Confessions of a researchaholic

April 17, 2013

Why you should not do incremental research

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:04 pm
Tags: ,

Because (borrowing a metaphor from finance) doing incremental research is like picking up nickels in front of a running steamroller.

The steamroller is driven by folks who have been publishing on a specific topic recently.

You see (incremental) opportunities to improve on their direction, like nickels on the floor.

And you feel like picking up those nickels. Why not? They are right over there.

However, the steamroller is also on its way to get to the nickels. (An obvious point, but people are surprisingly ignorant to it, especially when they are focusing on the nickels.)

So the questions you should ask are: are you fast enough to beat the steamroller to the nickels? (This depends on your competitive advantage.) And in case you just barely make it, are you tough enough to keep running in front of that steamroller at least for a while? (You have to do some tough comparisons with competing methods.)

Meanwhile, there are golden nuggets elsewhere. They are hidden and harder to find, but they are far from the steamroller and a whole bunch of other people trying to pick up nickels.

I will let you decide where you want to go. If you want to pick up nickels, fine, but I will just sit there watching you running in front of that steamroller. I prefer to be the first guy finding the golden nuggets, and when others notice me, I am already moving on to other places.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Theme: Rubric. Get a free blog at