a quality deliverable. Some may like to have many different options available to them, and therefore readily add a new innovation to their toolkit or workflow, while others may prefer to focus on traditionally successful (i.e., “tested and true”) approaches.

The reason there are different successful workflows is because workflows can be optimized in a certain way without necessarily compromising quality of the deliverable. These optimizations are based on the preferences and knowledge of each practitioner. Some workflows may be larger than others because thoroughness may be valued over time and vice versa. There are always external constraints on workflows just as there are constraints on R2O.

For example, the budget is an omnipresent constraint, but there is also the issue of relevance and time. There has to be some reasonable judgment on how to constrain a workflow or a certain R2O demonstration so that practitioners are not overwhelmed with options such that the demonstration is no longer practical to assess the value of disparate innovations. At some point, the suitcase is full. And just like shirts, pants, and socks are usually not packed in random order, trying to demonstrate too much at once can be challenging in proving value.

At that point of capacity, the individual value of each item in and outside of the suitcase should be reconsidered. There need not be too many similar items. As part of some demonstrations, it is prudent to consider the unique merits of each tool or source relative to the different practitioner workflows. In adding one shirt to a suitcase, another one may need to be removed. That is why R2O is not always about adding new products, but replacing or removing products, which can be difficult if some practitioners have incorporated them into their workflows while others have not or willingly move on.

In the end, people planning for the same trip will have different types of suitcases and different items in their suitcases, but there will be common or similar items between them, in value and/or function. You know of everything in your suitcase and how to use or wear it, but the same might not be true for someone else’s. The preferences for tools and sources that practitioners use to do their jobs are no different. Quality deliverables might arise from different methods with some similar elements. Assessing the value of a new innovation requires a constant consideration of that.