4 Reasons to Attend IRI’s 2017 Annual Meeting in Person

Conferences offer an opportunity to learn many things you otherwise wouldn’t learn. They do this simply by exposing you to ideas and people you might not otherwise interact with but which may share things in common with your line of work. Most conferences focus on a particular industry or specific trade within an industry. The Industrial Research Institute (IRI) is different. Where most associations or societies address the issues of a particular industry, IRI addresses the complex variety of issues associated with a job function that spans all industries: how to manage the research and development (R&D) function.

This is not as simple, straightforward, or obvious as it appears. R&D encompasses far more than most people realize and the individuals who manage it are often former researchers themselves who transitioned into management and have succeeded enough to become decision-makers at their R&D firms. These are the cream of the crop in the world of R&D management practitioners, and that last word is important. IRI members are not academics; they are not in this to write scholarly papers. These people attend IRI meetings with the intention of learning how to do their jobs better and to contribute their expertise to that conversation. You want to improve how your firm manages R&D? Attend an IRI meeting. Plain and simple.

If that doesn’t convince you, here are 4 reasons why this year’s IRI Annual Meeting (#IRIAM17) is worth your time.

boston, paul revere statue
IRI’s 2017 Annual Meeting is in Boston, MA, May 8 -11.

1) The IRI Annual Meeting Offers an Immersive Experience

As we mentioned above, IRI is not in the business of putting you in a room with academics and having you listen to thought-provoking lectures. You will get hands-on interaction with pretty much every idea on offer at this event. Studies show that interactive learning is far more effective than listening to a bunch of talking heads. Our meetings are designed with this in mind. Whenever you hear an interesting thought or observation, we provide spaces for our attendees to discuss that idea, to process and synthesize what’s been learned in order to make it “sticky.” We have “conversation corners,” networking lunches, ad hoc meeting rooms, extended networking breaks, and more. The most important facet of these meetings is that you talk about what you’re learning with the other attendees.

2) Networking is Built-In as a Core Component of the IRI Annual Meeting

Along with the immersive experience mentioned above, we recognize that face-to-face interaction, relationship building, and a chance to simply speak with others doing the work of managing R&D at their firms is perhaps the number one reason to attend such meetings. We build this into the format of our meeting. And remember, IRI meeting attendees are not here to promote their book, they’re not here to sell you a service or to buy into their consultancy programs, they are not going to discuss theoretical concepts (unless that’s your thing, of course). No, they are here to seek, share, learn, and create best practices in the practical management of R&D at mid- to large-sized firms.

superhero businessmen
Ok, so maybe they’re not superheroes, but you get the idea

These are people doing the same job you do, but in a different industry. And, believe it or not, they face the same challenges you face. Networking is central to what we offer, but it is more than that. It is central to what our meeting attendees tell us they need. We understand. Opportunities to receive hands-on training in R&D management are nonexistent. Most of these people learned their jobs by simply doing them and receiving mentoring from someone in their organization who did it before they did, and so on down the line.

The creation of IRI back in 1938 was done specifically because no such opportunity existed to study, understand, and improve the function of managing the research function at R&D firms. The founding of IRI’s journal, what is today called Research-Technology Management (RTM), was done so that the results of these studies could be shared more broadly because no such publication existed. If you want “training” on how to be a better manager of R&D, you have to talk to other people managing R&D and learn what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and, more importantly, why they’re doing it.

3) The IRI Annual Meeting Provides Opportunities to Join or Create a Research Working Group

You have a particular challenge at work that is bugging you. It’s ok, you can admit it. We all have at least one. Each foray into forming a group of professionals to sit and discuss this challenge has floundered. You know what you want to say, you know how you would present this challenge to others, it’s just that no one seems to be interested. We have a solution for you: come to the IRI Annual Meeting and pitch this challenge to your peers in other industries.

IRI hosts research working groups as one of its core value propositions. You have the opportunity to form a working group with elite R&D management practitioners from across every industry to try and address your challenge. Think they won’t be interested? Go back and re-read number 2 above. We enjoy watching the look of shock on our attendees’ faces when they learn that other industries are facing the exact same challenges they are and how amazing an opportunity it is that we provide them at our meetings. It is easily one of the biggest highlights of working at IRI.

4) Meeting People and Having Conversations Sparks Creativity

Not everyone is great at networking. Not everyone is a bubbly, outgoing conversationalist. That’s fine. If you like sitting in the back of the room while others engage in lively discussion that’s okay. You are still exposed to a plethora of ideas and approaches to R&D management that you otherwise would miss if you weren’t in the room. But remember, our meetings are immersive. Very few people can get away with sitting in the back and not engaging. Don’t worry, everyone engages. You aren’t being singled out. In fact, as we’re happy to report, every single person who engages in conversation at these meetings walks away with more than they possibly could have if they’d sat quietly in the back of the room taking notes.

Conversation does two things: it forces us to formulate our ideas and our thoughts into a linear narrative that becomes tangible, and therefore discussable, and it allows those ideas to receive constructive criticism from others. No matter how well you think you know something, this process will make your understanding of that something even better, we promise. But don’t leave your notepad behind when you begin to engage others. Everything learned at the IRI Annual Meeting has to be applied or it loses value. Take notes, download the presentations, and write up a summary of what you would take back to your firm. Don’t lose what you gained by forgetting to write it down.

The 2017 IRI Annual Meeting: R&D Beyond Four Walls

R&D is leveraging its boundary spanner role in both knowledge and technology by co-developing and innovating with new partners, suppliers, and customers. The 2017 IRI Annual Meeting is offering an exploration of how organizations are pushing beyond the traditional value chain to adopt a more dynamic and integrated collaboration culture across the business enterprise. Topics and case studies focus on the role R&D plays in spotting, vetting, and validating new ideas and integrating their value into the business.

Come hear keynotes by Lockheed Martin’s CTO Keoki Jackson, Harvard’s Michael Tushman, the director of the MIT Media Lab Joi Ito, and UC Berkeley’s famed professor and father of “Open Innovation” Henry Chesbrough. Register today!

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