Saturday, July 17, 2010

Disadvatanges of being too Mathematical in Approach

In the present world of management there is too much of reliance on mathematical and analytical thinking. As someone who tries to observe managerial sphere with a very keen perception the author, does not find this trend very appealing. Now before doing a thorough analysis it will be good if the point be made very clear that there is no grudge against mathematics in general and the author also admits the fact that these are of extreme significance for management as an approach but the ongoing trend where it is infiltrating into each and every aspect of managerial thinking, is something that needs a revisit. The reason for this goes as follows:-

1> In Mathematics 2+2=4, in reality it is not the case. In real world business scenario 2+2 might be 4, 3,5 or even 14 or -4. Mathematical tools are too much mechanical in approach, now having a robust mechanical model in practice makes things very easy to understand and can be comprehended easily by the takers but one must understand that might be far away from what might happen in reality. Just because a mathematical model is robust enough does not guarantee that it will be correct also.

2> It kills the qualitative approach of a manager:- For a successful manager it is essential that he should be well versed with qualitative as well quantitative approaches. But relying too much on the quantitative approach and using a quantitative framework for each and every managerial situation might undermine the qualitative approach in some one.

3> Mathematical models cannot go beyond the obvious: - One must understand that any analytical or mathematical model always considers the available and existing frameworks. But is some one really wants achieve a major breakthrough he needs to think beyond the obvious which is not possible by depending on mathematical thinking approach. One must understand that something like a Ford's "T model", Southwest’s low cost aviation service, Toyota’s "Just in Time" were not the outcome of some mathematical thinking. They were purely based on the ability to think beyond the obvious, to understand the latent demand of the customers, to catch the hidden loopholes in the system and these abilities really don’t come with mathematical thinking but with experience, with the knowledge of the qualitative aspects of a problem, with systemic thinking and beyond that the guts to explore something that had been unexplored so far and to execute the findings with confidence.
Having said this will like reiterate that mathematical thinking also has end no. of advantages but will like to describe this in details in some other blog.


  1. Excellent article Paritosh.. Quite a number of times I find our colleagues spending too much time crunching numbers meaninglessly!!

  2. @Ravi S, crunching numbers does not mean that you are too much dependent on mathematics, it means that you have not actually known how to act and think according to situations!
    If you tell me, mathematicians are not good managers then, haha.. look at Pythagoras or CV Raman (physicist cum mathematician), they have excelled and how!! :)

    We learn to become managers by using our knowledge of numbers and how to use in them situations!!

    My 2 cents!

  3. @Dear Rohit...

    1> 1st up all I never said that mathematics is not imp, mathemeatics is the soul of any art & science and hence management is not an exception. But there are situations were it may not be needed much nad I habe tried to explain those situations also...

    2> N yes ur example of Cv raman n pythagoras is down right foolish...they have gt nothing 2 do with management....


  4. @ Paritosh, management does not mean exactly being the manager of a company! :)
    They managed their lives pretty well given the circumstances they grew up had to educate people in. You using the Pythagoras theorem till now to calculate the length of one side of the right angled triangle shows how effective it is till now!

    Mathematics is very important in any realm of life. Example, in an HR situation where you have to convince an employee to leave/not leave the company, you use probability to determine if he/she is good enough for the company, you analyse the situation. all in the back of your head. You might not pen it down or use Baye's theorems, but, you use it!!

    My other 2 cents!

  5. Dear Rohit:-

    1> I have never said that mathematics is not important.. even in HR which is purely qualitative has lot of quants in it ranging from per capita revenue, hr analytics to general stats and other stuffs.
    My only point is that maths has some limitation nad you might come with a mathematical model for almost any kind of managerial situation butb there is no gurantee that every time u will have success, having a model is diff thing n wether d model is effective enough or not is a diff issue....

    2>Cv raman n pythogoars wre cases of individual genius not of any managerial gr8ness...ITS just funny but yeah its a typical TS kinda sense of humour:)