February 2011

Discovery

For the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, discovery was about "seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought." To me, that captures, in a wonderfully simple and succinct way, the mysterious combination of curiosity, observation, reflection and imagination that leads to a new idea.

Discovery is usually associated with two kinds of people: explorers and scientists. For sure, our institution counts as part of its legacy some of the great discoverers of all time and I’m thrilled at the energy with which our researchers are reinventing that legacy today.

But I also believe that everyone who works here is capable of "seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what no one has thought." All around us, at every level, are habits no one has ever questioned and solutions no one has yet found.

The greatness of an organization is ultimately traceable to its ability to find new answers—both to old problems and emerging challenges. And if ever someone devises an official organizational "discovery index" (how about insights-per-person, for example?), I want us to top the charts!