I am a instructor at a small college. I want to know from the professionals in the group where is the best place to explore research interests. Is this in an academic setting or a large company. I would like to explore usability of office environments.
The era of the corporate R&D lab is over. Corporations today are myopic and short-sighted, focusing on quarterly results and not long-term innovation investments. It’s buy vs. build.
To that end, its common these days for innovation to take place secretly within corporations, only to have the innovators quit, acquire investment funding, then sell their innovation back to the corporation!
So I’d say the opportunities are in academic or entrepreneurial environments, with funding from the big guys. For your particular area of interest, that would be companies like Steelcase or Herman Miller. I know that Steelcase has a relationship with the Institute of Design @ IIT.
“They say ‘Conglomerate & Imitate,’ I say ‘Create & Innovate!’”
-Tom Peters Manifesto
Corporations: can supply good financial incentives to respondants to participate. If they do the research themselves (instead of contracting it out), they can promise key customers that they will shape future offerings. Downside is that corporate research is always very rushed, and skims issues.
Academic: can look at issues over a much longer time frame, with less pressure to produce a result and justify why exploring the research theme. Downside is relies on goodwill of research subjects, which can make the subject matter explored unrepresentative. Most ordinary peeople and organizations don’t have idle time to donate to academic researchers for the sake of increasing knowledge.