Tag: Critical Thinking

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.

Danny Lee, MBA/MSW ‘18, wrote this post on behalf of the Impact Investing Symposium.

Imagine with me a motley crew of venture capitalists, community development financial institutions, international social entrepreneurs, philanthropic foundations, Olin MBAs, and many others all from diverse industries exchanging knowledge and ideas about how to wrestle and wrangle the financial industry for social welfare.

This scenario was a reality at Olin Business School’s third annual Impact Investing Symposium, where a stellar panel strategized solutions to common challenges in the impact investing space, breakout sessions dove deeper into local and state contexts, and a closing reception further cultivated a networked force of impact investors.

WashU’s law school, Brown School of Social Work, and the Institute for Public Health were represented at the event.

Tim Coffin, Sandra Moore, Jessie Wilson, Kacey Mahrt, and Rich Ryffel.

Tim Coffin, Sandra Moore, Jessie Wilson, Kacey Mahrt, and Rich Ryffel.

The theme centered on leveraging the standard financial tools used in the traditional for-profit private sector to improve accountability and evidence-based/metric-driven impact work in the public sector.

Redefining relationships between investors/funders with its investment recipients by underpinning the transfer of capital with social values was then the key takeaway in learning about how to scale any future outcome driven initiatives.

The day began as keynote speaker Mike Mills, managing director of Renewable Energy Alternatives, shared how renewable energy tax incentives and structures can be leveraged to support social causes, positively disrupting the energy industry.

A great example of this is the use of Net Metering, a system in which REA uses solar panels or renewable energy generators to transfer any excess or surplus power from a connected public-utility power grid to a local underserved school. This lowers the energy costs for the school and leaves more money for the local school district to invest in updated school supplies or safer buildings.

Next, a panel of impact investing pioneers—Tim Coffin (Breckenridge Capital), Jessie Wilson (Baillie Gifford), Sandra Moore (Advantage Capital), and Kacey Mahrt (US Bank Community Development Corporation)—spoke to how to combat some of the challenges they navigate in this line of work.

Communicating the value proposition around more nebulous social values (i.e., racial and gender equity) to reluctant or traditional philanthropists is a common historical pitfall, but operationalizing or identifying quantitative metrics to prove measurable outcomes alleviates anxiety for investors.

Finally, the breakout sessions provided an opportunity for guests, including myself, to engage in deeper learning about impact investing within the context of the city of St. Louis and hearing about the broader trends of the $15 billion industry.

Needless to say, the symposium was a tremendous learning experience and an even better opportunity to network with other impact-driven professionals who all brought their own flavor to an inherently transdisciplinary space. I highly encourage those who missed it to attend next year’s Impact Investing Symposium at Olin.

An enormous shout out to Laura Tomassi, Jessica Penner, and Kelcee Sachtleben for making this entire event happen and to Rich Ryffel for the backstage support and moderation of the panel.

Get a video overview of Olin’s newest addition to its full-time MBA experience: The capstone trip to the nation’s capital for a dive into the ways policy affects business—and vice versa. The February trip immersed the entire MBA class in a series of talks with leading policy experts, hosted by Olin’s partner, the Brookings Institution.

The video features insights from three Class of 2018 full-time MBA students.

“It was an amazing opportunity. It’s truly the area where business and government intersect,” Perri Goldberg said.

“It’s something we’re going to be dealing with the rest of our careers,” Cole Donelson said.

Lamar Pierce, organizer of the experience, shares his insights in the video on why the new MBA capstone trip to Washington, DC, in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, is now a key piece of Olin’s MBA experience.

“Institutions and culture really define the rules of the game,” said Pierce, professor of strategy and faculty director for the master of science in leadership.

“I’m really surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how much I took out of the experience,” said Sontaya Sherrell.

Also, don’t forget to check out insights on the trip from Olin student Jamie Swimmer, who crafted this post for the Olin Blog back in March.

Joe Piganelli, MBA ’18, wrote this post on behalf of Bauer Leadership Center. Olin Blog is running it today, the day of the Cardinal’s home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While the common fan may not view baseball this way, running a baseball team is just like running a business. Both require focus, discipline, and leadership skills. There are revenues, expenses, profits, and losses that must be managed for the team owners.

John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, holds these responsibilities. He has implemented a unique system of coaching and feedback spanning the entire Cardinals organization.

Recently, the “Defining Moments” class at Olin had the opportunity to hear Mozeliak. He told us what leadership means to him, sharing the correlation between leadership and success within the Cardinals organization. What stuck out to me most about Mozeliak’s leadership tactics were his discipline and adherence to systems and his ability to focus on areas where he can have the most impact.

In the Cards’ organization, individuals receive bimonthly feedback on whether they are at a constant level of performance, improving performance, or declining performance. Those with constant or declining performance levels learn how they can achieve improving performance. This system sounds simple and intuitive, but is difficult. It requires amazing discipline, prioritization, and consistent management to stick to and maintain it.

Mozeliak’s strict adherence to systems, routines, and concepts of organizational management have provided him the means to sustain and enhance the mystical “Cardinal Way.” The key element to managing these systems is his ability to not micro-manage.  The “Cardinal Way”—the organizational philosophy of the team—depends not only on discipline, but also trust.

Mozeliak trusts his people and likewise his people trust him. He provides his team the autonomy and space to run these systems, creating a stronger team on and off the baseball field.

The privilege of listening to our (favorite) baseball team’s president of baseball operations was unforgettable. Mozeliak gave us a window into the hard work and discipline that goes into leading any organization to success—especially a winning baseball team.