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What did you learn from your economics lesson?

Updated: Mar 6

Do you like the economists? Not many people do.


At least it is claimed by one of the prominent economists himself – Robert Frank, the economics professor in the B-school in Cornell University. Robert argues that the detestation is largely owing to the bad experience during our first encounter to economics i.e. for most the economics lessons in schools. The chart on the right is what Robert shows as he makes the argument – the typical ‘Economies of Scale’, ‘Average Total Cost’ things…… Most economics teachers teaches the subject in the ‘language’ which the students do not understand. And worse, the latter is forced to learn the subject and take the exam. That leaves people generally bad impression on the subject, although economics can be fun (see how Robert does it below).


I agree with what Robert says and I find it very insightful to presentation and training in the corporate world as well. Often, the speakers talk in their own ‘language’ e.g. their own jargons, their own logic…. If bad economics class makes people detest economics, bad product briefing can also make the sales detest the products. Caution!!


So, what should we do? Of course, there are numerous tips which we have been discussing in this blog to make a presentation / training better. More specifically, let me highlight what Robert mentions in his speech. He changed how he delivered the economics lesson. He asked his students to apply rather than just listen to / read the theories. For example, as an assignment, his students first had to come up with interesting questions, and then apply economic principles to answer them. The questions include:

  • ‘Why does a $500 tuxedo rent for $90 a day while a $20,000 car rents for only $40?’

  • ‘Why are child safety seats required in cars but not in airplanes?’

  • ‘Why do female models earn so much more than male models?’

Such teaching method is very much in line with the Adult Learning Principles:

  • WIIFM – The questions are practical things which the students experience.

  • Self Concept – The students come up with the questions themselves (and hopefully the answer).

  • Problem-Centered – They are real-life questions.

  • Association – They related to real experience.

  • Variety – It is not a lecture!!

We, the corporate presenter and trainer, have a lot to learn from this. Of course, one will argue that doing this takes time. You need time to prepare and to run it (or need time to be creative so that it does not require extra time.) But don’t all the good things in life take time? Again, it all goes back to my notion that you got to find what you love to do……


I learn of Robert’s speech from presentationzen.com. There are a lot of interesting elements in his speech at Authors@Google. Robert also talks about the use of ‘story’ and other consequences of bad lessons. In addition, it is interesting to observe how he presented in the video as well – the use of pictures and simple slides. Of course, there are areas which he could do better e.g. interaction during his speech. In short, I suggest you to watch it, at least the first 10 minutes. Enjoy!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QalNVxeIKEE


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