Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Simple Science of Business

Years ago your humble blogger was intrigued when one individual, a leader in a third-world conflict who espoused and practiced “scientific revolution,” switched sides and changed the course of that war.  Your humble blogger felt compelled to investigate.

The science turned out to be pretty simple, when your humble blogger finally located the writings and reports of this obscure, young, third-world General (no easy task, pre-internet).  The key to winning a war, according to the General, was to know:

  1. How many fighters you have
  2. Where and when their last action was
  3. What the outcome of that action was
By focusing on these factors, one man changed the balance of power in his country.

Facts have power.  Early in my business career, I learned how to be influential in corporate meetings.  I found that if I brought one relevant fact to a typical meeting, I was often one fact ahead of most everybody else in the meeting.  If the fact helped solve a problem, I could be of true value to the organization.

There is of course truly deep science underlying many businesses; material science in manufactured products, biological science in pharmaceuticals and agriculture; information science across many industries; chemical science in countless industries.  There are many specialties beyond the grasp of most people.  But basic science is something we can all practice.

This week, is the 150th anniversary of the world renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chartered by the Commonwealth to further the “advancement, development and practical application of science in connection with arts, agriculture, manufactures, and commerce.”  Thinking of the wonders that have emerged from MIT, it is worth noting that the science of business for most of us is still basic.  It has to do with focusing on certain key facts and marshalling those facts logically and creatively to solve problems.

“How many, where, when?” and “What happened?” remain key questions of scientific inquiry in business.  While our business environments are flooded with all manner of assertions and suppositions, often pushed by strong egos and interests, simple science can usually win.

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