Question: Who has won the most Formula One Grand Prix titles – ever? Those of you who said Senna – go to the back of the class. If you said Schumacher – sorry, good guess, but stay in your seat. Anyone who said Fangio – time for bed and a cup of warm milk. The answer is Adrian Newey! Who? Adrian Newey. He is an Engineer. He designed the cars that won five constructors' titles for Williams and three titles for McLaren; and he is now at Red Bull, who are leading this year's championship - first and second in the Driver's championship - and have had pole position at every race this year so far.
Of course few people outside of the sport have heard of him – because he is an Engineer.
Engineers created the wealth of the industrialised world during the Victorian era, and then faded quietly into the background while marketers and accountants took over managing (some would say squandering) that same wealth.
But – neglect Engineers at your peril. Adrian Newey rises to the fore when the rules of F1 change (which they do quite a bit). Similarly, Engineers conceived of the mp3 compression algorithm and the iPod (whoops – sorry music labels); and the Shipping Container (Engineer and box designer Keith Tantlinger persuaded partner Malcom McLean that the patents of their design should be given to the industry. Result – freight costs dropped from $6 per ton to 16 cents per ton, Asian poverty is fixed, inflation is cured and nobody has heard of Keith).
Financial Services – think you are safe? PayPal was started by Engineers from the University of Illinois in 2000; bought by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion; and by 2008 was doing $60 billion in transactions. Reason – better Engineers than the banks!
Media companies? Ah! Of course, Google. Sergey Brin and Larry Page are Engineers from Stanford. They overwhelmingly recruited Engineers. They ignored conventional marketing wisdom (e.g. to fill their home page with adverts as Yahoo and AOL were doing). Started in 1998, its 2004 IPO valued it at $23 billion and created 900 millionaires (including their masseuse). It is now valued at close to $200 billion. Reason – Google has almost a 70% share of online advertising; its ad revenue now exceeds both newspapers and TV in many markets and it makes circa 25% profit on its turnover.
So – neglect Engineers at your peril. What are Engineers doing for your company strategy? If the answer is not much, check your mirrors; it might be Adrian Newey approaching in the distance!