|Be your own special flower (gag)|
Credit: flickr user tlchua99
(DL) Here's how to pick an area to concentrate on:
(EOW) I believe that other experienced scientists would agree with me that when you are selecting a domain of knowledge in which to conduct original research, it is wise to look for one that is sparsely inhabited. . .I advise you to look for a chance to break away, to find a subject you can make your own... if a subject is already receiving a great deal of attention, if it has a glamorous aura, if its practitioners are prizewinners who receive large grants, stay away from that subject.If I had a nickel for every time I heard this advice in graduate school from a seminar speaker, I'd have a lot of nickels.
I wonder how this works at a large or a small industrial organization. It seems to me that, at a large company, branching out on one's own does not necessarily lend itself to being "a good team player" (or whatever the term for being conformist enough is.) It always seems like glamorous areas are great places for people to find success and rewards and promotion, the benefits of which are not to be completely denied. At a small company, the temporal and economic demands that require everyone to wear multiple hats does not easily allow for the time and focus to be a specialist. I also recognize that every good idea had a start somewhere -- the image of Hewlett and Packard in their garage is a testament to that.
I think that scientists (especially Ph.D.s) love, love, love to become specialists in weird fields and understand them deeply, potentially to the point of potential irrelevancy (said the obscure topic blogger.) I just hope I can, like Wilson suggests, turn this tendency to success in industry.