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Main Content

Strengthening Your Quantitative Analysis Ability

When you're strong in quantitative analysis, you're comfortable — and good at — using numbers and mathematical operations to understand issues, suggest solutions, and make decisions.

For example, suppose you're using spreadsheet software to analyze data from a market-research focus group in which consumers used numbers to rate their interest in a series of proposed new products. The software helps you spot patterns, such as "72% of the respondents seem to prefer products in the price range of x — but this was true only in the following demographic groups ..."

Your quantitative analysis of the focus-group results helps you and your colleagues make informed business decisions. For instance, you explore the possibility of developing only products that fit in that preferred price range. And you decide to dig more deeply into the reasons behind the focus-group participants' attitudes toward price.

You might use quantitative analysis in your personal life, too — for example, by studying financial models of bond yields to make investment decisions.

We live in an increasingly quantitative world. How can you strengthen your skills in quantitative analysis? This ability is actually quite learnable. Consider these options:

  • Buy a spreadsheet application such as Excel and take an online tutorial.  Lynda.com is one good source. You also can buy printed tutorials for most software packages at any bookstore. And you might be able to check out such books from the library.

  • Read books on quantitative analysis. Possible useful titles include Quantitative Analysis for Management by Charles P. Bonini at al. and Quantitative Analysis for Decision-Making by Gerald I. Harel and Tej S. Dhakar.

  • Take quantitative analysis courses offered by your college or business school, such as a course in basic statistics. Or see if your company offers training (on- or off-site) for quantitative analysis.

  • Take an online learning course on the subject. Examples include the "Quantitative Analysis: An Introductory Course" module offered through Harvard Business School Publishing's eLearning program. Your company may have purchased a site license for such online programs. Or, you may be able to buy a CD containing modules of interest as well as participate in them online or download them from the developer. Some developers charge a fee for participation in the courses they offer; others offer modules for free.

  • Take an adult- or continuing-education course on using a specific quantitative analysis software package.

  • Consult an expert. Find someone who you view as particularly good at quantitative analysis. Ask this person how he or she has strengthened this ability.

Many people feel intimidated by numbers and analysis, and turn off their brains when they see them. They also assume that they're somehow intrinsically not good at numbers — and will never be good at them. They’re not stupid or unable to learn, just anxious.

If this sounds like you, get a good book and/or a good teacher (you may have to shop around for one that fits your learning style). Then dig in. And consider trying some of the additional suggestions listed above.

Don't let your fear stop you from moving past this block and becoming as quantitatively skilled as you can.