WASHINGTON, September 15, 2014 — In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, scientists like mechanical engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor helped develop the basis for business education in an effort to improve commerce with the use of scientific methodologies. Although today this legacy continues with the implementation of techniques like the Six Sigma Protocol in companies such as General Electric, the sciences offer far more guidance than what many businesses exploit.
More often than not, however, engineers and researchers in many technology firms must answer to management without equal consideration. In so doing, many managers have embraced a limited skill set and rejected the influence of the sciences. The historic trends and employee experiences businesses rely on for guidance are valuable indicators so long as they help predict how to achieve success in the future. However, the tools of science allow for the creation of models that predict what will be more successful.
The primary interest in the sciences is developing the tools needed to answer questions. To do this, scientists focus on processes that help them gather, organize, and analyze useful data in a consistently accurate fashion. While not all questions can be answered so easily or directly, successful scientific research can identify a practice that will or will not be fruitful. Firms already use process based tools to improve their operations as all businesses rely on accounting procedures to ensure order and consistency. Without these uniform processes, corporations could not exist.
That said, the sciences can also help add to already existing business methodologies. Collecting data can be challenging, because so much irrelevant information creates interference. This is especially true in a business setting where success depends upon so many people and economic conditions. However, accurately gathering and analyzing this data can provide critical information. Beyond statistics, scientists are able to use experimental techniques to isolate necessary information. Scientists have been developing new tools for business with their research for more than a century since the first business curricula were created.
What gives scientists an advantage is that they use techniques to understand what assumptions they are making and what information they are missing. As an example, industrial companies try to minimize the expense of their products by cutting materials. Scientists can help weigh how far materials can be cut without compromising quality.
Scientific analysis involves more than sorting through data and identifying trends. It requires researchers to identify useful and answerable questions and should reveal what additional data is necessary to improve the accuracy of the research while pointing to new questions that should be asked. For business, this creates an opportunity for ongoing efficiency and a much clearer path to success. Coupled with historic data and the experiences of employees, a greater understanding of scientific analysis offers powerful tools to identify areas and ways for improvement.
Innovative companies like Google have successfully integrated the scientific mindset into their business model by using engineers for management as well as by creating equal relationships between both cultures. Yet businesses can learn far more from the sciences. Every day the sciences expand with new techniques and methodologies that can be applied to other fields. While no company will ever be immune to economic downturns and success is never certain, the business community can better utilize the tools of science to position for success.