Cats are best enjoyed and fulfil their purpose if they are left alone and allowed to be what they are.
What is the relevance of this? It is sometimes claimed that academic researchers are like cats. They are fiercely independent and groups of them are very difficult to manage. Hence, books such as Herding Cats: Being advice to aspiring academic and research leaders by Geoff Garrett and Graeme Davies.
I became aware of the existence of the book because Geoff Garrett, who is now Queensland's Chief Scientist, gave the UQ Physics Colloquium on friday. I have not read the book. Afterwards a colleague expressed reservations about the ideas presented, saying, "this is relevant to engineers, not physicists!"
One idea that was presented was the importance of having a "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" which creates team spirit. Although laudable on some level, I am hard pressed to think of examples in science that have been fruitful or that I personally find inspiring. Maybe I am jaded but ones such as "nuclear fusion in our lifetime", "build a quantum computer", "discover a room temperature superconductor", "cheap organic solar cells to save the planet", or "lets make our university number one" just don't seem that achievable via highly managed research teams.
Furthermore, it seems that most Nobel Prize discoveries did not result from such programs, but rather from curiousity driven research by "independent" research groups. One obvious exception are Nobel Prizes for discoveries in elementary particle physics.What do you think?