Monday, February 22, 2010

Which Class Are You In?

Last week, I listened to a professor discuss a case that our class would have to prepare in two weeks. After he went through several points, he asked if there were any questions. Seeing an opportunity to save a few hours, I asked one.

"There are a lot of numbers in this case. In my managerial accounting class, cases sometimes give incorrectly calculated numbers, or they leave out numbers. Can we assume that the numbers in this case are correct?"

The professor looked at me like I had just revealed my Martian heritage. It was one of those, "come on . . . are you serious?" looks. Then he just asked plainly: "Which class are you in?"

I conceded the point. I was not in managerial accounting class. Then he confirmed that the numbers were right.

I shouldn't have admitted to asking a silly question. I will grant him that I was not in accounting class. However, I'm preparing to work in the real world.

Once I reach the business world, will anybody tell me which class I'm in? Certainly not. Will I know when I can assume that numbers given to me are correct? Nope.

In the future, I must be aware of all of the tools and thought processes that I've learned . . . not just in business school, but throughout my entire life. To be aware of possible problems, I should ask questions like the one above, and many more!

Compartmentalizing knowledge is useful for teaching and learning, but it can be dangerous in the real world.

Note: This professor's comment was off-the-cuff, and I wrote this to point out the comment's implications - not to judge the professor. In fact, I have deep respect for the professor, and he would likely agree with everything that I've written.