Regular readers of this blog or Spend Matters should recall Jason Busch’s post on The Spend Management Talent Game where he indicated that when seeking out talent, an organization should value generalist skill sets, raw intellect and EQ (emotional intelligence) over industry and domain knowledge. Spend Management professionals need to understand the world around them and possess general problem solving skills that go beyond functional — or even technology — knowledge. Technology skills can be taught. It’s far harder to find someone with the analytical skills to navigate complex total cost decisions and the emotional maturity and interpersonal skills to sell such analyses both up and down the company.
In simple terms, if you want to be a better supply chain professional, you should focus on improving your general problem solving skills and EQ first, since domain knowledge is much easier to learn and can be readily absorbed from an appropriate expert once you have the raw intellectual capacity to absorb it. Furthermore, since EQ is required for general problem solving skills, and since general problem solving skills can be improved through repeated application using tried and true problem solving methodologies as guides (some of which I have discussed here in this blog or in my summer series over at eSourcing Forum), it should be clear that your number one goal is to improve your EQ.
So how do you improve your EQ, which is not the same as improving your emotional range? (i.e. Sitting around watching chick-flick movies all day won’t help us guys.) I’ll admit that I struggled with this for a bit until I realized the answer was obvious – learn from the best, and if you can find one, a guru. But where do you find an EQ guru? One who will happily share his or her wisdom, and preferably, share such wisdom with you regularly simply for the satisfaction of knowing that he or she may make you a better person? (After all, a true guru is one who readily shares his or her knowledge, not one that sells you snake oil until you’re broke and then vanishes.) After all, the world of business is littered with “finance” gurus or “real estate gurus” or “M&A gurus” or “management gurus”, not EQ gurus. So I was back to square one – no idea on where you should go to improve your raw EQ (since my strengths are in problem solving and application of such techniques to the supply chain domain and imparting sophisticated domain knowledge in the areas of math, computer science, and logic) since I wasn’t sure where to go to improve mine.
Then it dawned on me – the answer was under my nose all along! (Literally, since today I’m smelling sweet Bay Area California air, and since I live in the real NorthEast, at this time of year my nostrils would normally be too cold to smell anything!) I was already absorbing great advice from an EQ guru everyday, and didn’t even know it! And for you non-observant, that Guru is Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert Blog (and the Dilbert comic strip, and four of the best business books ever published, etc.).
Moreover, some of his advice is so good, that I would say he could even be proclaimed a Supply Management Guru! Furthermore, I am going to present my case solely on the insights that he has shared with us in the past month alone!
October 24, 2006 Good News Day
Scott proves that optimism is a powerful tool and that just because no one else has ever recovered from a seemingly hopeless situation or solved a problem before does not mean that you can’t be the first! Furthermore, I would like to add a corollary to this that just because someone says you cannot do something, it does not mean they are right. Usually it means that they cannot (or believe they cannot, but that’s the same thing.) There is a chance that they may be right, but it is often a (diminishingly) small one. Furthermore, a failure is always relative to certain conditions or assumptions. So next time someone says something like “We tried that ten years ago, and it didn’t work.“, don’t accept it at face value. Find out precisely what they tried, what precisely they did, and precisely what the assumptions and market conditions were. If the conditions have changed, if the project was managed poorly, or if the arrangement was arms-length, maybe a different arrangement or management structure will work today.
October 25, 2006 My Day as a Neanderthal
Scott tells us that he feels cut off from the world when his primary means of communication and interaction goes down, and points out that we are at our best not only when we use all the resources that are at our disposal, but work with others whose knowledge and skills can complement our own.
October 28, 2006 I Got Your Free Will Right Here!
Scott asks “If free will exists, why do the tallest candidates with the best hair usually win elections?” and points out that the correlation is incredibly strong despite that the most poorly informed voter understands that neither hair nor height have any correlation with competence. He also points out that you can see the same bias in favor of tall, good looking people in business too and that there are plenty of studies showing that tall and/or attractive people earn substantially more than short, ugly people and they get promoted faster too. Furthermore, there are tons of similar examples where companies can manipulate customer behavior by altering colors and music and odors at stores and that none of those things change the quality of the products, and yet they change people’s buying decisions.
In other words, we’re naturally very illogical people and we have to work hard to make sure that logic is the basis for our decisions, not just gut instinct.
November 2, 2006 Stem Cells
Scott says I don’t debate with advocates. An advocate says that everything is right about one position and everything is wrong about the other side. You might as well debate with a doorknob. I only debate people who say, in effect, “There’s an argument to be made on both sides, but here’s why one side seems more persuasive.” That person could theoretically be swayed by new information or a better argument. Simply put, you can’t be logical with the illogical. Don’t butt heads – it’ll have the same effect as pointing out the inconsistencies in the bible to a Jehovah’s Witness. If you can, work around these individuals. If you can’t, you’ll either find a creative way to make your position more attractive to the irrational nitwit or consider a job change. (Otherwise, you’ll just stress yourself out for no good reason.)
November 7, 2006 My Search for Clarity
In a clear demonstration of his wisdom, Scott says as regular readers know, I am too ignorant to have opinions on most big issues. It does not matter who you are, you do not know everything. This also means that you cannot be an expert in everything. The only way to grow as a person and improve your skills is to admit what you don’t know and then seek out that knowledge.
November 14, 2006 Are Smart People Dumb?
Scott asks Why would I limit the quality of my advice to people who don’t know any more than I do? In other words, just because someone is famous, your superior, or your mentor, it does not mean that they will always have the right answer. Just like the rest of us, they have their areas of weaknesses as well as their areas of expertise. When you have a tough problem, go to the experts and see what they have to say. And the s is bold for a reason. You should seek multiple opinions, and explanations therefor. Experts are people too, they don’t always agree, and they will occasionally be wrong. (Just significantly less than the average person, as that’s the definition of an expert.) Furthermore, Scott also points out that genius alone does not a smart person make, especially when it comes to a (specific) real world problem.
November 16, 2006 Who Can’t be Hypnotized?
Scott deftly points that we are all in the business of influencing people and outlines the technique of hypnotic induction that you can use to help calm the tense individuals who will be reading and judging your work and ease them into the relaxed state of mind that they will need to be in to make a fair assessment.
November 17, 2006 Aging Brains
Scott tells us that we should release all knowledge of complicated explanations for the world whenever simpler ones will do the trick. The KISS rule is universal. Don’t forget it!
November 18, 2006 Philosophical Brevity
If you want to get your point across, be smart and brief.
November 24, 2006 Complicated Decisions
Scott points out that he often makes a decision on the easy to predict and important factor(s) and ignores the impossible to predict factors. This is because while you can’t know the RIGHT decision, you can know the RATIONAL decision. Although you can’t always ignore the unknown, the reality is that the unknown should not be the basis for your decision. After all, there will always be unknowns. Let’s choose freight. The airplane could crash. The boat could sink. The truck could be stolen at gunpoint. It doesn’t matter, there is always risk. If you’re worried, take out insurance. However, the airplane will be fastest and cost the most. The cargo ship will be slowest and cost the least. If speed is of the utmost importance, choose air. If cost is of the utmost importance, choose sea. Strike possibilities, terrorist attacks, etc. etc. etc. are always there, regardless of method, so don’t base your decisions on these unknown factors. Simply have a backup plan in place to mitigate risk, insurance to mitigate loss, focus on what’s important, and get the job done. Otherwise, you’ll be a hypochondriac before you know it.
And if that does not convince you that Scott Adams is an EQ and Supply Management Guru, I don’t know what will. Furthermore, he also doles out great advice on a wide range of topics on a regular basis. In the last month alone, he has told us how to Avoid Obscenity in our Documents*, select Comic Assess we can safely post on our cubicle walls, and be featured on 60 Minutes. What more could you ask for?
* If you don’t get it, you should use bullets, not asterisks.
It's too bad Scott Adams had to take these classic posts down on request of Portfolio Hardcover when they published Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain that was a collection of his blog posts through part of 2007.