Connections Versus Insight

Consider a fashion in music, clothes, tech, research topics, or most anything.  You could use this fashion at five possible times:

  1. Well before it is fashionable.
  2. When it is first fashionable.
  3. Before popularity peaks.
  4. After popularity peaks.
  5. Long after it is fashionable.

These five usage times can signal five positive features:

  1. Insight into what will be in fashion.
  2. Power to make people follow a your fashion concept.
  3. Connections to people who learn of fashion early.
  4. Cooperativeness in trying to match others.
  5. Strong behavior habits.

Now people who value insight highly often assume that earlier usage of a fashion is always a more positive signal.  But most people see using something well before it is fashionable to be a bad sign – yes it shows your insight, but it also shows your lack of power and connections. 

This is even true in academia, where people claim to value insight highly; really, even academics value power and connections more than insight.  Don’t assume you will be rewarded for working on a research concept well before it is fashionable.

Added 24Jan:  To clarify, I mean that even if you do have genuine insight about what will be fashionable, but not power or connections, then on average, considering both your rewards when you work on a yet-to-be-fashionable topic and later when it becomes fashionable, you’d have been better rewarded if you worked on something else.

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