I 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.
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.
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.
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.