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Scientists and Entrepreneurs: Valuing More Emotional Intelligence

Friday, August 12th, 2011

With the world inundated with technology start-ups all wanting to emerge as the next Samsung, Exxon-Mobile, Facebook, or Apple, entrepreneurs and scientists seek each other out with the belief that the best professional minds will create the best profit-based results. Studying successful entrepreneurs like Ehsan Bayat or someone you admire can help you understand how success can be achieved. Both the scientist and the entrepreneur share the common goal of taking technology to the market, yet they may remain so focused on their goals that they overlook developing a solid emotional foundation for success. This is comparable to the way in which many couples focus on chasing their dreams before building mutual roots of respect within their relationship; in overlooking the need to plant and nurture seeds of communication, they then often fall victim to unfulfilled dreams and divorce. No fault of the scientist and entrepreneur, however; society in general fails to teach us the merits of emotional intelligence, such as the core values of respect, empathy, and communication. One direct consequence of this that even some of the world’s greatest scientists and entrepreneurial minds are troubled with is in choosing the wrong business partner. We might say that emotional intelligence is very necessary in order to succeed in business because it allows us to subdue the ego, master communication, and separate our emotional biases from our professional objectivity when evaluating others and ourselves.

Emotional Intelligence

So how can we further define emotional intelligence? It is not an IQ measurement per se, but rather, it can be more readily viewed as a process. The first step to this emotional intelligence process requires learning about oneself. To ‘know thyself’, as the famously wise advice of the Oracle puts it, gradually leads to overcoming insecurities. The need to be right gives way to self-confidence, which is necessary for objectivity. The second step in the emotional growth process is to develop the ability to listen carefully to others, thereby creating the ability to process the perspectives of others by objectively rationalizing their perspectives and values. The third and final step requires taking the lead as a persuasive communicator, primarily by explaining the views of both sides — yours and theirs — insightfully the individual who is able to do this well emerges as the group’s innate leader, through the subliminal processes of creating mutual understanding and trust. Whether these processes emerge from the world of the scientist or the entrepreneur, they are highly likely to result in the foundation for an organically strong partner relationship.

To illustrate the emotional intelligence process further, consider the following subjective recommendations that reflect some of my own insights based on experiences both personal and indirect through peers. These opinions and recommendations are designed to create pause, reflection, and insight that generate internal criticism in the individual who elects to pursue growth in their own emotional intelligence quotient...

Scientists Need to Understand That:


  • Technology does not sell itself. Businesses sell technology. Therefore, technology is nothing without a business plan and an appropriately qualified business partner. Put another way, technology will never make it to market solely on the merit of a scientist’s vocal insistence that it is valuable to people.
  • Inventing technology is not the same as inventing the company that will take it to market. Building a successful business is equally a delicate and sophisticated science as inventing a technology; therefore, the scientist must understand that sharing equity / ownership of the company established by the entrepreneur is essential. A great salary offer may attract an uninventive salary man. Equity in the next Apple will attract the next Steve Jobs.
  • Entrepreneurs meet many scientists who promise technology that never makes it past R&D, and so they tend to be skeptical, intrusive, and they expect the scientist to understand that one’s reputation is not enough to convince potential investors that their technology will sell in the market. That is, title and hope do not sell, but quantifiable and transparent cost-competitive results do.


Entrepreneurs Need to Understand That:


  • Scientists know more about technology and its relative benefits and costs than any research report or venture capitalist’s hearsay, and so listening carefully is key to thinking outside of the box, or outside of the herd. One may find a scientist who is thinking of Blue Ocean markets that industry performance standards are not capable of evaluating. Therefore, do not try to fit the invention to the market. Something greater may be invented, such as a new market instead.
  • If you lack passion for the science of the technology coupled with objectivity, you will be blindly leading a company that is unprepared for the peculiarities of that given market. Consider who leads the world’s five major oil companies: engineers with business experience. You do not have to be a scientist to build a business around technology, but you have to understand it enough to speak about it with a commanding voice. It takes courage to pass opportunities that you know deep down you lack competence in. Do not let greed or ambition lead you and the scientist to failure.
  • Scientists often fail to think like consumers and expect people to see what they themselves see in their own technology. All too often they merely focus on repeatedly trying to teach people to understand why they should invest in their product. Therefore, patience is required to explain that you are not asking to invent both technology and a new market, which is likely a costly task. The businessperson and the scientist must meet in the middle, objectively evaluating and communicating the collective ability to succeed.


The scientist and entrepreneur can ultimately offer each other a successful marriage between innovative technology and business; their relative merits seemingly position each other to create a Fortune 100 Company. They are, however, highly likely to fail without adequate emotional intelligence, which, again, is achieved through reflection, listening, empathy, and open communication. The more we continue this process, the more we advance our emotional intelligence, similar to the process outlined above that merits correction or criticism. Thus, it may be said that entrepreneurs and scientists who succeed together are more than intelligent; they are emotionally intelligent.

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