In video games today — from racing cars to fighting on a virtual battle field —players must concentrate on multiple streams of data coming at them simultaneously. They track everything from fuel consumption to a digital warrior's location on the battlefield.
Success or failure in these games rides on a player’s skill in making quick, informed decisions based on these ever-changing streams of data.
Perhaps surprisingly, these same skills can be the keys to success in today’s business environment. The ability to process information and data from multiple sources and in various formats to make reasoned decisions is vitally important, whether you are developing a sound marketing strategy or managing logistics in a global supply chain.
The information age and advancements in technology are transforming the way we do business and, in turn, are changing the way we educate and train our future business managers. Today, many schools offer courses and programs in data analytics and business intelligence that require proficiency in synthesizing and processing multiple forms of data and filtering out what you need and what you don’t.
That’s why we’ve developed the new Integrated Reasoning section of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), used for admission to business schools around the world. This new section will be part of the GMAT exam beginning on June 5 and has been designed-with input from 740 business faculty from around the world-to measure test takers’ ability to handle these emerging data analytic skills.
The addition of the Integrated Reasoning section reflects the new realities of the business world and the management school classroom. In addition to the Quantitative, Verbal and Analytical Writing sections that are still part of the exam, this new section gives schools another piece of intelligence to evaluate applicants to their programs.
More importantly, Integrated Reasoning gives potential students an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the skills they use every day. Today’s college students have grown up in a data-rich environment, and the ability to deal with multiple stimuli — 21st century multitasking — is almost second nature.
It seems that it wasn’t too long ago that executives would rely on experience and instinct to make decisions. Now, they don’t make a move unless it’s backed up by reams of data and stacks of market intelligence.
Even Hollywood is getting in on the game. The film Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, showed how tradition-bound major league baseball was turned upside-down by the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. He used the data analysis skills of his assistant instead of scouting reports to make decisions about players. Such reliance on data to make smart, game-changing (literally and figuratively) decisions is now common practice in baseball and other sports.
Farming has been transformed into modern agribusiness by the ability to process and analyze tremendous flows of data that help farmers predict weather and crop yields and manage their land more efficiently, all while riding their state-of-the-art farm equipment loaded with sensors and on-board computers. Farmers are now as likely to have advanced degrees in technology and business as they are in husbandry or agriculture.
Leading companies of the social media age like Google and Facebook were born as a result of technology allowing them to get to know consumers through the harnessing (sometimes call “harvesting”) and analyzing of information and data.
In pilot testing leading up to the launch of the new section, we received great feedback about the Integrated Reasoning questions. One particular message was loud and clear: Integrated Reasoning reflected what they were actually doing in their jobs and even what they expected the GMAT exam to be.
In a survey of corporate recruiters, more than 95 percent of those surveyed said that the skills tested by the Integrated Reasoning section were important to their decision making when hiring.
The point is, today, if you don’t do data, you don’t do business.
Ashok Sarathy is vice president of the GMAT Program at the Graduate Management Admission Council. Email him at email@example.com.