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Brian Flores
Brian Flores
Articles (126)  | Author's Website |

Charlie Munger on How to Progress Toward a Multidisciplinary Approach

Five steps to improving business education

October 05, 2015

As I was reading through "Damn Right! Behind The Scenes With Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger," by Janet Lowe, I came across a great set of instructions from Munger on how to progress in our analysis by including multiple disciplines in our skill set and education systems. Munger laid out five steps to achieve this.

"First, many more courses should be mandatory, not optional. And this, in turn, requires that the people who decide what is mandatory must possess large multidisciplinary knowledge maintained in fluency.

Second, there should be much more problem-solving practice that crosses several disciplines, including practice that mimics the function of the aircraft simulator in preventing loss of skill through disuse.

Third, most soft-science professional schools should increase use of the best business periodicals, like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, etc. Such periodicals are now quite good and perform the function of the aircraft simulator if used to prompt practice in relating events to multidisciplinary causes, often intertwined.

Fourth, in filling scarce academic vacancies professors of super strong, passionate political ideology, whether on the left or right, should usually be avoided. So also for students. Best form multidisciplinarity requires an objectivity such passionate people have lost, and a difficult synthesis is not likely to be achieved by minds in ideological fetters.

Fifth, soft-science should more intensely imitate the fundamental organizing ethos of hard science (math, physics, chemistry and engineering). After all, hard science has, by a wide margin, the best record for avoiding multidisciplinary folly and making user-friendly a big patch of multidisciplinary domain."

Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio) lays out a pretty clear framework towards better problem solving. While it is clear that the basic idea of multidisciplinarity is to have a vast array of tools to attack different problems, I believe that another great point in Munger's comments is the ability to make connections between related articles, ideas and businesses. When we are able to take a versatile approach to solve our problems, we have more than one way to solve them. I think this mixes well with Munger's comments of inverting problems and solving them as needed, not as planned.

An education system that enhances practicality and provides rehearsals of real-life scenarios with solutions that require multiple disciplines would be a great way to broaden our view and skill set beyond only limited ideas. In the end, having a great range of tools make the best problem solvers.

What do you think?

About the author:

Brian Flores
"I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you." - Charlie Munger

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