Most people are familiar with Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass. In the first book, Alice falls down a hole while chasing after a white rabbit and ends up engaged in a series of fantasy adventures including (famously) a mad hatter’s tea party and a game of chess than might end in death.
In “Through the Looking Glass” Alice is involved in a race with the Red Queen in which she ends up running faster and faster but always staying in the same place:
"In our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
I became fascinated with this story when working as an evolutionary biologist. “The Red Queen Hypothesis”, first formulated by the Chicago-based theorist Leah Van Valen in the 1970s, states that no matter “how fast” one species evolves, other that depend on it – notably predators – must themselves evolve at the same speed in order to remain successful (and not go extinct). Put simplistically: Everybody ends up in the same place, no matter how fast they run.
The same idea has been applied to business: Innovation and change will only put you ahead of your competitors if you do something different, often markedly so: tweaking the same ideas to “run faster” is likely to not be effective as competitors are also “running at the same, or similar” speed. Disruption, new ideas, innovation are what’s needed to make a significant difference, not to just “tick along”, staying in pretty much the same place.
You can put these ideas into practice in your research as well: how different is what you are doing from the programmes of other researchers? Do you feel that although you are “running faster and faster”, perhaps with your work, you just stay in the same place relative to your competitors, all working in the same field, addressing similar questions? Really important scientific breakthroughs, innovations in research, come from shifts away from the race: breaks away from the Red Queen, running faster and faster, all the time in the same direction.
Workshops provided by Charlesworth Knowledge can help you to broaden your research perspective and find ideas for shifts out of the “research rat race”. Training can help you to “see the wood from the trees” and take your research development to the next level in terms of ideas, paper and grant writing, and presentation skills.
Learn how to differentiate yourself and your research from the competition and achieve your potential.