VII. Four EVIL contentions

The main reasons for possible internal conflict in every research project.
Dr. Albert Künstler

las, the crews do not always prove to be ready for a long zigzag journey through the labyrinth of the unknown.

Long and misfortunate maneuvering through the labyrinth entails annoyances. And annoyances sow the seeds of discord among explorers.

Four EVIL contentions: Estimation, Validation, Investment, and Loss

Thus, a wise captain should be prepared for these EVIL contentions:

stimation. No one can accurately estimate the resources needed to pass the labyrinth. Those who ask too little, fall behind. Those who ask too much, get rejected. Those who overpromise get approved easily, but are ruined afterwards.

alidation. Unfinished success exists not. Before the campaign is finished, no one can truly validate the progress. Intermediate acceptance tests turn subjective. Hence the dilemma — if you don’t fake it, they never take it.

nvestment. Research is not inexpensive. When the chosen path gets tough, is it worth persevering, turning back, or taking a detour? Having no way to foresee the future, decisions are pushed by those who better insist, not those who better persist.

oss. If research has not been fruitful, there is no result, so costs are paid with great reluctance. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

Those who were full of determination in the beginning, with the passing of time, manifest the signs of fatigue, discontent, and disagreement. At some point, the abovementioned contentions arise, since the promised results have not yet been received, while the costs have already been incurred. All parties have an asymmetry of information and willingness to take further risks. Some of them are committed, some are only participating, some have deep pockets, while others are exhausted.

Although disputes at the beginning of a project about estimating the necessary resources, which as we already know cannot be accurately estimated under conditions of uncertainty, are not yet so fatal for the team, they lay the foundation for future friction and can lead to unwise choices. That is to say, cheap components don’t mean cheap construction.

In the course of a project, the parties may validate progress and perceive failures in very different ways. For some, failure is a sign of poor organization and team incompetence. For others, failure is a valuable source of knowledge about a new, unexplored area. Is it necessary to hide failures for the sake of bravado? Should successful cherry-picked results be presented to propel important go/no-go decisions? At some point, the accumulated debt will be revealed and will ruin the entire undertaking.

Contentions flare up especially sharply in case of a need for additional investments. When sufficient reserves are not procured, additional resources must be withdrawn from adjacent activities and in sacrifice of another’s plans. Thus, the conflict may spread over to a larger area and involve even more parties.

And in the case of direct losses, one should not be surprised at particularly heated disputes. Those who promised to sponsor the exploration may try to refute their vows, spurred on by a lack of results. It is easy to gamble and take risks before you know the outcome, but it is much harder to stay responsible after you know the outcome, especially if that outcome is negative.

In a protracted journey, such crises cannot be avoided. And, if there is no way to separate and proceed in different directions, the captain has to make a lot of efforts to convince all parties, help some restore, others to reduce their ambitions, and find solid ground in order to gain strength and continue on their way.