Maher Hakim (Managing Director at Qatar Science & Technology Park)
Culturally these three types of organizations - research, product, and services - cannot be more different. In research institutes, senior researchers leverage their names and reputations in a particular field to solicit grants and attract apprentices- junior researchers looking to establish names for themselves in that field. Junior researchers look up to their seniors both as bosses and as experts. In these organizations, silos of research teams, each intensely focused on a particular topic or discovery, typically develop with the most senior researcher at the top of that team. The junior scientist's career is heavily influenced by the senior researcher on that team - creating a co-dependent professional relationship with all the benefits and shortcomings that come with such relationships.
In product organizations, product managers are not bosses, but facilitators. Product organizations are obsessed with attracting the most creative talent and giving them the space and environment to innovate. When you put the best programmer, the best designer, the best marketer and the best salesperson in a room, sparks fly - both kinds of sparks: creativity and conflict. The best product managers are the ones who know how to increase the "creativity" sparks and reduce the "conflict" sparks. Talent in these organizations is fluid - designers work on various products and are engaged with multiple teams. To achieve success, it is crucial to align and orchestrate the motivation and incentives of various people with different backgrounds - technology, product development, design, marketing and sales - who often work for different bosses and report to different functional areas within the company.
Lastly, consulting firms and service providers are in the business of "customer relationship management". Their ability to survive and compete in the marketplace is dependent on how well they can demonstrate to their clients that they understand their needs and their businesses, how well they can manage the clients' engagements in a way that achieves both client satisfaction and engagement profitability, and how well they can ultimately build long-term relationships with those clients. The culture required to build such organizations is intensely client-focused, with people who are comfortable spending most of their time interacting with customers, managing egos, conducting meetings, dealing with conflicts, and fighting fires - tasks which any scientist would find dreadful!
The simplest way to appreciate the differences between these types of organizations is to take a peek at the "annual reports" of organizations in each of these categories. These reports will tell you a lot about what is important for each of these institutions. Research institutes promote their scientists and celebrate their peer-reviewed journal articles. Product companies detail the benefits and features of their new products. And service organizations tell story after story of successful engagements and happy clients!
So can an organization with a research-oriented culture succeed in bringing innovation solutions to market? The simpler answer is YES - if they become part of a value chain involving other complementary partner organizations. Can they do it on their own? The answer is NO, unless they want to morph into a product organization where R&D spending is in the low teens of their annual budget (Microsoft's R&D spending is a bit over 13% of its revenue - the rest goes to sales, marketing and general administration) or, heaven forbid, a services/consulting organization where R&D spending is almost close to zero!