I’ve been making my way slowly through the The Feynman Lectures on Physics. I started doing so purely because of interest – his enthusiasm for his subject, and the amount of preparation time he put into teaching is apparent. It’s a thrill to learn from him. One of the things that he does well is to give students an intuitive sense for concepts and numbers.
This sort of thinking transferred well to a business discussion at work. The idea was that we would go after a new, large market, and try to take five percent of the total sales being made in that market now. The marketing director said that if we could just take five percent, what a large addition to our revenue that would be. One of the sales guys said “Yeah, five percent is such a small number. Surely we can take five percent.” I thought a bit and said – “Wait. Five percent is actually a big number. Our product is only 1/10th of the total price for one of these units, so five percent of revenues means we have to capture fifty percent of the market.”
The moral of the story? The study of physics can apply to business – as long as one is learning to think, rather than memorize. And, no number or concept is actionable until you learn what it means. Someone once told me she read that you can lose weight if you eat 30g of protein within an hour of waking up. So we got to thinking – what provides 30g of protein? How much protein is in common foods?
- chicken breast 30g ea.
- eggs 5g ea.
- milk 6g / glass
Another inspiration for this post is this one from the xkcd blog.