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How Rogue Ales is Leveraging IoT to Revolutionize the Beer Brewing Industry

How Rogue Ales is Leveraging IoT to Revolutionize the Beer Brewing Industry

Rogue Ales believes that their “Ground to Glass, Grow your Own Revolution” is a key tenet to their success. The company leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to ensure that their supply chain is able to deliver the highest-quality ingredients to their breweries just in time.


Highlights:

  • Consumer desire for freshness and high quality is influencing the beer brewing industry.
  • Rogue Ales owns Rogue Farms giving the brewery a unique advantage in being able to produce specialty ingredients.
  • The Internet of Things has enabled Rogue to capture and act on the data surrounding their supply chains.

Rogue Ales, headquartered in Newport, OR, is an alcoholic beverage company founded in 1988 that produces beer, wine, cider, and distilled spirits. Their ales have won over 1,800 awards at various brewing competitions.

Rogue’s brewing operation is unique in that the company’s subsidiary, Rogue Farms (founded in 2008), grows all of the ingredients used. The company believes that their “Ground to Glass, Grow your Own Revolution” is a key tenet to their success. Rogue Ales leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to ensure that their supply chain is able to deliver the highest-quality ingredients to their breweries just in time.

The trend toward freshness

According to AT Kearney, 93% of consumers consider freshness to be the most important criterion when purchasing foods. According to the USDA, the sale of organic foods in the U.S. has more than tripled from approximately $12B in 2005 to over $35B in 2015 (data for 2016-2018 was not immediately available).

US Organic Food Sales

Consumer desire for freshness and high quality is influencing the beer brewing industry. According to the American Brewers Association, the number of craft breweries in the United States has increased from 122 in 1973 to over 6,300 in 2017.

number of craft breweries

As the competition between breweries intensifies, brewers are constantly looking for key ways to differentiate their beers from their competitors in this $111.4B market. Most beer sales are through microbreweries (defined as a brewery producing less than 15,000 barrels per year and at least 75% of beer sold off-site via distributors or wholesalers). Rogue Ales has made freshness a key value-add differentiator for its brand, selling over 325,000 gallons in 2016. In a Market Watch article, Rogue’s president, Brett Joyce, says:

What it means is that we have to get better all the way around. The quality has to go up. Just having products isn’t enough. You better have a strategic plan to go to market, retailer support, good follow-up and good sales people. It’s a real business now.

With the establishment of Rogue Farms in 2008, Rogue began producing their own ingredients, breaking tradition with most breweries, who acquire ingredients from traditional wholesalers. Rogue has a 52-acre hop farm, located approximately two hours from the brewery, where it produces its entire hop supply. Rogue states that:

Growing hops is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, but it also helps to guarantee our supply and quality while allowing us to keep our Brewmaster, John ‘More Hops’ Maier, happy with unique, aromatic hops.

The control Rogue Ales has over Rogue Farms gives the brewery a unique advantage in being able to produce specialty ingredients for its core and specialty beers. At Rogue Farms, Rogue grows or produces:

  • 10 varieties of hops
  • Two varieties of malting barley
  • Rye
  • Pumpkins
  • Marionberries
  • Jalapeños
  • Honey

The challenges of using fresh “wet” hops in beer

A basic beer recipe only has four ingredients: malted barley, water, hops, and yeast. Of these ingredients, hops are the most difficult to source, store, and transport due to their perishability. Most brewers use pelletized, dried, hop pellets. Rogue uses fresh (or “wet”) hops in their ales, harvested from Rogue Farms. Fresh hops give their beer a fresher taste, as the hops’ aromatic qualities are not damaged by drying and pelletization.

Fresh hops, once harvested, must land in a brew vat within 12 hours and cannot be exposed to excessive heat, air, or humidity during transport or their volatile aroma compounds will degrade and produce aromas of “skunk” and “compost”. To ensure the highest quality of hops, Rogue has turned to technology to ensure that its supply chain is delivering the freshest possible hops to the brewery.

Using the Internet of Things to build quality into Rogue’s supply chain

The vertical integration of Rogue Ales and Rogue Farms gives Rogue a unique advantage in being able to leverage new technologies to ensure it sources the highest quality ingredients possible directly from their farm to their brewery. Rogue Ales uses Intel’s Connected Logistics Platform to manage its hops supply chain. Intel’s platform is a logistics management solution that couples Internet of things (IoT) devices with a cloud-based data analytics system. These IoT devices are one-time-use sensor tags that attach to shipments and collect data (e.g. temperature, humidity, location, etc.). This data is sent over a proprietary wireless protocol to a central server where the data is aggregated and analyzed in real time.

The Internet of Things has enabled companies like Rogue to capture and act on the data surrounding their supply chains. Companies are able to make smart decisions that bring cost savings and flow directly to their bottom line. Click To Tweet

The system tracks shipments and collects data during every facet of the supply chain, ensuring that quality thresholds are maintained and any problems with the shipped goods can be immediately corrected (for example, if one of the trucks runs into traffic, the others can be intelligently rerouted). It is estimated that 30% of all perishable products shipped in the United States become spoiled during their journey from the farm.

After the wet hops are picked, Rogue attaches three trackers to each shipment: at the top, middle, and bottom of the bale of hops. These trackers measure temperature, humidity, and location. Rogue can ensure that the hops have been kept in the proper environment and that they have not spent too much time in transit.

If a shipment does not meet quality standards, it can be discarded before it is used in a beer batch, reducing waste and ensuring that Rogue does not waste its precious brewing capacity brewing beer that will later need to be dumped for quality reasons. The location of the shipment is updated every ten minutes, and once the hops have reached the halfway point, Rogue starts the brewing process. This ensures that the hops arrive just in time and go directly from the truck into the brewing kettle.

The Internet of Things has enabled companies like Rogue to capture and, more importantly, act on the data surrounding their supply chains. Companies are able to make smart decisions that bring cost savings and flow directly to their bottom line.

This article was written by Zachary Richards, an MBA student at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Zach is a Software Engineer at Pegasystems, Inc., where he specializes in back-end Java development, data structures, and agile development practices. He graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2016 with a B.S. in Computer Science.

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What’s the Best Degree for Supply Chain Management?

What’s the Best Degree for Supply Chain Management?

Supply Chain skills have never been in more demand and the work has never been more interesting. Here’s a look at the best degree for supply chain management.


Highlights:

  • Today’s supply chain professionals need to be well-versed in data analysis, presentation skills, negotiation skills, project management skills.
  • Individual career objectives and educational options can help determine the best degree.

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

Supply Chain Management was seen as a back-office profession. People tended to rise from shop floors and warehouses into management roles and eventually – for the most high-performing individuals – Senior Director and C-Suite positions. It’s always been one of those fields that people “fall into.” Once they found themselves in a Supply Chain or Procurement job, people tended to look around and see how important it was to the business. They’d experience the fast pace, see the immense ten-dimensional puzzle involved in getting a product to market, the global scope, and be hooked.

It used to be a truism that no teenager decides that they want to get into Supply Chain, even those who had their sights set on the corporate world and not other paths like medicine or law. Supply Chain used to be the kid brother to other, more “glamorous” corporate functions like marketing and finance: misunderstood, transactional, and frankly thankless work.

No longer.

In 2018, Supply Chain Management is a key market differentiator for companies in industries as diverse as consumer goods, retail, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, you name it. Supply Chain skills have never been in more demand in the corporate word, and the work has never been more interesting. Many of the top companies in the world are waging a constant war for Supply Chain talent, with baby boomers retiring and strong economic growth driving demand.  Young people are starting to wake up to the huge amount of opportunity in the field.

Today’s Supply Chain professionals need to be well-versed in data analysis, presentation skills, negotiation skills, project management skills, as well as the know-it-when-you-see it overall skill of “business acumen.” Click To Tweet

At the same time, companies are increasing educational requirements, which makes sense: today’s Supply Chain professionals need to be well-versed in data analysis, presentation skills, negotiation skills, project management skills, as well as the know-it-when-you-see it overall skill of “business acumen.” In our recruitment practice, we’re noticing that more clients are requiring a university degree as a hard-and-fast requirement for jobs.

The requirement often ends there. “A degree.” Which means that there are lots of educational avenues aspiring Supply Chain professionals can take to set themselves apart from the competition. But it can be daunting: should you do an Engineering degree with a focus on Industrial Engineering? Should you do a business degree? A liberal arts degree and then an MBA? Or should you forgo a formal degree and pursue certifications like CSCMP and APICS from industry associations?

It depends. It’s hard to arrive at a definitive answer. Why is that?

  • Individual career objectives vary. For example, someone who wants to pursue a career in sourcing and Procurement will probably be better served by a business degree than an engineering degree. And someone who’s interested in Production Planning, Supply Planning, and/or Demand Planning is probably best served by a STEM degree that features a lot of quantitative analysis.
  • Educational options vary. More schools are offering Supply Chain specialties as part of MBA programs, as well as at the undergrad and college levels. More traditional programs (engineering, business, etc.) are taking steps to prepare students for careers in Supply Chain Management. But options for programs vary based on geography and the grades that any one candidate brings to the table.

That said, we still think it’s worthwhile to give some tips for people exploring their education options in the field. So we put the question to our network of established Supply Chain professionals to see what they had to say.

Here are some of the more insightful responses:

 “Engineering degree with focus in database structures and statistics can equip one with the required skills for this domain. Presently all SCM jobs require one to be able to work with ERP systems so it is nice to have understanding about the underlying concepts.”

The easiest that i can think of is Industrial Engineering which is a mix of Engineering/Mgt/commercial/statistics subjects. My degree in IE was a sound base to launch me into a SC/Logistics career. Then top it off with a certification after gaining some work experience. Certifications without some work exposure may turn to be useless. Certifications should be a source of validation of what you know in the discipline. I do hear there are schools/community colleges these days offering SC/Logistics as a degree. In all, any course that exposes and builds a person’s critical thinking skills is ok to get into supply chain.”

“Best degree would be to start working in a warehouse. Try some scheduling work also if you can. For all the value that a degree gives you, nothing beats knowing how goods flow and how truck drivers get stuff from point A to B. Do this for a year, then worry about which degree to get.”

“1) Chemical/Industrial/Mechanical Engineering 2) Economics 3) Business/Commerce with a major in finance 4) a solid liberal arts education from a university that will propel you into a top business school.

Engineering or Business provide a great foundation for logical, innovative and strategic thinking.”

Hopefully the above comments can help offer some guidance to anyone who’s interested in embarking on Supply Chain Management as a career path. There are lots of paths to go down. But whether you choose the university, college or certifications route, it’s pretty undeniable that more education is never a bad thing.

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Send in the Drones: How PINC & Amazon Have Optimized Inventory Management

Send in the Drones: How PINC & Amazon Have Optimized Inventory Management

Drones and other autonomous technology are actively being utilized in supply chains. Here’s how companies like PINC and Amazon are leveraging this new technology for inventory management.


Highlights:

  • Drones and other autonomous technology are actively being utilized today in supply chains.
  • PINC and Amazon are using autonomous technology for inventory management.
  • By implementing new technologies, operating costs decreased by 20%, successfully boosting operating margins.

It’s been five years since Charlie Rose interviewed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on 60 Minutes about new innovations that Amazon was working on. Bezos revealed that Amazon was on the brink of a supply chain revolution involving octocoptor drones transporting parcels: Amazon Prime Air.

Tweets and status updates immediately conveyed consumer excitement that flying Amazon drones could deliver packages directly to doorsteps. And on the flipside, some employees of shipping carriers and brick-and-mortar retailers expressed fear that their respective industries would become obsolete.

Fast forward to the present… While advancements have been made in drone and autonomous technology, such as Amazon’s tests in the United States, Dominos’ self-driving delivery car, and Tesla’s self-driving truck, Bezos’ grand vision still remains a dream for impatient online shoppers.

That aside, drones and other autonomous technology are actively being utilized today in supply chains, and their usage extends beyond the conceived purpose of package delivery. One such use case that companies PINC and Amazon leverage this technology for is inventory management.

PINC: Aerial Inventory Robots

Less than 10% of the 250,000 warehouses and manufacturing facilities in the United States utilize automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) for managing their inventories. Instead, they resort to manual human labor coupled with outdated storage solutions and antiquated inventory management measures. The need for automation in the factory setting is paramount.

PINC, a top provider of yard management systems, pioneered the use of drones in warehouses. Since 2014, PINC enacted the use of flying drone technology (PINC AIR, Aerial Inventory Robots) to track assets in warehouses.

PINC AIR Hardware

These “inventory robots” leverage barcode-reader technology and roam premises in an automated fashion, ensuring efficient inventory tracking. Technically speaking, the drones are equipped with optical sensors which allows them to take pictures of barcodes and obtain information for identifying and counting inventory.

Indoor aerial drones have limited GPS capabilities compared to their outdoor counterparts, and instead rely on indoor location services software to aid in setting the devices’ “travel boundaries” within warehouses.

PINC AIR Benefits

 PINC AIR saves time, money, and offers a safer alternative to traditional rolling ladders for companies wishing to upgrade their inventory management system. Businesses spend less on workers’ compensation claims by reducing on-job injury rates. Their robots operate at the leisure of the company, are 300 times faster than a human performing the same work, and possess high accuracy levels. Even a daily inventory check provides a company a plethora of data.

PINC’s aerial drones replace the clipboards and spreadsheets of inventory counts by giving companies a platform that automatically displays the needed information in real time. Businesses could use this data to answer a variety of questions such as, “How many days do certain television brands sit in stock at certain facilities during the holiday season?”

Amazon Robotics (Kiva): Robots

In 2012, Amazon acquired Kiva for $775 million, phased-in its technology in its warehouses a few years later, and formed the subsidiary Amazon Robotics. Kiva robots replaced forklifts, large conveyor systems, and other human-operated machines. They’re efficient at performing monotonous tasks that previously fatigued employees, such as carrying and stacking bins around all day.

In 2012, Amazon acquired Kiva for $775 million, phased-in its technology in its warehouses, and formed the subsidiary Amazon Robotics. Kiva robots replaced forklifts, large conveyor systems, and other human-operated machines. Click To Tweet

Amazon made the move to continue pursuing competitive advantage in the e-commerce space along with maintaining control of the thousands of products in their fulfillment centers.

Some of Amazon’s robotics are large, 6-ton “Robo Stow” mechanical arms that move and stack bins around the factory. Others are used for carrying, transporting, and storing merchandise up to 3,000 pounds in an orderly fashion. Using these robots to stack and transfer merchandise saves aisle space in warehouses, allowing facilities to carry more inventory, meaning customers will be able to receive their goods quicker.

But what happened to the human employees? Did Kiva’s technology truly destroy thousands of jobs within Amazon’s warehouses? Is this the part when we rage against the machine due to the “robot uprising” stealing jobs?

Put your pitchforks down. No layoffs occurred, and, instead, robots and humans began working together. Despite skeptics’ views that automation is a job disrupter, SVP of Operations at Amazon Dave Clark assured,  “[…] automation increases productivity and, in some cases, demand from consumers, which ultimately creates more jobs […] Warehouse workers would continue to work in technologically rich environments.”

In fact, since the Kiva acquisition, Amazon increased the number of warehouse employees by nearly 200% to an upwards of 125,000 workers due to the increased volume of orders. Signs show no stopping either with the rising demand of high-skilled programming jobs, technicians, as well as those working hand-in-hand with robots.

Existing employees took on new roles and increased their skillset. For example, some employees moved to “stow” products on shelves for the robots to move away, following computer instructions to optimize where merchandise goes.

From there, the robots line up when customer orders arrive. Human “pickers” grab the products from the robots’ shelves and place them in plastic bins. At this point, merchandise is packed in cardboard boxes for customers. Warehouse jobs become less monotonous as the products that employees place on the robots vary.

And with that said, the cost savings from this technology is astounding…

Cost Savings → Increased Efficiency

Operating costs decreased by 20% at a $22 million savings from each fulfillment center, successfully boosting operating margins. These savings are attributed to enhancing warehouse efficiency. Amazon found that cycle times decreased between 75% and 80% to just 15 minutes. As a side effect, additional space was allocated for inventory, increasing the amount of storage by 50%.

Drawbacks & Limitations of Autonomous Technology in Supply Chains

PINC: Barcodes & Drone Power Source

PINC’s optical technology requires packages to display barcode tags in plain sight for the drones to process accurately. This raises concerns for companies who do not have this ideal setup in their warehouses, potentially raising costs.

Another issue is the drone power source. AIR drones are powered with hydrogen fuel cells instead of batteries as they last longer and charge faster. PINC CEO Matt Yearling revealed that the hydrogen-powered technology can fly up to three hours, and only needs a few minutes to refuel. Companies therefore need to strategically consider when the drones are scheduled to fly and follow-up with refueling procedures when the drones’ power is depleted.

Amazon Robotics (Kiva): Robots Cost & Limitations

The robots themselves are also limited in the tasks that they can perform. For example, the “robotic arm” was designed to pick up packages of certain sizes. Amazon has been in the process of researching their flexibility to complete more advanced tasks, though for now human workers help in that regard. After all, “There are many things humans do really well that we don’t even understand yet,” says Beth Marcus, an Amazon employee who specializes in robotics.

While autonomous technology clearly has its benefits, it comes with a cost. Aside from the initial expense Amazon incurred with Kiva’s acquisition, an installation cost of $15 million per location is required, costing Amazon nearly $1.7 billion to fully deploy robots in all 115 locations. Despite this cost, Amazon nets a savings of $7 million per facility when compared with its recurring annual savings.

Conclusion

While introducing new technology into the supply chain space is sometimes deemed as “disruptive,” the ends justify the means for autonomous technology. Along with new jobs being created, modern manufacturing workers are gaining more skills by learning to operate robots. Drones and robots allow companies to effectively match their scale and flexibility with increased consumer demand.

PINC’s drones are a great way to establish an accurate representation of inventory in real time from past to present. This further strengthens a company’s promise to fulfill needs for its customers.

Amazon Robotics enables companies to maintain incredibly efficient workflows in their warehouses and fulfillment centers.

In a poll of executives by Techpro, an astonishing 64% reported that there were no plans to leverage autonomous technology in their businesses. Applying drones and robots to inventory management gives companies a competitive advantage and a head start in taking advantage of cutting-edge technology.

It just goes to show that autonomous technology further streamlines operations and supply chains by allowing companies to reach new heights.

This article was written by Spencer Black, an MBA student at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, specializing in Information Systems & Business Analytics. After graduating summa cum laude from UNH in Computer Science in 2015, he has been working at Pegasystems as a Software Engineer.

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The Ugly and Not-So-Sustainable Smart Device Battery Supply Chain

The Ugly and Not-So-Sustainable Smart Device Battery Supply Chain

It’s time for consumers to stand up to tech giants and force them to procure raw materials, used in an ethical and sustainable manner, for smart devices.


Highlights:

  • Smart devices have created a dependency on batteries.
  • Blockchain is being considered to track cobalt from its source in the production of lithium ion batteries.
  • The number one way to decrease reliance on batteries is to reduce overall consumption of energy from batteries.

Battery technology is hot these days, no pun intended.  Consumers are demanding high performance and safety from batteries as energy storage devices.  Smart device manufacturers are responding by producing batteries that are smaller, safer, and store more energy; this performance comes at a cost.  Increasingly rare and advanced materials are required to produce a safer and more high-performance battery for your smart device.

Cobalt is one of the key raw materials required to support the green revolution.  Too bad over half of the world’s cobalt supply comes from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they are known to use child and slave labor in the mining of cobalt.

No one cares, however.  Device manufacturers are delivering a price point and value that the consumers are willing to pay for.  Supply chain reform could briefly interrupt this harmony, and peoples’ relationships with their smart devices could be jeopardized.  The sad truth is that device manufacturers have pulled the wool over our eyes for too long and we have now become dependent on these batteries.

There is a solution, however.

Consumers have to stand up to tech giants such as Apple and Samsung and force them to procure raw materials used in an ethical and sustainable manner.  This is happening in the “Responsible Cobalt Initiative” where blockchain is being considered to track cobalt from its source in the production of lithium ion batteries.

The blockchain method relies on adequate and honest oversight at the very site where the cobalt is being mined from the Earth in locations such as the DRC.  How will honest oversight be implemented in what is known to be one of the most war-torn and corrupt regions of the world?  Why wouldn’t Congolese mine owners simply lie about labor practices?  In this case, the supply chain reform also requires political and cultural reform.  I can’t help but think about that time when the U.S. tried to cause political and cultural reform in Iraq…

The bigger and more disturbing picture is that society is on track for over-reliance on lithium-ion batteries as energy storage devices.  The number of smart devices is skyrocketing.  And if electric vehicles achieve widespread adoption someday, the amount of lithium-ion batteries and cobalt required to fuel that growth will be staggering.

This is just one reason why the energy future of our planet is so uncertain.  Surely the population will continue to grow.  Smart device numbers will keep rising exponentially.  The planet is going to need more energy and more energy storage. Hopefully, an increasing amount of energy will come from renewable and carbon-neutral sources.  In order to maximize the potential of renewable energy installations, we need vast amounts of energy storage.  Putting all our eggs in the lithium-ion battery basket is a very bad idea by-in-large due to the shortcomings of the cobalt supply chain.

In order to maximize the potential of renewable energy installations, we need vast amounts of energy storage. Putting all our eggs in the lithium-ion battery basket is a bad idea due to the shortcomings of the cobalt supply chain. Click To Tweet

It is important to note that the number one, most surefire way to decrease our reliance on batteries is to reduce overall consumption of energy from batteries.  Simply put, if everyone were to spend half as much time on their cell phones, we would need half as many cell phone batteries.  The phone would have to be charged half as often, and the battery would last twice as long, thus requiring half as many batteries over time.  Maybe we would even start talking to each other once again.

In addition to reducing consumption, humankind must pursue radical technological advances in the field of energy storage.  Power-to-gas and room-temperature-superconductors are two cutting-edge technologies that have the potential to revolutionize the way we store energy.  Distributed generation, smart grids, and passive heating and cooling are some more conventional ways to reduce the energy storage burden placed on large-scale renewable generating facilities.

To make a long story short, the force of corporate greed and government corruption has overpowered the force of the consumers’ desires up until now.  I am sure that the vast majority of smart device users, if asked, would be opposed to the use of child and slave labor in the mining of raw materials for their smart devices.  I, for example, would be willing to pay more for a device that guarantees fair and ethical trade up and down the entire supply chain.  We must never forget that we the consumers have the ultimate power.  If we want Apple or Samsung to change their ways, we can easily do that.  Get out and vote.  Make your voice heard.  Stand up to corporate greed and government corruption.  Take a break from your cell phone and talk to the person next to you.  I promise the world will be a better place.

This article was written by Peter Chivers, an MBA student at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Pete is an engineer and MBA student with a passion for innovation and the outdoors.  He spends his free time with his family hiking mountains, gardening, and building ice fishing contraptions. 

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Why You Should Hire People for Their Superpowers

Why You Should Hire People for Their Superpowers

Great people don’t always focus on expressing their superpowers at work out of a fear of limiting their scope. Here’s how employers can identify and coach employees to work to their fullest potential.

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

In people management and hiring, we might assume that we’re emphasizing what our employees are best at. “Play to your strengths” is one of the biggest truisms of business, and life in general. If the people we’re managing – or hiring – are talented, we might assume that they’re working to their full potential in their roles. The cream rises to the top in any organization, but how often are we failing to hire and manage talented people based on what they’re truly best at?

A great new article from executive coach Whitney Johnson in the Harvard Business Review details how employers can help their teams play to their strengths. More than strengths, actually: Johnson offers strategies for identifying and coaching employees based on their superpowers – the things that come most easily, the things that those employees are not always willing to boast about.

People sometimes undervalue their own superpowers because the tasks associated with them feel “too easy” compared to hard-won skills. But let people focus on their superpowers and real opportunities for innovation start to spring forth. Click To Tweet

As Johnson puts it, people sometimes undervalue their own superpowers because the tasks associated with them feel “too easy” compared to hard-won skills. But let people focus on their superpowers and real opportunities for innovation start to spring forth.

Often you can spot superpowers in the wild; some people are such high performers that it’s obvious what they’re best at, and they’ve found their way into a role that utilizes those skills. But the HBR article makes the point that great people don’t always focus on expressing their superpowers at work out of a fear of limiting their scope. It’s rare that you find someone who’ll put what they’re truly a genius at on their resume – either out of a desire not to boast, or to present a more balanced profile.

The article identifies some strategies for managers to identify their team’s “superpowers.” They encourage managers to ask their employees a few key questions:

  • What exasperates you? Ask people if there’s anything in their job that frustrates them when other people don’t understand it easily.
  • What compliments do you dismiss? The article makes a great point that people tend to downplay the things that they’re best at – the things that come most naturally to them – out of humility or because they feel “easy.” If someone regularly dismisses compliments around a certain task or deliverable, that’s a sign that thing might be their superpower.
  • What do you think about when you have nothing to think about? In downtime, our brains regularly come back to the things that stimulate us most – the things our minds gnaw at that we can’t let go. Leaders should try to find out their employees’ fixations, because – through coaching – these can develop into passions and ultimately superpowers.

But why stop at coaching and development? We think that companies should strive to adopt this approach for hiring as well: as much as possible they should hire employees for their superpowers, rather than their ability to carry out an over-wide range of tasks.

For example, in Strategic Procurement: is someone particularly elite at communicating and building relationships? Assign them specifically to build buy-in from internal stakeholders across the business, and act as a point-person between those internal clients and the sourcing group. Leave the sourcing to those whose “superpowers” are evaluating the supplier marketplace, or negotiation, rather than structuring your department around a bunch of generalists.

Does someone have a deep understanding of a particular category, for example marketing spend, perhaps from working on the other side of the fence? Hire them for that category. These are just a few examples of how we think companies can adopt the “superheroes” approach to hiring.

Companies should tailor job descriptions towards key deliverables, and consider including the questions mentioned above in the job interview process, as a means of trying to uncover what comes easiest to job candidates – which also happens to be the areas where they’re most likely to innovate.

Budgets, organizational structure, and directives from senior leadership will often be impediments to this approach, but specialization is the name of the game in improving efficiency, which is after all what Supply Chain Management and Procurement are all about.

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