Rethinking the Value of a Business Major

Melissa Korn reporting in the Wall Street Journal:

“The biggest complaint,” writes Korn is that “undergraduate degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses. Companies say they need flexible thinkers with innovative ideas and a broad knowledge base derived from exposure to multiple disciplines.”

That gap in my own knowledge was one of the reasons I started Farnam Street.

Robert Hagstrom, author of Investing: The Last Liberal Art, adds: comments

At first, you might think the “art of achieving worldly wisdom” is an elective you can do without. After all, there is simply not enough time to read all that is required before the next day’s opening bell, and besides, what passes for reading today is more about adding information and less about gaining knowledge. But don’t despair. In the words of Charlie Munger, “we don’t have to raise everyone’s skill in celestial mechanics to that of Laplace and also ask everyone to achieve a similar level in all other knowledge.” Remember, as he explains, “it turns out that the truly big ideas in each discipline, learned only in essence, carry most of the freight.” Furthermore, attaining broad multidisciplinary skills does not require us to lengthen the already-expensive commitment to college education. We all know individuals who achieved a massive multidisciplinary synthesis of knowledge without having to sign up for another four-year college degree.

According to Munger, the key to true learning and lasting success is learning to think based on a “latticework” of mental models. Building the latticework can be difficult, but once done, it can be applied to a wide range of problems. “Worldly wisdom is mostly very, very simple,” Munger told the Harvard audience. “There are a relatively small number of disciplines and a relatively small number of truly big ideas. And it’s a lot of fun to figure out. Even better, the fun never stops. Furthermore, there’s a lot of money in it, as I can testify from my own personal experience.”