It’s week two of my MBA here at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and things. Are. Busy. On top of the myriad academic obligations and deliverables, there are uncountable opportunities for social involvement, leadership, networking, competition, club involvement, and entrepreneurship. The atmosphere feels electric – it’s as energizing as it is intimidating (not that an MBA candidate should ever admit to feeling intimidated…). Given the sheer number of things that are happening in the program, it took quite a bit of thought to figure out what this first blog post should be about.
Then it hit me. I should take the same approach as our esteemed faculty (brownie points, please?) and begin by talking about the role of data and analytics in business education. Since the first minute of the MBA program, it has been stressed to us that sophisticated data analysis is becoming the new standard in every industry; we as managers better get up to speed, lest we get left behind. However, the mere presence of big data in a business environment – plus the technological and mathematical tools that are available for its analysis – are not enough. We still need talented managers. Big data has not replaced managers, but rather it has made them more important than ever. Managers are the ones who must be asking the right questions about the data. They are the ones asking why the data do what they do, what conclusions can be drawn, and what actions should be taken. When jobs and livelihoods are on the line, this is no task to be taken lightly.
It is a new environment in which we find ourselves as managers – an environment much like that of a scientific laboratory. It is an environment in which we need to be literate in the forms that data can take, the potential relationships between disparate variables, and the tools available for analysing these relationships. On top of that we need the ability to draw meaningful conclusions and take impactful actions based on all of this analysis.
Traditionally, the core elements of an education have revolved around the “Three R’s”: Reading, writing, and arithmetic. (My friends from abroad may be wondering why only one of those words actually starts with the letter ‘R’, but that’s a discussion for another time.) I propose that based on the growing importance of data analysis in understanding the business world, and the world at large, we add a fourth ‘R’: Regression.
Reading, writing, arithmetic, and regression analysis – now that’s catchy. (Ok, it’s a bit of an oversimplification to use regression analysis as a catch-all for statistical literacy, but hey, I needed something that started with the letter ‘R’.)
It has become clear to me that statistics and data analysis will be a major theme over the next two years at Rotman, and that fact is very exciting. Big data is here to stay and I am thrilled at how deeply integrated it is in the curriculum. You never know, if this program has the impact on its graduates that I think it will, maybe someday the 5th ‘R’ will be ‘Rotman’.
More to come.