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MBA Essentials
OCT 6, 2020

Critical Questioning: MBA Faculty Q&A #1

With Brian Cathcart, Megumi Taoka, Kelvin Song, Sven Van Stichel
iStock/Designer

Ever wondered what it’s like inside an MBA classroom? What kinds of questions do students ask? What kinds of answers do faculty members give?

Every month, we’ll share insights straight from top GLOBIS faculty and provide a sneak peek behind the classroom doors of Japan’s No. 1 business school.

October 2020 Questions & Answers

Q: What’s the difference between critical thinking and logical thinking?

A: I get this question a lot. On one level, the difference is purely semantic—the usage can be interchangeable. But on a deeper level, the nuance is important.

“Logical thinking” implies that pure logic by itself can be used to make decisions and do business. But whose logic? And by which assumptions is that logic made? What is the actual problem we need to solve, and do we have to solve all of it now? These are some factors that we need to consider when we face a decision.

That’s why, as a business school, we intentionally call it “critical thinking.” We need to think critically in a real-world business context. Pure logic may determine a certain course of action, but when you think critically about a situation, the context, and external factors, the so-called “logical” choice may not be the best one.

For example, if a bakery owner wants to make the most profit in the most immediate manner, logic without any context might suggest that the owner fire all his employees and sell his company. But by thinking critically—basically using logic on a deeper level to more carefully consider the situation—we can dig into what the bakery owner wants or needs. Why does he want to make money so quickly? Perhaps a relative is in debt, and he needs the money to provide support. There may be other solutions to the problem which wouldn’t damage his relations with his employees and other stakeholders, such as taking out an emergency loan or even crowdfunding.

It’s important to think critically and combine our own experiences and business knowledge to help provide context when making decisions. For that, we need more than logic.

Brian Cathcart, Critical Thinking


Q: How do I get things done when my teammates have different priorities?

A: People decide to get their MBA (or join a company) for all kinds of reasons. But once they start, they sometimes realize that their teammates have different priorities or work ethics. This is actually very relevant to Power and Influence subject matter. How do we get things done when conflicts are expected?

This isn’t the kind of thing that comes with an easy fix. You can’t just flip a switch to get everyone aligned with your own way of working or align yourself with theirs. In my experience, students who have been successful at tackling this issue are the ones who have an analytical mind and do not lose sight of the larger goal. I always enjoy watching their progress and hearing their reports at the end of the course. It’s an incredible opportunity for growth.

Megumi Taoka, Power & Influence


Q: How do you avoid getting a set of data that is biased towards a hypothesis?

A: In Business Analytics, we stress the importance of hypothesis-driven analysis. Business managers need to have a set of hypotheses before designing a data collection mechanism. We even demonstrate how a lack of hypothesis can result in collecting useless data and worse—useless analysis.

But a student recently brought up a fair point: collecting data based on a hypothesis can lead to confirmation bias.

As business leaders, we must always keep an open mind and analyze things from different perspectives. It is not easy to do that alone. That’s why having a diverse team is so powerful in business. People with different experiences and backgrounds are able to see things from different perspectives. A strong team that can freely exchange ideas can help to avoid confirmation bias.

Note that it is key for the team members to be able to contribute equally without any form of pressure in rank or seniority. This is the reason why GLOBIS places so much emphasis on teamwork, diversity, and open communication in our classrooms.

Kelvin Song, Business Analytics


Q: Why aren’t luxury brands like Louis Vuitton sold at regular, local shopping malls?

A: Sometimes students ask why certain brands (particularly luxury brands) can’t be found at local malls. After all, there’s a lot of foot traffic, and the target customers for these items probably visit the mall quite often. Why aren’t the sellers taking advantage of this?

The answer has to do with consistency of the brand’s marketing mix.

If, say, Louis Vuitton were to sell its luxury bags at any old mall, it could have a negative impact on how the brand is viewed and experienced. A store doesn’t stand by itself, but is usually surrounded by other stores in a similar category. If you go to Omotesando, Ginza, or another of the high-end shopping districts of Tokyo, you’ll find Louis Vuitton surrounded by its competitors—Hermes, Dior, Armani, etc. If you’ve ever visited one of these stores, it’s not just about going in and browsing the shelves. The interior decoration and professional staff create a special ambiance and shopping experience. Now imagine putting Louis Vuitton next to generic brands in your local mall… The brand image and perceived value could be negatively affected. Louis Vuitton customers might not appreciate that.

In short, changing the “place” of your marketing mix’s 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) can have severe consequences. All of the Ps need to be aligned and consistent for a strong brand message, so you need to be careful when tweaking any part!

Sven Van Stichel, Essentials of Marketing and Strategy