Solver Brings His A-Game to Challenges and Reaches More of His Potential

Interview with IdeaConnection problem solver Edward Richards
By Paul Arnold
IdeaConnection problem solver Edward Richards used to work for a global biotechnology company that engages with open innovation as part of its R&D strategy.

Inspired by what he saw he decided to become a solver when he started his own company, High Quality Entomology Services. To date he has worked on four challenges, enjoying success with two of them.

In this interview, Edward talks about how being a member of multi-disciplinary teams is helping him to grow as a scientist and why he’s attracted to plant-based and agriculture-based challenges.

I have a lot of experience in those kinds of challenges. They are very well targeted to me and my interests and abilities. I have a lot of practical experience in agricultural biotechnology and pretty much anything agricultural. I have my own company which I have had for three years and I worked for a big company for about five years so I have a wealth of expertise and experience that not all companies necessarily have access to.

My business is very niche. Generally, I will do rearing and bioassays for agricultural biotechnology companies or any agriculture company in general. These large companies or indeed small companies may not have the expertise for certain kinds of bioassays and I have a pretty broad experience with multiple kinds. I also have experience with all the problems that occur with experiments that span bacteria and plants, in fact with lots of different orders. Therefore my experience outside of entomology funnels into entomology and allows me to be useful to different companies.

Do you love being your own boss?

Yes, I love being my own boss because it allows me to do better work. It's not easy and it's not for somebody who’s lazy but it allows me to reach more of my potential than somebody who's an employee.

Is that also why you work on IdeaConnection challenges because they allow you to reach more of your potential?

Oh definitely. They allow me to work on tons of problems that normally you can’t do when you’re in a big company. You're not allowed to go down the hall and work on a problem with another group that's way outside of your group. So challenges allow me to work with people that I wouldn’t normally get to work with and tackle problems that I wouldn't normally get to tackle.

Does working on challenges help you in your day job?

Yes, it does. It allows me to do research into areas that I would not normally do research on and that research has implications in my everyday work. Also, I’m learning what the general problems in the industry are. I start seeing common threads through the agricultural industry that are common problems and this helps me to know what everybody really wants.

What else do you like about being part of an IdeaConnection problem-solving team?

Well, it’s much different than being part of groups in a company. I think everybody is much more focused on the solution rather than focusing on building their career or getting to lunch or other distractions you have in a small group in a company. So the focus is much more laser-like and directed. It is very pleasant to work with such focused people and experts in all of their fields. Everybody I've worked with is an expert in their field and it's good to get a glimpse of what they're doing at the cutting edges of their fields.

Does this mean you always have to bring your A-game?

Definitely. In the period of time between your meetings, you have to do a lot of research to be prepared to give them what they need and for you to understand what they're giving you. So you definitely have to bring your A-game.

And finally, what are your thoughts on this way of innovating, using small, multi-disciplinary teams?

For individual companies, it's very hard to locate and retain people with high levels of skills and experience especially as we now live in a gig economy. I think companies like IdeaConnection are going to become essential in the future for the continued smooth running of a lot of very large companies.

Say for economic reasons a company decides to close down a site or part of their company. They are still going to need those people to continue working. Things like IdeaConnection allow a company to have that freedom and the individual to have that freedom to work for multiple companies and maintain their livelihood.

Personally, when I was starting my company (it is not publically funded and I didn’t take on investors) it was nice to continue working and be able to get my company off the ground simultaneously. As I was building up my lab it was good to have this income source that allowed me that freedom. The success with some of the challenges was very helpful. This was a good stepping stone for me for building my company.

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