I was nearly 30 before I finished school. After 7 years of grad school, I finished my PhD in Quantum Physics at Duke and was ready for my big dream: the Freedom of research in the corporate world.
I really didn’t know what I was getting into.
My first corporate research job opened my eyes to what business was really all about. Sure, the innovations in technology I worked on were important. But just as important were things like leadership, clear communication, operations skills and sales.
And after one of my first trips with the sales team, I realized, “Wow! I think I’ve found a way to put those social skills to work.” And soon after, I took a job for a tech start-up doing sales.
That career change was a breakthrough for me. It took me on a fantastic journey of business and entrepreneurship including growing and selling Digital Optics Corporation in 2006.
In 2008, I formed my consultancy to help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses using what I had learned in my journey. As I helped these clients of mine develop and implement strategies for sales, marketing and business development, I kept seeing how the people side of business – leadership, management, communications, culture – was often what made or broke their success.
And so I brought in my physics background and “too social” skills to develop an approach to these pressing people topics.
1. In physics, we looked at everything as a system. There is always a reason why something happened; it was our job to uncover what it was. We did that with the scientific method – we’d have a hypothesis and then we’d test it to see if it was right or not. Then we’d test it again with what we learned.
In business, that same approach applies to sales, marketing and leadership. Start with what you know (and what you think you know) and then apply it to see what works.
2. People have their own ‘laws of physics’. In physics, you can count on a lot of things: gravity will always be here; energy is always conserved in a closed system; e=mc^2.
People seem a lot more complicated, but there are some things that are generally true. Good employees want to know where the company is headed. They want to know what’s expected of them and how they will be rewarded. Communication creates trust. Trust creates loyalty and commitment.
3. Sometimes a change in perspective makes a hard problem easy. In physics, Einstein developed his theories of relativity by imagining himself riding on a light beam. We also learned that when you measure something you can impact the result.
Einstein is also credited with this quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
This is true in business as well – an outsider can readily see what makes a company strong and weak – and can point out simple ways of shifting perspective that can create massive breakthroughs.
4. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. My research was in quantum optics – the study of how light interacts with matter to create crazy, cool effects we wouldn’t normally see. I studied Sir Isaac Newton’s work on the light spectrum – he realized that white light is made of of the colors of the rainbow. But it also contains light outside of what we see – it has UV light that can cause skin cancer and IR light that heats up our car seats.
In business, company culture is often left to chance, but it is the invisible power that can be tapped to create spectacular performance.
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