The skills of scientists have been tapped for centuries by people who want to do better business. The usual formula is that a scientist conducts research, runs experiments, created prototypes, and eventually comes up with a new invention, product, or process.
At that point, the business-minded people take that new “something” and find a way to market it for a healthy profit.
But the skills of a scientist can be used more directly to bolster business from the front end of the process. Skills that serve as the basic operating modes for scientists can be directly applied to business. For example, scientists are good at formulating a hypothesis, testing it, and evaluating those tests’ results to produce an optimum result.
Business leaders often need to redefine their methods and find new ways to solve problems. Solving the problems involved with unlocking the secrets of nature is what scientists do every day. If they apply those same problem-solving skills to a business situation, the results can be dramatic.
A good example comes from the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps in no other sector is the relationship between science and business more symbiotic. German scientist Carsten Thiel earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology at the prestigious Max-Planck Institute in Göttingen. He began his career in the realm of pure research but was quickly snapped up by one of the world’s largest big pharma companies, Hoffmann La Roche.
But he didn’t work as a scientist there. His first task was to lead the marketing effort of the new weight loss drug, Xenical. Dr. Thiel developed a unique and innovative strategy for rolling our Xenical that was strikingly different from traditional plans for selling new prescription drugs. In short, it was an enormous success.
Dr. Thiel later took a job with Alexion where he was responsible for the business management of a $3 billion industry, and he had 1,600 working under him. It was his skills as a scientist that helped him thrive in a business environment.
Dr. Arlen Meyers is the president of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. He described a business start-up as being very much like “a scientific experiment.” He added that applying the scientific method to business programs is a natural match.
Dr. Meyers continues to teach scientists, physicians, and STEM students in entrepreneurial methods.