I must say I am impressed with how quickly Adam is grasping the essence of the case method of teaching at Harvard. I don’t seem to recall figuring it out until several years after the fact. He ties the method to the problem solving strategies of the mathematician George Polya:
Now, I’d put the Parallel Processing skill as second most important because something our finance professor mentioned really made me think. He mentioned a book called How to Solve It which revived the idea of teaching heuristics in the 1950s. The book breaks problem solving into four steps:
- Understand the Problem
- Plan a Solution
- Execute the Solution
- Looking back (Check the result)
So consider this framework when you think about learning finance. We could easily have done Discounted Cash Flow models and Leveraged Beta problem sets. But that is simply number three on the above list, and arguably, numbers one and two are far more important. Understanding the problem and planning the solution are paramount to figuring out what you should do and why- if you’ve got that then you simply execute and check, repeat if necessary.
Figuring out the right problem to solve is frequently the hardest task at hand. The only real way to learn how is to practice a lot with someone who can coach you as you make mistakes. But it sure is learning that sticks with you.