Monday, September 6, 2010

A Business Education for the Game of Life, Which Should Include Operations Research

Professor Greg Mankiw, a well-known economics professor at Harvard, who is sending off his oldest child to college, wrote a thoughtful article on the courses that he would recommend for a college student to take.

The subjects that he recommends that students take in order to gain knowledge on how to play "the Game of Life" include: economics (clearly, since that is his area), probability and statistics, finance, and psychology.

Frankly, such courses are among the required courses in a business administration undergraduate degree (with organizational behavior (OB) typically being the psychology-type of course in a business school)!

However, to his list, I would definitely add at least one and, preferably, two or more courses in operations research / management science. In such courses students will learn how to optimize the utilization of scarce resources under constraints and how to make sense of the volumes of data that both individuals as well as organizations from companies to hospitals to educational institutions to even governments are faced with on a daily basis!

One should care not only about the analysis of data but also about the optimization of business (and other) processes in order to gain competitive advantages. Plus, the greater one's portfolio of skill sets, the greater the employment opportunities.

Luckily, in many business schools, including my own, the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst, various business majors, such as Operations Management majors, are required to take a management science course.