Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Lessons In Research Compared To An Olympic Relay Team
August 25, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: Recruiting, Research

In the spirit of the Beijing Olympics that have just concluded, I wanted to re-post my article from last June which compares researching to an Olympic relay team – with some added highlights from this year’s most incredible relay moments. Enjoy!

Learning about greatness in research by looking at the makings of an Olympic relay team:

  • Swimming: while many people know how to swim, only a few have the discipline to make it to the Olympics, and just a small handful win Olympic medals.
  • Just about anyone can call themselves a researcher, but only a small handful have the discipline and skill level to be considered exceptional. 
  • It takes time to become good enough to swim in the Olympics.
  • It takes time to become a great researcher. Success does not happen overnight.
  • Track: Training consists of running lap after lap after lap after lap…
  • Training in research consists of practicing the basics over and over and over again.
  • Members of the relay team all know how to swim, but each contributes to the team effort by swimming a leg of the race in their specialty stroke.
  • Great researchers all know the basics of research but each has a niche market in which they specialize. 
  • An Olympic-caliber swimmer always has a one or two select events in which they excel more than others.
  • A great researcher has one, perhaps two (related), industries in which they excel; generalist researchers rarely become great at any of the industries in which they search.
  • Olympic-caliber swimmers get better at their best stroke by spending a lot of time working on that stroke, refining and perfecting techniques.
  • Great researchers become great within their niche market by spending a lot of time researching associations, networking with industry contacts, and learning everything they possibly can about the industry.

Hat-tips to two memorable USA relay moments of the 2008 games:

  • Let your performance do the talking.  Talking smack before the event usually results in you getting your you-know-what handed to you. (hint hint, France!)
  • In research, let your skills speak for you. Professing to be an expert will oftentimes get you into trouble! The experts are those who let their clients and successes do the talking for them…


  • If you aren’t careful, you could muff the pass-off and ruin the whole race, not just for yourself but for the whole team. (2 US track relay teams drop the baton)
  • In research, make sure there is clear communication as to where your duties end and the recruiters’ duties start. Otherwise, there will be confusion and time-to-fill will take longer than needed.

All of these research examples can also be applied to recruiting as well.


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