≡ Menu

MBAs are not generally known to be creative. In fact, many people (including author Seth Godin and Flickr cofounder Caterina Fake) think that business schools kill creativity! We disagree with this statement but think that a MBA programs can do more to teach, develop and promote innovation and creativity.

But Can Creativity and Innovation be taught in Business Schools?

Clayton Christensen states in the March 2012 issue of Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin that only 5% are born with the innovation instinct!

I don’t want to overstate the case.  I think about 40 percent of people just are not going to be good at innovating regardless of what they do. And 5 percent are born with the instinct. There are things that they do and ways that they think that are intuitive. The rest of us could learn what these innovators do if somebody could just crawl inside their brains and codify what to them is intuitive.

Creativity is not the prerogative of artists and musicians.  Entrepreneurs and established firms should be nurturing creativity and innovation.  Business Schools should be fostering creativity.  It is true that more MBA programs are offering creativity and art related courses today than a few years ago.

I learnt juggling with three balls as part of a creativity seminar back in business school.  Many MBA programs offer credit courses that encourage creativity.  Professor Teresa Amabile (Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School) runs a class called “Managing for Creativity” for MBA students at HBS.

What we do at GraduateTutor.com to promote creativity

Throw open a set of good old LEGO boxes!

Throw up a challenge and you will see creativity flow.  As MBA tutors, we love to promote creativity and innovation too. We set up a LEGO challenge. We set some limits for fair competition. Participants could only use pieces limited to a the 405 piece LEGO box. Here is my output from the afternoon:

My F1 car beside my managerial accounting and operations-management text books!

My F1 car beside my managerial accounting and operations-management text books!


LEGO's sense of humor. The driver is smiling!

LEGO’s sense of humor. The driver is smiling!


Warning: Side effects or ancillary by products of opening up an LEGO competiton include lots of banter and laughter.  Maybe what Professor Amabile would call a positive ‘inner work life’ (see below for more on this research).

PS: We used for the LEGO Large Brick Box for this project. Check out the video if you want to order one.

Foot note:

Professor Teresa Amabile and her psychologist husband Steven Kramer, studied creativity over a three-year period using journals maintained by 238 professionals from seven companies in high-tech, consumer products, and chemicals industries.  They found that good moods and positive emotions (what they called  “inner work life”), tended to spur creativity in employees.   


Developing an Olympian attitude

The Olympics and Olympians have provided great inspiration over the years. The Olympic games comes and goes every few years but what lessons can we learn from the Olympians who inspired us? What lessons can we apply to achieve an Olympic level of success in our individual lives? What does it even mean to be an Olympian?

We can discuss endlessly about which country, company or brand is the best in the world.  But there is no question about the fact that the fastest man on the planet today is the latest Olympic gold medallist: Usain Bolt. Period.  Winning the Olympic gold medal proves that you are the best in your field. There is no ambiguity involved.

Even getting to the Olympics is a tremendous achievement and indicates you are among the best of the best.  You don’t land up in the Olympics by chance. Athletes from around the world compete in multiple rounds to earn a place in the Olympics.

As MBA tutors to some of the best MBA programs in the world, we have identified four important attitudes that students can emulate to achieve Olympic level success in their respective fields.


Discipline is the ability to plan for success and systematically implement the plan in a timely, orderly and consistent manner.  This includes doing everything required to achieve your goals including boring work and/or work that you don’t like. In an interview with David Letterman, Usain Bolt talks about training 6 days a week. He talks about doing squats which he does not like but still does so that he can get the strength required to be a runner.  According to Merriam-Webster discipline is “training that corrects, moulds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”. To achieve Olympic level success, we have to mould our mind and body into forms required for success in our chosen field.


Watching the Olympics and the glamor achieved by the star athletes can mislead us into thinking that success may be easy. Success in any field comes with hours, months, years and sometimes decades of practice. Mohammed Ali once said “The fight is not won in the ring, but out here in the early morning hours when I’m running these long miles, conditioning, getting in shape. The boxing match is won way before I get into the ring.”  Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ explains that to achieve mastery in any field requires about 10,000 hours of practice. This means that if you practise something for 3 hours a day, it will take you about 9 years to truly master it!

Commitment to your goal

To gain Olympic level success in whatever field you choose, you need to be totally committed to your goals.  No excuses are accepted.  If you have to wake up at 5 am every day to practice, you have to wake up whether it is sunny or raining even if you don’t feel like waking up.  When you are interested in something, you will only do it when it is convenient. However, commitment means that you have to do whatever is required to achieve your goals whether it is convenient or not.


Becoming the best in the world in your field of endeavour requires you to give up many other things.  For example, Usain Bolt at first wanted to be a cricketer in Jamaica. Once he set his mind on athletics he had to give up this desire.  It is hard to be a world-class athlete and a professional boxer or cricketer because the training, skills and mental attitude required are different for different sports or professions.


As teachers, parents and friends, we come across students with a wide variety of attitudes. In addition to teaching them the subjects required, what is equally or more important is to help students develop the right attitude to life. The Olympic attitude is something that will serve them well.


I had emailed you last year to let you know about Prof. Damodaran putting his content online for anyone around the world interested in learning finance! Prof. Damodran has just started his next course “Valuation” and has again opened it up for anyone interested in learning. While he had only offered it on Coursekit (now lore.com) last year, he has made it more accessible this year by putting it on three other channels iTunesU, youtube via Symynd  and NYU/Stern website. You can click on these links to join the course. Or visit his blog post to read more and join the program online.  Please take this opportunity to master an important area in corporate finance: Valuation.

While we are on the subject of valuation, I wanted to highlight a cool info-graphic on Valuation using the Discounted Cash Flow Method (DCF). It should give you a good recap of what DCF valuation is about.

Enjoy learning.

Senith Mathews
Make Learning Easier

Our Education System!

Our Education System


I found this cartoon on facebook! I cant give credit to its creator because I dont know who he/she is! (Please email if you have any leads)

This cartoon has a lot for us to think about.  Yes, our education system is not perfect or far from perfect! But it is still the best in the world!

Do not let our education system hold you back. Be brave and take your own path. 

Look at the backgrounds of the top leaders in the world or any list of 10 people you admire and you will see that a few of them came from ‘non-standard’ paths! Examine the lives of Obama, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mother Teressa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela,  Abraham Lincoln, Napolean, Winston Churchill, etc or any other list and you will find that they did not follow the ‘standard’ path.

So be brave and take your own path. Do not let our education system or any system hold you back!

What we at GraduateTutor.com do is pretty clear to most people – we provide live online tutoring to MBA students around the country. But we still get the question – who are your customers?! We have outlined who are our customers in a full post here.

A section of our customers are smart students who would not have required outside tutoring. However, even smart students often are left on the lurch when we have bad teachers! About.com has an interesting article by Jamie Littlefield on what to do if your online professor is not a good teacher!

Here are the steps she offers.

Step 1: Reassess the problem.

Step 2: Talk to the professor privately.

Step 3: Withdraw from the online course, if there’s still time.

Step 4: Call your academic counselor.

Step 5: Talk to the Dean and file a complaint.

You can read the full article here.

Will we finally get cheaper text books?

The DOJ has sued Apple and 5 other publishers accusing them of colluding to increase the prices of ebooks. Read more in the WSJ and the Huffington Post.  While the case is about ebooks in general, we are hoping that it will eventually spill over into text books too.


As MBA tutors, we empathize with the students cost burden. With an already high cost of education (tuition, living, etc) paying $150 for text books really really bothers students. Especially when they find that in 3 or 6 months, these student may never use the book again!


This case is alleging that these publishers met in private dinning rooms to discuss ways in which they can sell ebooks higher in response to Amazon selling them at $9.99 a piece.  One wonders what actions cause the price of text books to stay so high!

For a long time no one ever challenged the value of education. They all of a sudden there were a lot of critics shouting about the draw backs of the cost of education and the debt students are left with and even declaring that its not worth going to college.  Now the trend is reversing again – or seems to be starting to at least.

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic has this recent article highlighting the value of education.  He backs it up with some great data from multiple sources. This is not the first time he has defended education. He wrote about it last year too using pretty much the same supporting data.

Is an investment in college worth it?  As MBA tutors, we often get this question at parties and for that matter in any sort of gathering. A highlight if you ever thought college is not worth it:

A study from the Hamilton Project found that $100,000 spent on college at age 18 would yield a higher lifetime return than an equal investment in corporate bonds, U.S. government debt, or hot company stocks.

Here is another interesting quote.

A 2009 McKinsey report estimated that if we raised our education performance to the level of Korea, we could improve the US economy by more than $2 trillion.

Read the full article highlighting the value of education. It is worth it.

George Bradt has an article in the Forbes.  He claims that recruiters agree that the only three things you need to know for an interview are:

1. Can you do the job?

2. Will you love the job?

3. Can we tolerate working with you?

It seems simplistic! Overly so. But we as MBA tutors kind of agree with George. We help students prepare for case interviews and provide case interview tips and we see students do crazy things to prepare for interviews but miss the basics. These three questions do cover the basics.

You have got to show that you can do the job, you love it and that the interviewer will regret not hiring you. Its not just the qualifications. Its about giving evidence in multiple ways including prior activity, interest, reliability, etc. Interviewer watch for this in all questions, responses and actions an interviewee provides. Read the full article here.


Understanding Statistics

Understanding statistics is important for many aspects of life, business, work, careers & research.  The Economist has a nice article that shows the importance of statistics and raw data. Read the full article here. If the raw statistics is wrong, no amount of data analysis or quantitative analysis will be helpful. Nice move by the Economist to drop the official Argentinian Statistical Office numbers and replace them with more reliable estimates!

This article mentions the billions of dollars that investors have lost. It is directly impacting those who may have bought inflation protected bonds or assets as an artificially low  inflation estimate directly costs you money! Should you need help understanding more about any of these topics our statistics tutors or finance tutors will be glad to assist you.

The Facebook IPO & The Zuckerberg tax!

We have had discussions about the Buffet tax. Now comes the Zuckerberg tax! With the Facebook IPO looming large and the quantifying of Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth there has been a lot of discussions on his tax liability. What is sure is that he will pay taxes of about $2 billion on only the portion of stock that he exercises which is around $5 billion. This seems like a large tax bill at 30% of income! However, it may be the only tax that he every pays on possibly $50 or $100 billion of wealth – not bad tax planning with an effective rate of about 1-2%! This is because of our tax system which taxes Individuals only when they actually sell property and realize their gains! So if Zuckerberg never sells his shares but only borrows against it, he will never pay any additional taxes.

This seems unfair to many folks but is perfectly legitimate under the current tax system. Also legitimate is the fact that investors pay lower taxes which is what prompted Obama to suggest the “Buffet tax”! Will we see the request for a Zuckerberg tax – one that requires individuals to pay taxes on market value of assets? Probably never because of the Pandora’s box that could be opened up with the challenges of deciding what is the market value of an asset!

While the Buffet tax or the Zuckerberg tax may never get passed into law, the accounting tutoring team will be happy to help you understand these tax rule recommendations if you desire so.