To regress or not to regress – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of business statistics
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing such courses, end them.
Ok, so maybe that’s a stretch, but the name of this website is Poets&Quants, so I thought a discussion of the value of a business statistics course in an MBA program, along with an excerpt from Hamlet was appropriate. It seems strange were even having this discussion given that it’s generally assumed an MBA graduate will have some quantitative experience, at least from class. However, many top business schools, including some ranked in the Top 10 do not require their executive MBA students to take a comprehensive business stats course. My school did. It was harmlessly called Analytical Tools for Decision Making. A benign name that makes students less likely to run for the exits than if it was named Business Statistics. I mean who doesn’t want more tools for decision making, right?
When the course started, I started hearing terms like regression analysis, probability distribution, and hypothesis testing and realized that I was in for something they didn’t teach me in law school. However, after working hard through this course and seeing real life applications at work, I now think that not taking a business stats course in an MBA program is a little like skipping Algebra in high school. Alright, maybe it’s more like skipping Geometry, but the point is your MBA education is not quite complete without it (no, I’m not being paid by Kenan-Flagler School of Business to say this). As an advanced professional in the business world or as someone who sits in the C suite, having enough of a quantitative background to at least have a clue of what the number crunchers are talking about is valuable.
I did an informal survey of several of my classmates who were subjected (excuse me, Freudian slip there), rather, who took the course with me, and most all agreed they were glad for the course (some of them, albeit, begrudgingly so). What sold many of us on our Analytical Tools course was when we saw the practical application of our business stats knowledge in other courses or in real life. For example, in our Operations course we participated in a global operations simulation where significant sales forecasting was required to be successful in the competition. The most accurate forecasts are generally ones that rely on regression analysis. Having studied regression analysis in business stats, we were able to conduct better forecasting in a simulation that required us to make frequent orders.
I also experienced a real life application of regression analysis at work in a very meaningful way. A few weeks ago, I stopped by our R&D department just to say hello to our resident mad scientist who’s always working on very cool projects. He quickly began to expound on his latest study of the growth rate in children’s ribs (if you haven’t read my other blogs, I work in a medical device company). As my eyes began to glaze over, I heard him mention regression. At last, an opportunity to have an intelligent conversation with a PhD scientist. I immediately asked him what his R squared was and saw an impressed look come over his face. Fortunately, he didn’t probe deeper into my knowledge to realize it was only surface deep, but assuming I was more knowledgeable than I was launched into a deeper discussion. But I regress, I mean digress. To take business stats or not to take business stats? That does seem to be the question.
Lee Lowder is an attorney who is pursuing his MBA at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler’s Business School. HIs previous posts: