Chemicals & Materials Now!

From basic to specialty, and everything in between

Select category
Search this blog

The Driving Force of an R&D Team

Posted on January 2nd, 2017 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence

Business men

For the last couple of posts, we’ve been looking at Belbins Team Role Framework; A Model For Successful Teams and its application to R&D and innovative teams. Last time we looked at the roles most well suited to those in positions of leadership. Today we’re going to look at the two roles which, more often than not, provide the driving force for successful R&D teams.

The Specialist

According to a recent survey, more than a third of people in R&D teams self-identify with this role. While people in the role of the specialist often tend to bring particular technical knowledge or domain expertise to the table, their role is bigger than that.

Specialists love learning. Accumulating knowledge is a priority for them and it’s that which shapes what they do and how they interact with the rest of the team. Often, specialists can put this pursuit of learning in front of the team objectives, delivery schedules or anything else. They’re excited and motivated by their love of gaining new insights and understanding.

Specialists tend to be experts in their field. Colleagues will often turn to them for help, support and advice. When being given the opportunity to share their knowledge and provide deep understanding or research on a topic, specialists are in their element. They tend to be less comfortable in unstructured meetings or settings where social niceties are prioritized ahead of learning.

Specialists are vital members of most creative teams, as we looked at in this previous post. <Link to Effective Teams for Creative Innovation post>.

The Implementer

As the name suggests, people in this role are the doers of the team. They’re active, practical and disciplined. Implementers work hard to ensure things are done, and done well.

They tend to take action in a systematic or prescribed way. Implementers prefer turning the handle on tasks and keeping things moving in a known and understood way, rather than thinking of radical alternatives.

While that might sound like this role is less valuable for teams doing innovative work, that’s not the case. Implementers can apply process to deliver innovative solutions and thrive with that approach, rather than seeking out new ways of finding solutions to problems.

Implementers are efficient and have a good sense of what is achievable. They’re less likely to shy away from unpleasant, but necessary, tasks than people in other roles. Implementers keep things moving and are focused on action.

Mr Fix It

The most common preferred roles of those working in R&D (according to some research carried out in 2015) are those of Specialist and Implementer. Their roles are key and people who tend to take on one or both roles, are often drawn to work in an R&D environment.

Using his framework, Belbin gives nicknames to people based on their top two preferred roles, which for people who naturally lean towards taking on The Specialist and The Implementer is “Mr Fix It”. If you know anyone who thrives in these two roles, perhaps you can relate to that nickname.

Of course, there is much more that makes up a successful team than this, but an important part of a team doing innovative work is the application of specialist knowledge and understanding. Successful R&D teams often have one or more people who naturally act as the Mr Fix It, using and applying their specialist skills to actively solve problems.

Who are the Mr or Mrs Fix Its on your team?


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

R&D Solutions for Chemicals & Materials

We're happy to discuss your needs and show you how Elsevier's Solution can help.

Contact Sales