The most important thing for all humans to know is the difference between exponential and linear. The entire world, from poverty to tech to animals to history to ..., runs on this principle.
I am Venky Nagar, an accounting professor at Michigan. I teach how vast volumes of unstructured accounting data are a critical resource to managers as they execute strategy. It is one thing for a manager to have a vision; it is another to get the entire org to go there: using data to understand other people's beliefs is the only way. This is an exponentially difficult cognitive task because you have to connect various business concepts while also mindful of others' beliefs and feelings about each other. As the number of concepts and people increases, the number of possible connections and beliefs about each other increases exponentially. This is what makes management so difficult, and this is why clearly smart and industrious managers often fail.
By contrast, adherents of linear frameworks have no such convincing explanations for failure. Their PowerPoint view is that managers mistakenly forgot some step in a linear process, and a quick PowerPoint takeaway reminder would have saved them. See here for how one very successful manager repudiates the linear PowerPoint mindset by using a numbers + narrative writing + no PowerPoints philosophy. My teaching also follows the same cognitively exponential philosophy. On the flip side, as James Baldwin patiently explained to Dick Cavett and Paul Weiss for 30 minutes on TV in 1969, the reason inequality is so persistent is because it arises out of an exponentially compounded process that is extremely hard to reverse. (The man is spellbinding.)
I was honored to receive the Evening MBA Teaching Award and to be voted the Executive MBA Commencement Speaker in 2018.
In 2018, I offered a new class on how to think algorithimically. The two sections sold out in 30 minutes! The students were initially baffled by the exponential connections between the theory of computation, Fourier transforms, finance, paper and crypto currencies, AI, Kylie Jenner's superb billion dollar exploitation of Instagram, etc., but quickly rose to the challenge and asked deep questions on the connections between computation and business. Our students can add tremendous value from Day One to a group of CS Ph.D.'s trying to start a firm.
A Best MBA student profiles me in Poets and Quants: Who is your favorite professor? This is a hard choice. I am going to say Venky Nagar because he has taught me to think holistically about business problems. He has also opened my eyes to a lot of thought leadership on a variety of business topics. I appreciate that his courses are simultaneously philosophical and practical.
An MBA student describes my teaching style. Undergraduate students also add to the mix, showing that exponential thinking is free from age and race or gender identity constraints.
Another student describes my class:
The MBA student body invites me to speak on the last day of class:
The MBA student body again invites me to speak on the last day of class: