August 17, 2018 - Issue 18-32

Good afternoon  ,

Indra Nooyi has been the dazzlingly successful CEO of PepsiCo for the past 12 years.

Here's Minda Zetlin discussing Nooyi's somewhat surprising suggestion that young people aspiring to business leadership study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects to learn critical thinking skills.

There's a bit - well maybe more than a  bit - of controversy over that recommendation.  With the recent emphasis on "soft" skills, many advisers have suggested that students who want to be business leaders prepare by studying subjects in the humanities and social studies. Political science is one of the more popular recommendations, given today's intrusion of politics into every aspect of business. 

Nooyi's take is that a grounding in scientific studies helps develop critical thinking skills that apply to whatever work one might pursue. Without those critical thinking skills, it's likely to be much more difficult to follow, or generate, a line of reasoning to a logical conclusion.

My degree is in Mechanical Engineering, so of course I got a generous helping of STEM courses. In the 1960's, when I was in college, few educators thought about more than a light sprinkling of "dumbed-down" humanities or social studies courses in an engineering curriculum. I knew some peers in school who struggled to compose a properly structured sentence.

Since earning that degree, I've studied many subjects related to the soft skills. My career has gradually shifted to work which required those skills in spades. I've generally been among those who placed considerable importance on "people skills", and education in the humanities. Reflecting on this discussion I find that, while the people skills are certainly valuable, the ability to think logically through a problem or situation is pretty fundamental. 

My conclusion, upon reflection, is that Nooyi's idea of a grounding in science makes sense. Later studies can go wherever one wants to go. With a basis in logic those later studies, and resulting thinking, can likely be better organized in one's mind and communication. 

Much as I enjoy working with people and studying relationships among them, I wouldn't want to be without what I got in my engineering education.

John Stevens

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About John

Throughout a career spanning over 45 years my management style has been one of building teams to bring several competent people together to focus on a common objective. 

As I transition to life in the Argentine outback, my focus shifts from coaching to helping other business coaches and advisers get their message out to their prospective clients. With my first-hand knowledge of the benefits of effective business coaching, I am uniquely qualified to work with business advisers of all stripes convey their message.

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John B. Stevens, Freelance Copywriter

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