Failure is often seen as a negative part of scientific discovery. Failure is inherently bad. But failure is not completely bad. When it is not a completely indomitable failure, it provides an opportunity for growth, and quite often is a stepping stone towards success, or brings you one step closer from achieving your goal.
This anthology is a collection of 15 carefully curated pieces which reflect the importance and the nuances around failure and its role in the scientific world. As you will find, failure is not only an irremovable component of science and progress, but a driving force into scientific discovery and advancement.
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As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” What they don’t tell you is that it also makes Jack less likely to succeed at work. In the next fifteen examples, you will see the value of play–hobbies–in addition to work, specifically scientific exploration. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson reports how hobbies have benefited the scientific community through many generations.
“Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities—a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity—but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies” (Johnson, 172).
The innovative power that comes from balancing work and play–career and hobbies–has always been present in scientific exploration. This anthology will describe how that power is still at work today.
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“Rigid business organization and sharply delineated functions had no place at Genentech, a company in which flexibility, improvisation, and quick action were essential”(128).
Genentech’s business model and inter-company interaction are consist with innovation and a perfect level of casualness that makes the company so successful. Genentech was obviously not going to be a company forged on the conventional seriousness of the corporate world. Rather, Genentech embodies the facilitation of ideas that Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, would love. The fact of the matter is this: in the realm of science, innovation, and product-based development, it is very important for employees of whatever company to be comfortable, casual, and unconventional. This, in turn, will create an atmosphere that can spread innovation.
Current CEO Ian Clark embodies this mantra because he knows the importance of innovation facilitation in relation to the biotechnology industry. “The truth is that the best ideas don’t always come from the top. I want every person at Genentech to feel comfortable both contributing ideas and challenging them. If dressing up in a pink ruffled tuxedo or like Han Solo once in awhile helps keep that culture alive, I’m up for it.” Ian Clark could not have said it any better: it is equally important that all members of a company are able to voice their opinions and ideas, so that this company can be running at the highest level of efficiency and potential.
Chapter 5 describes “an emerging culture” in the Genentech company. Genentech was developing a culture that was unmatched by any other technology company at the time. Hughes wrote that Silicon Valley firms were equally motivated by innovation, research, and protecting intellectual property. However, these companies lacked strong ties with the academic world that biotechnology is built upon. The culture of Genentech’s company combined the financially driven aspect of product development that tech companies thrive on, with the academic collaboration that universities promote.
“Genentech’s culture was in short a hybrid of academic values brought in line with commercial objectives and practices. It was, to turn a phrase, “a recombinant culture” in way that the biotechnology industry of today continues to manifest in one way or another” -Hughes, 132
The culture was not lost on its visitors. As Hughes states, visitors to the company immediately noticed the energy and electricity of the company’s scientists. The company was noticeably informal and was lacking in respect to authority or hierarchy.
“Genentech’s culture of extremes included a strand that observers today would label socially unacceptable. But it was not Genentech’s blemishes that financiers noticed. They saw a company with an impressive line of scientific accomplishments and major corporate alliances.” – Hughes, 135
The environment of Genentech reminded me about Google’s environment from reading Johnson’ Where Good Ideas Come From. Google is notorious for having a laid back, informal work environment, where employees are encouraged to collaborate. Both Genentech and Google provide their employees with work environments that may not fit the norm, but allow their employees to be as innovative as possible. Both companies are able to produce highly marketable, successful products, while still providing their employees with the interactive environment they so desire.