Tag: Critical Thinking

Riana Nigam, BSBA ’19, wrote this for the Olin Blog. She was the recipient of an award to study abroad from the Glazer Global Learning Fund. 

It is the last day of my study abroad program, so naturally it feels like an appropriate time to do some reflecting. Over the course of the last four months, I feel like I have accomplished so much.

I have lived alone in a foreign country, I have organized trips and navigated new cities, I have learned about other cultures, I have taken interesting courses at a reputable business school in Europe, I have tried new foods, I have discovered things about myself, and the list goes on.

One of my most memorable experiences abroad pertains to a group project that I participated in as part of my operations management course at ESCP Europe, the French business school.

The project entailed selecting any business in Paris, visiting the sight, conducting an interview with the manager and analyzing and evaluating different dimensions of the business’s operations in a research paper.

My group consisted of three American undergraduate students and two Italian master’s students, so it was both a wonderful growth opportunity and immense challenge to recognize similarities and reconcile the differences in our cultural backgrounds and experience levels.

For our business, we selected an Italian restaurant called Marzo, located in Saint-Germain, a more upscale area in Paris.

I particularly enjoyed visiting the site during off-hours and gaining interesting first-hand insights from the restaurant’s manager regarding supply chain management, menu construction, consumer perception and several other topics.

It was not only a unique experience to be able to understand one aspect of the business environment in another country, but it was also greatly rewarding to present our final conclusions and recommendations to the restaurant itself.

After receiving welcoming feedback from both our professor and the restaurant, my group and I felt that we had achieved something meaningful and impactful. Most importantly, though, my friends and I managed to dine at the restaurant during our final week and it was worth every bite!

How many memberships does RISE Collaborative Workspace have to sell to reach its break-even point? Is is 152? Or 132? Or closer to just 40? It was one of the problems undergraduate business students grappled with in Michael McLaughlin’s “managerial accounting” class last week.

In fact, dozens of them grappled with that and numerous other questions. Three sections of the class, in teams ranging from four to eight students—144 in all—honed their newly formed analytical skills on Stacy Taubman’s real-world business, a women-focused, women-owned co-working space in its first year of operation.

Taubman opened her books to the class hoping a fresh collection of new eyes would uncover new insights into her business, demonstrate support for a planned expansion—and offer a great learning experience for students.

“Theory and practice are often very different,” said Taubman, who, with her team, sat through three sets of presentations from students who had dug into the numbers. “I just wanted a set of really smart eyes taking a look at what we’re doing.”

As it turns out, Taubman said, the third team of 48 students was closest to the real break-even point, but the specifics weren’t really the point.

“Having the opportunity to work alongside a real client in the industry made the material more enjoyable and engaging,” said Ariana Phillips, BSBA ’19, who is majoring in finance and Spanish. “Not only were we able to improve our teamwork skills, but we were also able to network with RISE professionals while better understanding their business model.”

Students dug into a variety of financial components to Taubman’s business, producing analyses of its variable and fixed costs, cost-volume profit, sales and expense budget, most profitable membership types, and a planned expansion to Denver.

Taubman was up-front about her lack of business credentials. Still, RISE is her second startup: She launched a tutoring company in 2013 while still teaching. She said the exercise with McLaughlin’s students gave her comfort that she was on the right track and that the expansion was worth pursuing.

“We wanted this to be real to students,” said McLaughlin, who had been friends with Taubman and knew of her interest in opening up the books for students.

“Our involvement in the RISE project was the quintessential way to apply the accounting knowledge we had accumulated over the course of the semester and actually see how and where it is used in the workplace,” Phillips said.

Pictured above: Student Alissa Geller, BSBA ’20, presents to Stacy Taubman, in the dark dress, center, front row.

In an earlier blog post, we shared information about the launch of the “Men as Allies” initiative by Olin Women in Business. This video features Julie Kellman and Gheremey Edwards, both MBA ’19, as they describe the reasons for starting the initiative, strategies for serving as an ally to women in the workplace, and their excitement for how well received the initiative was when it was launched in January.

Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, wrote this post on behalf of Bear Studios LLC.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard

Take a moment and think about yourself five years ago—or even just one year ago. Consider the day-to-day issues you were facing and your near-term worries. I would bet that you cannot remember most of your troubles. And even if you can, they are likely not the same as those that bother you today.

Contemplate your attitudes and outlooks and reflect upon how different they are from your current perspective. If you are anything like me, it borders on absurd to think that you were the same person who had those thoughts and took those actions just a short while back.

Now, recognize that much of what you are concerned with and think about today will likely seem petty in five years’ time—or even just one year from now. The appreciation that you always have grown and always will grow is certainly important, yet it is only the first step in orienting your mindset toward personal growth.

Before I continue, let me introduce myself. My name is Ben Kosowsky and I am a sophomore at Olin Business School triple majoring in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy. I consider myself to be a growth-oriented person. What follows are some of the strategies I use to maximize my personal growth.


Self-reflection can and should be different for everyone. For me, the most successful strategies have been documentation, meditation, and rebuke.

I became inspired to keep a journal after an interview with a “brother” in Delta Sigma Pi during my pledging process freshman year. Since then, I have spent at least 15 minutes every night reflecting on my day, focusing on what and how I can improve.

At first, meditating even for five minutes was very hard for me, but I have now reached the point where I can meditate for 30 minutes at a time. This contemplative time has trained me to let go of unproductive thoughts, focusing intensely instead on critical matters.

Finally, the strategy of rebuke, derived from the Jewish concept of Tochacha, involves inviting your closest friends to criticize you and explain how you can improve. This requires a tremendous amount of trust, but hearing your flaws from those closest to you can open your eyes to issues that documentation or mediation won’t bring to light.


Throughout your life, the vast majority of your thoughts and beliefs have changed, and they will continue to change. To embrace the inevitability of this change, you should actively seek out new ideas by exposing yourself to as many different perspectives as possible.

Everyone has things you can learn from them and taking the time to listen will help you truly understand their vantage point. Realize that you already know any potential things you will say, so you can maximize learning and growth by listening to what others have to say, and then determining what is valuable.


While it is critical to be open to new ideas, it is equally as important to not care too much about other’s perceptions of you. Reflect on how much you cared about what the cool kids in middle school thought about you, and how little you care about their perceptions now.

On a more macro level, realize that societal definitions of success are sometimes just as arbitrary as “coolness” was in middle school. Additionally, notice how large of a role randomness plays in life and allow yourself to take some of your accomplishments and failures with a grain of salt.

This should help you realize how important it is to live your life only according to your own value system and not according to anyone else’s.


One thing most people try to avoid is the feeling of being uncomfortable. My objective throughout college has been to challenge myself with a set of goals that push me beyond my comfortable limits, while still giving myself a chance at success.

In my first semester at WashU, I challenged myself to join as many on-campus organizations and to take on as much leadership and responsibility as possible. In my second semester at WashU, I challenged myself to think outside the box in terms of my career path and began to pursue opportunities in growth equity, instead of a more traditional path.

Last semester, I challenged myself to eat meals one-on-one with as many people as possible in order to deepen my relationships. My challenges this semester have been to meditate, to work-out, and to read at least one hour of philosophy every day.

None of these tasks were (or are) easy for me, but the key to growth is pushing your limits by setting your mind to overcome what makes you uncomfortable.


Embracing failure is not about being content with losing or not caring about success; instead, it is realizing that every struggle is an opportunity for learning and growth. Everyone struggles through failures in life. Learning to deal with and bounce back from them is the true test of one’s character.

One way I think about struggle is through the lens of what I call Type 1 versus Type 2 situations. A Type 1 situation is one you enjoy during the moment and will remember as a positive experience. A Type 2 situation is one where you are struggling during the moment and will likely remember it as a negative experience.

If you train yourself to recognize the potential growth opportunities of a Type 2 situations while in the midst of one, you can focus on how you can learn and grow from the struggle instead of dwelling on the struggle itself.

These strategies should be continuous processes that push you and keep you from becoming complacent. If you make a “wrong” decision, don’t dwell on your mistake (the “right” answer always seems obvious in 20/20 hindsight), but focus on how you can learn and grow from it.

If you consistently learn about yourself through self-reflection, open yourself to new ideas, take other people’s perceptions less seriously, push your comfortable limits with challenging goals, and learn to embrace failure, then you are well on your way to achieving personal growth.

Guest blogger: Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, is a triple major in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy; he is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.

Written by the winning competition team on behalf of the WashU Sports Analytics Club.

Over spring break, a team of five students from the Olin-recognized Sports Analytics Club traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Diamond Dollars Case Competition at the SABR Analytics Conference. Out of 23 teams in the competition, the WashU team finished first.

Jarod Bacon, LA ’21, Isaiah Berg, EN ’19, Tyler Brandt, LA ’19, Rohan Gupta, LA ’19, and Bailey Winston, LA ’20, represented the club and we were tasked with determining the optimal launch angle for four major league hitters. Rohan has a second major in economics and strategy; Bailey has a second major in marketing.

The fly ball revolution has taken off over the past few years in baseball, with many players adjusting their swing paths to hit more balls in the air. Launch angle is the vertical angle with which the ball comes off the bat prior to any air effects. A straight line drive is 0 degrees, a hit straight down at home plate would be negative 90 degrees, and a popup right on top of home plate would be positive 90 degrees.

Many players, including Josh Donaldson and Daniel Murphy, have successfully adjusted their swing paths over the past few years to hit more fly balls, and thus more home runs.

To determine the optimal launch angle, we built a model that predicted a player’s production based on his mean launch angle.


When we say production, we are essentially talking about weighted on-base average (wOBA), which captures the run-producing power of each player. A .320 wOBA is average, and a .400 wOBA is elite.

As for determining the optimal launch angle, we used Statcast data, available online at Baseball Savant. This data set includes the launch angle, exit velocity (the speed of the ball as it comes off the bat), spray angle (direction of the hit), pitch data, and the result of each pitch. Filtering the data through the mathematical model we created, we show the probability that a given batted ball will be a single, a double, a triple, a home run, or an out.

Another important consideration is the relationship between launch angle and exit velocity. The distribution of exit velocities with respect to launch angle is not uniform across all players. Thus, for each player we analyzed, we created another model that could show how different players will hit the ball harder at different launch angles. The model shows, for example, that given a launch angle of 20 degrees, Tommy Pham is 18 percent more likely to hit the ball at least 98 miles per hour than Marcell Ozuna is.

To get full season projections, we input an entire distribution of batted balls into our model. The model returned an expected number of singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. To calculate wOBA, we just applied the appropriate linear weights.


For the actual competition at Diamond Dollars, we didn’t analyze any St. Louis Cardinals players. But after the competition, we ran our model on each starting position player for the Redbirds. Here is our model’s optimal mean projection for each Cardinals’ wOBA versus the rest-of-season Steamer projection.

If our optimized projection is greater than that of Steamer, we believe either Steamer is too low on the player or he stands to gain a lot from adjusting his launch angle. When looking at these numbers, keep in mind that these are mean projections for those players at a given launch angle. Our model relies heavily on predicting the results of balls in play, which is much harder to do than predicting strikeout and walk totals. Weird things can happen in the field, so we recognize that in some extreme cases, a player will be 10 or more points off from our projection while having the same launch angles, exit velocities, and spray angles we expect.

Two examples of the latter case would be Tommy Pham and Yadier Molina. In his breakout season last year, Pham had a mean launch angle of just 7 degrees. But he hit the ball with such great exit velocity that his overall numbers were fantastic anyway. Our model projects him for about a .348 wOBA if he stays at 7 degrees, but a .356 wOBA if he increases his mean launch angle to 13.3 degrees this season. That adjustment is worth about 0.4 wins over the course of a full season, which equates to roughly $3.5 million (or the offensive difference between Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong).

Molina actually over-adjusted last season. Molina increased his mean launch angle to 15.2 degrees in 2017. This led to his first double-digit home run season since 2013, but it came at the cost of 26 points in wOBA from the year prior. Our model suggests that he should get back up to his 2016 level of production, when he had a .360 on-base percentage, if he decreases his launch angle by 3 degrees.

Like most teams, the Cardinals have a couple of players who would stand to gain from a launch angle adjustment. Contact washusportsanalytics@gmail.com if you are interested in hearing more.

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