Flexibility of Pursuit in R&D

Flexibility of pursuit and risk go hand-in-hand. We allow variability in our pursuits, but in a way that allows us to distinguish variability in direction from lack of direction. If you don't have flexibility, then you have greater product risk due to having fewer avenues of escape when the science turns against you. If the design prototype+ is set in concrete (i.e., the past is history+), then I have much less latitude in resolving issues later uncovered during commercialization+.

On the other hand, having more options means you face a different risk: it's harder to know when to stop because there are always more avenues of escape. You can bleed much money before you realize you're working on an overall area that is just not going to yield success (i.e., the science is either just too immature or it just never will have broad commercial applicability).

Further Reading