The Science of Business & the Business of Science: shall the twain meet?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Participated, and fortunate to do so, in the annual Fuqua Business School’s High Tech Conference on Wednesday and attended, gladly to do so, the Summit on Nano Technology and the Environment, program here on Thursday. My guess is that even though the Fuqua School and the Bio Tech Center, host of the Summit, are separated by 8 miles of distance, their purposes and perspectives keeps them miles apart. Yet, each expressed an interest in meeting more of the other. A recurring theme of the nano conference presentations was not to let the capabilities of the science get too far ahead of the ‘public’s acceptance’ of this science. Lessons from the hysteria of genetically altered crops, aka Franken-science, remain vivid.

Forty percent of the Fuqua MBA program comprises international students and ones who are ambitious, accomplished and clever as well courteous and purposeful. Deflating for me is that 90{915b2618a7c304f461205894c34b2284541042d3c677679407e2f30838792dcd} of the Hi Tech Club comprises international students. I guess that my fellow Americans who join the Retail, Finance and Energy Clubs at Fuqua don’t feel comfortable in the HT Club, or worse, maybe don’t feel that technology will have much bearing in their future roles. Cannot be true! Even though the average age of an MBA candidate is 30, meaning that they have plenty of work experience, they are eager for tips and secrets and leads for employment. Is there a science to the adult, working world? Which made me ponder the notion of a Masters of Business Administration. Do we need business administrators? Can leadership be taught ’cause this is what we need. Is not the essence of leadership selfless service or sacrifice? Here’s a B-school promo: come to XXX for $120k in real cost and learn to sacrifice or help others to perform better. I’d like to change the name of the degree to Masters of Business Innovation or is this too close to Tom Wolfe’s masters of the universe image in The Bonfire of the Vanities?

At lunch, I asked if the business school curriculum taught business development or sales. ‘Not really’ was the table’s reply. What business is there to administer if there is no top-line or revenue?! Reminds me of my transition from the Naval Academy to the fleet or real Navy. At Annapolis, we learned a lot about ship design and missile intercept solutions. Didn’t get too much insight into how to manage a division of 15 to 18 sailors, most older, some smarter and all more worldly than me. This was my first assignment as I didn’t do much ship driving or any missile firing until much later. OK- it’s not news now that the adult world’s concept of management and organizational behavior is about as fragile and outmoded as, well, as is our banking system.

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Governor Hunt welcomed attendees. Did you know that he was governor twice, twice = 16 years.

The highlight of the Nano Summit was the presentation by Dr. Joe DeSimone, reknown chemist and entrepreneur. Yes, Virginia, one can be both. He spoke adeptly about his vision for nano technology and even though he pitched his latest venture, Liquidia, his presentation was interesting, informative, well substantiated (meaning his charts aided his talk; his talk did not furnish color commentary for the charts as we too, too often suffer). Dr. Joe knows how to make a business of science and has a keen sense of the science of business. I learned more about the potential of nano technology in his 20 minutes than I’ve in 3 years of trying to read the occasional article on this topic.

My conclusion from these two days is that there is enormous opportunity for those with an aptitude, if not the scholarship, to discuss the business value of technology. How can we shorten the distance between our RTP business schools and our RTP scientists?