Process versus product. The dilemma of many people in the workplace. The dilemma of having to decide which one is more important and implement it.

I personally want to believe with all my heart that it is the process that really matters and hope that the product follows from the process. But real world does not agree with me.

When we get into a new project, job or habit, we need time to get used to it, right? Then, it will hopefully click with us, eventually resulting in good products. Well, if only it was that smooth.

First, real world may not be willing to give the necessary time to us. We might be expected to speed up the process or even skip one or two steps so we can get the product as quickly as possible.

Second, this process is not linear. There are failures that cause us to go back and then start moving ahead again. Guess what this does to us. It makes us lose time. What does the real world want? Product. When does it want it? As quickly as possible. Losing time is unacceptable. So, there you go. The conflict. The conflict as it is caused by a natural part of the process (failures).

This dilemma exists in all jobs and for all people. So, it applies to me as a PhD student as well.

PhD student job description: do research in your field (ignoring the teaching aspect, which is also quite a common addition to the main job description).

Doing research is very much a process by its nature. Why? Because it means we try one thing and see if it works. If it does not, we try something else. This goes on until we can find something worthwhile. Usually, things are too complicated to solve in the first try. So, it takes multiple attempts to get something tangible. Sometimes, you need experience. Say, you are designing an experiment. The first few attempts usually yield null results. So, it takes experience to get it right.

Not to mention the fact that we start with little trials and aim to extend it. So, the initial stages are usually not product-material anyway. They need extension.

All that requires time.

But eventually, the judgment is made based on the product. We are not judged on what we have learnt from our failures, but rather on how many successes we have had. That is my dilemma.

This dilemma is still unresolved from my end. I don’t know if it ever will be. The best thing to do is to learn how to live with it. But even that requires process.

Do you experience this dilemma? If so, do have a solution for it that works for you?