4 Unlikely TV Shows MBA Students Can Learn From

September 18, 2015

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By Julia Dunn on September 11, 2015

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These days, television is more dynamic than ever. Reality TV shows are not only entertaining, but they’re clever and educational in ways that can help you learn important skills to succeed at almost anything–including earning and using your MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree.

Here are four television shows that have more to do with business than you might think.

Listen up, MBA students! You might want to take notes when you’re watching these.

1. Jeopardy!

MBA Skills To Learn: Strategy, Timing, Wagering

This game show is more complex than it looks. Contestants on Jeopardy! must carefully select the category most suited to their knowledge, as well as the best cash value on each question in order to grow their total cash accumulation.

The most famous Jeopardy! champions would likely do well in business, whether or not they have an MBA, because they demonstrate an awareness and understanding of strategy. They know how much money to wager in “Final Jeopardy,” they know how to play their “Daily Doubles,” and they know how to run through a streak of clues that play to their strengths.

These aspects of the show translate well into the business world, and those pursuing MBAs can easily see the effects of different strategies from watching contestants on the show. Ultimately, it’s thoughtful choices that help you win, even more so than intelligence or capacity to memorize random facts; some folks win big, some end up in the red zone with “negative” money. Where will you fall?

2. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

MBA Skills To Learn: Security, Risk-Reward Relationships, Critical Thinking

To play Millionaire, you must correctly answer a series of multiple choice questions with a randomized monetary value assigned to each question. You have three lifelines at your disposal to be used at any time: “Ask the Audience,” “Jump the Question” and “Plus One.”

You might be thinking “okay, so this is just another of those dumb trivia games. What can I learn from it?”

Answer: a lot.

There are quite a few business skills that emerge throughout the show. At a certain point in each episode, contestants can walk away with their entire bank of money, or they can answer the next question at the risk of getting it incorrect and dropping down to a lower dollar amount in the bank. For example, if a contestant has earned $68,000 so far and decides to answer the next question (incorrectly), they walk away with only $25,000.

This common Millionaire scenario mirrors a common one in the business world: the concept of risk and reward. Beyond their traditional MBA education, students can learn about risk and reward from watching contestants on this game show.

Some players know when to walk away, and others lose most of their earnings after adrenaline and impulse drives them to continue on in the game without full consideration of potential repercussions.

3. Food Network Star

MBA Skills To Learn: Brand Development, Navigating Competition, Staying Focused Under Pressure

Though presented in a culinary context, the skills exemplified by Food Network Star contestants can be extrapolated or expanded into a general business context. Throughout the several weeks of cooking and presentation challenges, aspiring professional chefs must not only develop their “culinary point of view,” but they must create a name for themselves that aligns with their vision for a Food Network show.

Contestants must create a food product during one challenge round, and create a 2-3 minute advertisement of sorts to promote their item, which must include original packaging and a creative label. This aspect of the show speaks to business essentials, should an MBA want to create an original product themselves.

MBAs can also learn from these contestants by watching their background segments; many contestants that compete to be the next Food Network Star run their own businesses and restaurants back in their respective hometowns, and have overcome significant business challenges to reach their culinary dreams.

4. Shark Tank

Skills To Learn: Negotiation, Valuation, Idea-Pitching, Everything

Unlike the first three shows, it is not so surprising why Shark Tank is relevant to MBAs and all-things business. Shark Tank is perhaps the most applicable program on television for people with or without MBAs looking to grow their business or pitch a winning idea.

The expert panel of “sharks,” comprised of highly-successful entrepreneurs Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, and Kevin O’Leary, wait in the “shark tank” for ambitious folks from all over the U.S. to propose their product or service idea in a succinct presentation.

They discuss the critical number values associated with each business, such as profit over a certain number of years, cost to manufacture the product or provide the service, and selling price. The sharks essentially grill each visiting business-person, trying to find a flaw in their business’ structure and means of functioning.

If any of the sharks are convinced by the end that their money will be useful to the visiting entrepreneur and that they can personally profit from the business, they may make an investment offer in exchange for some percentage of the company.

While nearly all aspects of developing and growing a viable business are covered in this show, Shark Tank illustrates the importance of getting your facts straight before speaking to wealthy, powerful investors. Those initial conversations are crucial to success.

Through watching these sharks dissect an entrepreneur’s idea and strategy, viewers gain a sense of how difficult it is to stay on top of each detail essential to running a successful, profitable business.

So, the rumors are actually true. Novices and MBAs alike actually can become better businesspeople by watching TV! Click here for more MBA-related TV shows.

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