Friday, September 11, 2009

Relevance and Soft-skills in Operations Research

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to a transportation panel hosted by the INFORMS Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter. The transportation panel featured key Operations Research representatives from airline, travel management, and rail road industries . The panel also included professors in engineering, supply chain, and business that specialize in the transportation industry. All in all the exchange was very interesting and I learned a lot about an industry I know very little.

The panel brought two things that I believe is very common and clear in Operations Research. Those issues are of relevance and soft-skills (or interpersonal skills). These themes were pretty concurrent among industry and academia. Industry stressed that often times they would need to sell their abilities and technical decision analysis know-how. Also industry panelists stressed that the importance of being able to relate to other people within the organization to explain ideas about problems. The academics stressed a lot of the same points. Academics challenge is to grow strong Operations Research students with good "hard" technical skills but also have interpersonal strengths in a highly competitive market.

Relevance and interpersonal skills are very common themes in Operations Research. I know I've had to develop each of those skills in my career. Perhaps the Industrial Engineer and Operations Research tool bag can be expanded to help in these areas. There are great tools that help in each of these areas. Perhaps I can feature more of those on this blog in the future.


George Markovitz said...

You should definitely continue writing about it here. I once went to a transportation company in Dallas with my professor. One of their truckers(!) suggested a problem that I knew was NP hard. (multiple instances of the traveling salesman). My professor agreed to solve it. and we basically wrote a code that could solve it using enumeration.

That single project became a really good source for us to bring two more grad students to our lab

If it was up to me I would have lost the project opportunity by giving them a lecture on complexity.

There are a lot of differences between how we run things in university and how it is being really solved.

Larry said...

Excellent. I will continue to post on similar topics. One thought I had was to link in interpersonal tools to help with professional communication. I'll try to compile what I find around the internet.