A brilliant mind: 5 Stephen Hawking quotes

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On March 14, 2018, the world lost an unbelievable talent in Stephen Hawking. Tributes continue to pour in around the globe for a man who gave so much to science, all while fighting motor neuron disease since the age of 21. As astronaut Chris Hadfield commented on Twitter, “Genius is so fine and rare.” Fortunately, for us, Hawking’s genius will live forever as his words continue to inspire generations. He had many great quotes that motivate anyone regardless of profession. Like many others, I try my best to apply Hawking’s wisdom to my work. If you’re reading this, that work is likely improving supply chain planning and our lives in general. The two often intertwine, which makes the wisdom even more valuable. With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along some of my favorite Stephen Hawking quotes and tie them to supply chain planning. Here are my top five favorite quotes from the brilliant mind of Stephen Hawking:

1. “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”

How often have you been in a meeting or on an implementation project with one silent person? If this quote has taught me anything, it’s that everyone has a voice. In supply chain planning, that’s especially true for the people doing the planning. The most successful projects I’ve witnessed are those where everyone has a voice. Sometimes people just want to get on with planning, but when they take the time to open up about current challenges, solutions start to become more obvious.

2. “Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has been maintaining a sense of humor.”

From a supply chain perspective, when I hear the word survival, my first thoughts are about managing unexpected change. In particular, change caused by natural disasters such as the tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes that have occurred in recent years. Ultimately, it’s the active minds of the supply chain communities who look for the solutions to these problems, as well as continuing education that leads to significant process improvements. It’s not uncommon for companies to invest in centers of excellence to learn and share best practices. I admire how Hawking could maintain a sense of humor in spite of his disability. You can’t deny that he loved what he did because his work made him so happy. He didn’t have time to complain, which brings me to the next quote.

3. “It’s a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life, and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”

Time is the most precious thing we have. It’s so valuable you can’t even put a price tag on it. You’ll give it freely to people you love and find interesting. However, start wasting someone’s time and see how fast they disengage. When solving supply chain planning problems, complaints don’t help. It would be easy to complain about those unexpected changes and make excuses for expedites, excess inventories, and missed deliveries. Who could blame you after facing supply chain challenges, such as natural disasters? True supply chain leaders replace excuses with lessons learned. They don’t get angry, they get motivated to do better the next time and improve supply chain planning so that managing unexpected change becomes as easy as a pit crew changing a tire for a Formula One car. People are interested in solutions, and motivation— unlike anger and complaints—is contagious.

4. “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

Supply chain planners have become masters of change. Explore any supply chain blog for a list of challenges planners face and the extent that change in the supply chain has intensified. Decades ago, successful supply chain leaders realized that they would have to get good at change. Maybe it’s supply chain intelligence, wisdom or—as mentioned in the second quote—survival. Whatever you call it, adapting to change is smart and can be profitable.

5. “I have no idea what my IQ is. People who boast about their IQ are losers.”

It’s difficult to define a human being by a number. Education, experience, hardship, relationships— among so many other things—make a person who they are. It’s that mix that makes a person a valuable team member, not just an IQ number. When working with other companies on their supply chain challenges, not once did someone ask me my IQ. However, they did want to hear about other companies and the experiences our deployment teams brought to the table. If it’s good enough for Stephen Hawking not to know his IQ, it’s good enough for me. Do you have other favorite Stephen Hawking quotes? Let us know in the comments.

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