Quantifying impact is a difficult task. However, to me, it is governed by a simple equation:
Theoretical beauty x Practical utility = Impact of your work.
- By Theoretical Beauty, I mean the ability/capacity of “Unification” of any concept/idea. (not proving consistency or rate of convergence).
- Practical utility denotes the generic usefulness of the algorithm (simultaneously applicable for many problems) – Wholesale algorithms. (not just writing R-packages and coding).
- The goal is to ensure that none of the quantities in the LHS of the equation are close to ZERO. Perfect balance is required to maximize the impact (which is an art).
While reading the fascinating article on “anti-disciplinary” approach to problem-solving by Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, I came across this paper [link], written by Dr. Brian Uzzi, distinguished professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and colleagues. They reported some universal patterns of creative high-impact work (spanning all scientific fields) based on the analysis of 17.9 million research papers. Some of the finding are worth sharing:
“Our analysis of 17.9 million papers across all scientific fields suggests that the highest-impact science draws on primarily highly conventional combinations of prior work, with an intrusion of combinations unlikely to have been joined together before“, i.e., “the building blocks of new ideas are often embodied in existing knowledge”. Probably the most famous example of all time E=mc^2. They also pointed out “research within narrow boundaries is unlikely to be the source of the most fruitful ideas”