Lifeís Lessons as a Square: Applying Chemical Engineering to Business (Part One)

By: Drew Gerber


I have a degree in chemical engineering. I know, right? What was I thinking? No offense to all you engineers out there, but I think even my professors knew chemistry wasnít ďitĒ for me.

It was like that Sesame Street song about shapes. They show 4 shapes; 3 of which are circles and one a lonesome square. Itís clear that the square doesnít belong there, but they rub it in by singing a little ditty ĖďOne of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesnít belongÖĒ Ė and that pretty much sums up me in engineer school. Donít get me wrong, I wasnít a complete square Ė I had spiky hair, a pierced ear, and ripped jeans Ė but I did stick out like a sore thumb.

But the fact that I was a unique individual in the University of Utahís engineering program isnít the point to this story.

The point is, even though engineering was not my thing, it did teach me a very valuable skill that has served me well in business: how to think in ďprocessesĒ. In other words, what elements do you need to combine, in the right proportion and at the right time, to produce a desired result?

Okay, so you may not want to start producing biofuel in your backyard, but hear me outÖ

As an entrepreneur, donít YOU need to know what resources you need, in what proportions and at what exact time to produce the result you want? Are you with me? Itís a process.

Personally, I think it should be mandatory for every MBA student to take a course in chemical engineering, where students learn the processes that convert raw materials or chemicals into something more useful. Thatís interesting, right? And if you boil it down, isnít that what weíre (hopefully) doing in business: taking our resources and running them through a process that converts them into something more useful Ė something thatís going to make a difference?

Hopefully by now Iím beginning to make sense.

If you step back and put on your chemical engineer hat (it IS okay to not always be fashionable) to look at your business like a process, things that seemed so personal before donít seem so personal anymore. All those reasons you have for being stopped or stuck are bogus, and all you need to do is design a process that turns your raw materials into gold. (Well, I know you canít combine other elements into gold. Itís just a metaphor.)

Now, how exactly do you design a process for success? Iíll dive into that in my next article. Donít forget to bring your safety glasses and your pocket protector.

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For 30 years, L. Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. As the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, lauded by the likes of PR Week and Good Morning America, he sparks ďahaĒ conversations that lead to personal and business success. His PR firm is known for landing clients on Dr. Phil, Oprah, Anderson Cooper, the Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, and other top media outlets. Wasabi Publicity lives to launch conversations that make a difference and change the world.

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