207
11
The Formation of Lean
R&D Communities:
A Case Example
Einstein once famously remarked that his work rested “on the shoulders of
giants,” namely the scientists and philosophers who had gone before him.
e contributions of these giants, and their less signicant colleagues,
shaped for scientists in that community both the extent of known and
accepted physics as well as the body of problems whose answers remained
unknown but of interest to the community. ey dened the perspectives
that physicists should hold about their science as well as the problems that
physicists should spend their energies in solving. In this respect, the sci-
entic community had a very strong eect in aligning Einsteins thinking
and scientic inquiry. By contributing to the body of knowledge of this
community, and gaining acceptance of this body for his work, Einstein
was able to contribute an entirely new paradigm of thought to the com-
munity’s worldview and usher in a renaissance in physics that extends to
this day.
We have spent a great deal of time discussing the fact that science is, at
its heart, a social activity in which researchers come together in a com-
munity to share in and progress against a higher purpose. In the case of
Einstein, as is the case of all creators, inventors, and researchers, the com-
munity they select to align with creates an environment, a context, and
expectations for that creativity, including expectations about what is valu-
able, a reection of their higher purpose, what proofs will suce to show
valuable contributions toward that purpose, and so on. By their absence,
those things on which the community has not agreed form a set of con-
tributions and proofs that are not yet (and may never be) valued by that
208 • Creating a Lean R&D System
community. In return for commitment to this community, the commu-
nity synthesizes the valuable contributions of its members into a growing
body of knowledge, which it carries with it. It recognizes those contribu-
tions and carries a place for contributors in its legacy.
Of course, some communities function better and more smoothly than
others, even communities of the same type. Some communities thrive and
grow, their members becoming increasingly satised and committed to
the enterprise over time, and these tendencies attract still more people to
the group, people who might share their same sense of purpose. is does
not preclude the odd ght; in fact, the history of science is lled with con-
ict, yet, despite this, the community continues to thrive.
Contrariwise, dysfunctional communities limp along, losing member-
ship and drive over time; in extreme cases, they cease to function entirely.
In dysfunctional communities, valuable output, even (perhaps especially)
by the reckoning of the group itself, is inadequate to serve the commu-
nitys purpose, and over time, people begin to disconnect as a result of
such unfullled purpose. Even those communities with stated purposes
suciently compelling to attract new members will lose those members
and eventually fail if their purpose is inadequately supported by commu-
nity members.
In other cases, communities lose members if the daily operations and
output of the community are at odds with the stated purpose of the com-
munity, that is, if the actions that the community or its membership
undertake are “corrupt” in comparison with the stated purpose of the
group. In such cases, the moral dissonance between the two cannot be tol-
erated by the group, and it splits apart. History is littered with examples.
omas Jeerson wrote these words to describe one of the most famous
of political splits in the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are
instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed. at whenever any form of government becomes destructive
to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to
institute new government.” us, a long-standing community with close
ties of brotherhood and ancestry fractured and became two communi-
ties solely as the result of leadership dissonance with the expectations and
mores of a part of that community.
Corporations are communities within the wider community of a munic-
ipality, state, nation, or the world, and the best companies acknowledge
and build on that understanding. Companies each have their purposes.

Get Creating a Lean R&D System now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.