The saturated solution

The world of science gripped me early on and I opted for Chemistry as my major. My foray into the Marketing world was purely accidental although after many years there’s no where I’d rather be – and my view of Marketing is certainly influenced by science.

Chemistry is often referred to as the “central science” because of its intimate connections with Biology, Physics, and Math. This is analogous to Marketing which acts like the central function in business, as it connects Product, Operations, Risk, Finance, Technology – you name it, the list goes on. 

Not only is it a creative and imaginative science and chemists are relentlessly curious, but chemistry was a great teacher in other ways. Chemistry somehow connects the dots. And I dare suggest that Marketing does the same for business.

One of the fundamentals in Chemistry is writing and balancing a chemical equation. You’ve got reactants on one side, that when combined with each other under certain conditions yield a result. If any part of the equation changes, so too do the results.

Much of chemistry occurs in solutions. 

Solutions are homogeneous mixtures made of a solvent (the material that does the dissolving) and a solute (the material that gets dissolved). Not all solutes are soluble, able to dissolve, in any solvent. 

A common example is adding a small amount of salt to a glass of water, stirring until all the salt has dissolved, not disappeared, but dissolved forming a solution.

Keep  adding a bit more salt, stirring, and you will soon realise  the salt concentration of the solution reaches its natural limit. You can be certain that you have reached this limit because, no matter how long you stir the solution, undissolved salt remains. 

The solution is said to be saturated with that solute.

This is a very important lesson in life.

There comes a point when doing more will not add to the solution. 

If you add more to a saturated solution, you will see the solute fall to the bottom and no more seems to dissolve.

As an individual you need to recognise when to stop adding to the solution, whatever that may be. Is there a need for a 100 page deck, or can 5 slides suffice? Does the user experience require additional steps, or are you filling space? Does changing the copy for the nth time result in any real difference? I think you get the idea.

And as a leader our role should be to help to create the right conditions, like temperature and pressure, to drive to solution. It is quite alright to let your team get to that optimal point without providing any input. In fact, most of the time people will get to the solution on their own.  Recognizing that saturation point is essential. 

I can assure you, both in the corporate world and in the chem lab, no amount of stirring or adding to the solution will make a difference. At the point of saturation, your additional ideas and recos do not make it’s way into the solution; it will fall to the bottom of the flask.