Putting R&D into Play

You’ve made the case for R&D — now it's time to implement

Why It Matters

Research and development is gaining traction as an essential capability in the social sector. There are the whys of R&D and there are the hows. Once you’ve gotten past all the buzzwords and buy-in, you need to know what it really means to put R&D into play.

So, you’ve made the case for research and development in your organization. Now that your core team has an openness to get going, how do you put things in play?

Here are some responses to perennial questions that arise.

Do We Rely on Internal Capacity or Outside Capacity?

Both. You need thoughtful implementation from Day 1 in order to demonstrate value early on.

It also sets the tone for what strong R&D could look like.

This means that you’ll have to rely on expert practitioners that you probably don’t have in-house.

However, in order for your R&D function to thrive and enhance your programs, products, and services, you need to push your organization toward being more curious, experimental, evidence-driven, and agile.

A learn-by-doing approach that engages the whole organization in R&D activities is well-suited here.

Swan Leroi. R&D for impact in Canada

Do We Seek Out Quick and Dirty Wins, or Do We Move Slowly and Deliberately?

Make sure you’re in a position to take your time.

Yes, you want to wow and demonstrate value of R&D quickly, but you also want to do things that are relevant, and this takes time to uncover.

Also, R&D’s effectiveness and impact requires multiple iterations, which inevitably takes time.

Negotiate sufficient timeline so you don’t feel pressure to rush.

What Kind of Team Do I Need?

You need the right staff complement right out of the gate.

This means bringing together different mindsets, aptitudes, and skills.

And don’t forget The Translator.

This person is someone who understands and empathizes with your organizational culture and incentives.

This team member will help you develop the bridging language to communicate the R&D you’re doing and why it’s relevant and useful to the rest of the organization.

If your R&D work is isolated, its impact will be clipped and it likely won’t be around for long.