Saturday, June 10, 2006
The Importance of Salesmanship in Science
What if you had a great new idea for a way to make bicycles 10% faster with the same amount of strength. But lets say you are either not very confident in telling others about your idea, and/or you don't really know who to tell, and/or you tell one company, get turned down, and now lack the confidence to make more calls, and/or you just aren't very good at telling your story; not a very good saleman. This happens every day in the world of commerce. As the president of a manufacturing company in the bicycle and advertising specialties business, we have many, many new product pitched to us. Many,if not most of these, come from shy tinkerers who don't have a clue about how to bring a new idea to market.
As a result of this process, many good ideas never get to first base. Similary, many good ideas get to a manufacturer only to fail in the marketplace. Now, this is sometimes due to the fact that the product is not a good one, is too expensive based on the value it offers, or is just plain unlucky. But I would propose that the biggest reason for the failure of good procucts is lousy marketing. The company who takes the product on may not have the resources (money, manpower, skills, entre) to get the product into the stream of commerce. Or, as is often the case, there is inadequate product championing in the firm, so it just dies from lack of attention.
This is a very long introduction to propose that this phenomenon is also very much in play in science. Right now Al Gore is using the power of his personality, the special kind of energy found in some like him, his unique entre in the market place of ideas, and the money that he can attract to push his concept of global warming.
Others, with far less charisma, money, time, energy, and ability may have better or more correct ideas, but they will lose the battle of ideas for all these wrong reasons. The public is not very good as discerning the difference. But the peril of choosing this way on so substantive an issue is dangerous indeed.