We begin term 2 in full earnest, just a day after term one and a short mid-term holiday. Term 2 sees us getting involved with the nitty-gritty of corporate finances. For the great majority, anything beyond compound interest is a totally new field and to help us tackle the beast, we were requested to bring in financial calculators. Class begins, and one can make out the uneasiness of punching in numbers into this little thing which is like the mother of a normal PDA. The students complain, “Sir, why can we use MS-Excel instead? It has all the functions and the best part is that we actually know to use it.”
Old school unfortunately triumphs and we are to use calculators. I believe this is a bane of a generation that has been incubated by microchips and digital data. We’ve seemed to make MS-Excel the solution to all the worlds’ problems. We’ve evolved with a belief that there is nothing one cannot do without MS-Excel and there is nothing that one can do without MS-Excel. Give us this archaic bit of machinery called a calculator and see us flinch. We’ve become so accustomed to using excel at work and even otherwise, it is mind-boggling to think of us using anything else to get anywhere.
I called up and asked my father, who is also an MBA graduate, “ Dad ! How did you manage to pass all your courses back in the day without Excel?” And in true MBA fashion, with a hint of contempt for my generation, dad replies, “We used our brains son!”. While it is a bitter truth, it is true. All the foundations for various core subjects were not built on the power of software or even a calculator, but on sheer intelligence and long tedious calculations. While one might argue that we can do things a lot faster now and can get results more quickly allowing us to target more questions, I wonder, how many of us actually got the answer. Was is us or was it the calculator? Did I do anything more than merely remember what formula to use and fill in the blanks? I am certain that at this point in time, we may know the underlying logic for any calculation, but will the same hold good 5 years down the line?
We may all be experts at getting solutions to problems at the blink of an eye, but at a lot of levels, we are sacrificing good old fashion thinking for speed. That may just be that – Old-fashioned. Perhaps the order of the day is not how you got to the solution but how quickly you got to the solution. And being brought up in house-hold where old school was given a lot of preference, yours truly isn’t too happy about using MS-excel for everything. But then, as Bob Dylan sang, “ The times..they are a changing!”.
– Nikhilesh Murthy