The Book Corner - Review

“Keeping Up with the Quants” By Thomas H. Davenport and Jinho Kim

“Keeping Up with the Quants” By Thomas H. Davenport and Jinho Kim

Keeping Up with the Quants

by Thomas H. Davenport and Jinho Kim
Harvard Business Review Press, June 2013.
240 pages

5 stars: Stop what you're doing and read this book!I really liked this book. Maybe because it spoke to my heart since I am one—a “quant.” I spent the first part of my career as an engineer and then progressed into management working with people who were skeptical of those “quants.” Thomas Davenport and Jinho Kim have written a translation from “quant” language to standard business English that offers insight to those who see “quants” as those funny people who have a strange vocabulary and cannot speak without using some mystical, mathematical terminology.

This book should be required reading for every MBA student, especially those who question the value of quantitative skills in the business environment. In addition, the book has value for those in industry who are now facing the influx of “big data” and who are not sure how to manage the transition from simple decision making to decision making that includes rigorous analytical processes.

Surprisingly, I think this is also a wonderful book for “quants” since it presents a successful methodology for communication with those who have little understanding of what they do. The communication between “quants” and those who work with them is equally important for each party. Communication must be understood in both directions and this book provides some real guidance for both sides.

The first chapter provides the logic for why analytical skills are necessary and the last chapter closes with some simple ways to work with “quants.”

The middle chapters focus on framing the problem, solving the problem, communicating and acting on results. These chapters provide a simple explanation of the way “quants” go about solving a problem. The good news is that the writing is straightforward and easily understood by even the most numerically challenged professional.

The chapter on creativity illustrates the degree of creativity that is usually overlooked when thinking about the work of “quants.” Many will find this chapter surprising because it is so rarely discussed.

This book is long overdue but it may have found the right time to be published. The business world is exploding with data and the businesses that can capitalize on the value that can be found and extracted from that data should be handsomely rewarded.