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One Sinister Enemy of Learning: Fear

Cost/managerial accounting is a major business course which all students of management go through. It is taught by one of most established and expert teacher/scholar in Pakistan. It has reputation of being unaccessible to simple-minded people who lack intellectual rigor. I was afraid of it, thanks to word-of-mouth of seniors. But that's just an external excuse. It was my internal mistake (a cause) that made me nervous about it, as i had to think hard about this course. I enjoyed being in class and solving cases and problem as instructor was there, who was also very accessible to us and went to great length to answer our questions, no matter how stupid. Nonetheless, when it came to self-study, i often had problems breathing well. especially when i attempted to understand its intricate theory and frameworks and tried to apply it complex cases (which is very typical of case method). Data used to be huge and thinking/intellect had to deployed in platoons to tackle any topic in that course. That's why it was fearsome

However, final papers turned to be good due to organized dedicated, directed and group work: this gives us an insight into how to succeed in exams on last day - with a disciplined friend, we systematically chased each chapter and won over it being very consistent over a span of 12-14 hours.

To say the least, this is one of most valuable courses (especially its book) i've have took in business. For instance, one recent grad of my school of management working, although as non-accounting operations management told me how useful this book on managerial accounting had been on the production floor - each day he had to refer to it, literally.

It all came back the memory of it as flash back when i was browsing through SSRN.com and found a paper on Activity-Based Cost accounting, which is a hot field in managerial accounting these days. We studied it as well. . I quote the excerpt of the abstract to illustrate my point about uselessness of fear when it comes to learning:

[Excerpt] It is essential to understand that ABC is a method that tries to frame data in a managerial decision making context. Models, figures and theories only have value to the extent that they help us to understand and explain what happens in the company. ABC is an allocation method cum story: it is an arbitrary way to allocate costs - as arbitrary as any other allocation method - but it helps in communicating how the (production) process works and, therefore, tries to upgrade the value of accounting in the decision making process. If, e.g., a good driver is found and if there is statistical evidence that supports the choice of and/or work-floor feeling on such a driver, using this cost driver in the calculations of product (line) profitability makes the accounting much more vivid and important to decision making.

Mr. Van Schenkel, founder and owner of small company producing colour printed T-shirts, has some ideas on why multi-coloured T-shirts are more expensive in production than T-shirts with fewer colours printed on them. Process mapping and accounting data are available to set up an ABC system that will allow to test the validity of Mr. Van Schenkel's ideas and to come to better accounting calculations of product profitability.

You can see how the author is applying theory and making it practical. This is a simple demonstration of higher level of learning: experimentation, application = usefulness. Had been more fearless of the burden of reputation of the course and its demanding nature, i'd have turned out to be a better citizen. And i happy i have learned this insight.

See the example and you'll get just how useful the concepts of managerial accounting is for entrepreneurship, SME's and all kinds of organization. It should be all research (read: play) with all seriousness - I'm not denying pain at all, which is part and parcel of (higher) learning. nothing can help a too fearful and shy a learner in the path of getting useful knowledge. To say the least, one has to be fearless in outlook when s/he approaches knowledge. And habit of tinkering with stuff be encouraged. It's an engineer's attitude, that's why we trust them.

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