Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Technical Education is as Important As Business Skills

"75% of people lacking a technical education will believe made up quotes containing  spurious statistics" - Tom Worthington ;-)
More seriously, the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead is important, but it is also necessary to have at least basic technical knowledge. Being able to lead will be of no use if people can fool you with such obvious nonsense as the often cited, supposed quote:
"85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical knowledge." - Carnegie Institute of Technology
Variations of this appear in tens of thousands of publications. Jeff Lopez-Stuit traced it to a Forbes article by Keld Jensen  (2012):
"Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge. "
Brian Austin traced this back to a 1918 work by the Carnegie Foundation. I was able to find the actual article (Mann, 1918), which does not support the proposition that technical knowledge is relatively unimportant. It is actually about how to improve technical education, which ensured the USA's economic success in the 20th century.

I suggest we need people who are trained in both technical and business skills. In particular there is great value in giving technical people some training in how to communicate and some understanding of business. One way to do this is with "innovation" programs, where the technical and business students are required to work together.


Mann, C. R. (1918). A study of engineering education. Bulletin, 11. Retrieved from: http://web.mit.edu/~jwk/www/docs/Mann%201918%20Study_of_Engineering_Educ.pdf

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