School’s Out for Summer
Summer break is a few days away! After a hectic six months, the break is a welcome month-long respite for the entire class of the IMD MBA. While some of us will be spending the summer in Lausanne to recharge and prepare for interviews and the recruitment process in the fall, many of our classmates have already begun or finalized exciting summer travel plans which include hiking the Machu Picchu, exploring scenic Switzerland, group travels across Europe, and solo road trips along the Amalfi coast.
In the middle of these plans is the critical question of the type of accommodation to book as we explore each locale. Do we book hotels, hostels, or Airbnb apartments? Of the Airbnb options, should we choose properties with a private room, or do we go for an entire apartment? What are the individual and group dealbreakers as we consider which type of accommodations to go for – number of bathrooms, number of beds, or proximity to the city center and other city attractions? Also, how do we weigh one dealbreaker against the other and make acceptable trade-offs? In the face of so many variables to consider, making an optimal decision seems like an overwhelming task.
Big Data and Decision Making
The ongoing activities of Digital Analytics week, led by Professor Amit Joshi and Thanos Karanatsios, drove home the importance of clean data for quality decision-making in business, especially in the face of competing variables.
In his kick-off session, Professor Joshi highlighted the uniqueness of getting MBAs, generally middle management, elbows-deep in data clean-up. He stated that, despite the increasing importance of big data, the IMD MBA program remains the only elite program to offer digital analytics as a core part of the MBA as opposed to offering it as an elective.
By getting our hands dirty in data analysis – and Professor Joshi promised (fingers crossed!) that this may be the only time in our professional careers we get this deep in data – we were able to understand the underlying logic so we can ask the right questions when we resume our professional lives, even if we don’t perform the analytics first-hand. This is yet another example of IMD’s unique, experiential approach to equipping its MBAs for future business success.
Rolling Up Our Sleeves
We were soon given our deliverables for the week – clean, analyze and make pricing decisions on more than 50,000 datasets from Airbnb using data science methods and regression analysis while filtering through the noise. In true IMD fashion, we were thrown some wrenches. First, all teams had less than 24 hours to clean up data that would usually take two to three days to clean.
To further spice things up, this exercise was a competition between the teams with exciting prizes at the end.
Data Science in Real Life
Interspersed between our exercises were guest talks with speakers from UEFA and Expedia, who showed us how data analytics is used for sales, marketing, occupancy forecasting, pricing models, and revenue optimization in the Sports and Tourism industries. Behind sleekly designed websites and instantaneous results are algorithms that use past data to predict and prescribe consumer behavior.
Learning videos further demonstrated to us how data drives modern recruitment and hiring practices, and in many cases may even perpetuate bias. Our last guest speaker spoke on ethics in data science. I was looking forward to this session as it is important to learn how data scientists balance cold, hard data analysis with other ethically relevant factors.
With two out of three exercises completed, we went on to our final task, which we presented to the entire class. After this was a vote for the top three teams, a well-deserved ice cream social, and then, summer!