Goofiest Terms You Learn in Business School

Arizona State’s Caitlin Dishon

Finance Troll: In the UF MBA program, we love to participate in case competitions. We have a rule of thumb that every successful team needs to have at least one strong finance troll to help crunch the numbers. It is a loving term of endearment for one of the most important members of a case competition team.

Nicolas Ramos, University of Florida (Warrington)

FOMO: One that everyone knows is FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. It was crazy to see people booking airplane tickets after they discover that a bunch of colleagues is going to “this island” during the weekend. Online ticket prices surged 250% just because of the FOMO effect. People are so afraid of missing events and not following the crowd!!

Francisco Lobato, INSEAD

GOOB: Get Out of the Building. It was in reference to the Lean Launch method of Entrepreneurship.

Caitlin Dishon, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Herbie: In operations, we read The Goal. Herbie was the bottleneck in the process. My classmates use Herbie in all contexts. When we go hiking, the slowest person will refer to themselves as Herbie.

Manasa Murthy, University of Texas (McCombs)

HIPPO Effect: I have taken a few classes with Professor Leonard Lane. He would always warn us of the perils of the “Hippo” effect. I came to learn that this was indeed the “HPPO” effect: Highest Paid Person’s Opinion effect. This is when the highest paid earner (the boss) often would make decisions based on personal experience and preference instead of data and analytics.

Joy Mina, U.C.-Irvine

It Depends: In business, a lot of things are dependent on various conditions, so “it depends” is everyone’s favorite. It is encouraged to give a conditional answer as business decisions are dependent on various situations. However, I still struggle to use this term a lot as I am used to giving clear and direct answers.

Avni Sabhani, University of Illinois (Gies)

JVs: At Kellogg, we call significant others “JVs” – short for “Joint Venture.” While the term has the advantage of being inclusive of all types of partnerships, it doesn’t quite resonate with people outside of the business world. My JV (who is in the medical field) thought it stood for Junior Varsity until last week!

Megha Kosaraju, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Rice University’s Swati Patel

Leverage: One of the most overused words I have come across during my MBA days is “leverage.” It has been used relentlessly to describe how a situation can be controlled. I am amazed at how this phrase can be worked into almost any situation.

Sree Madakkavil, University of Rochester (Simon)

LIFO and FIFO: LIFO (Last In, First Out) and FIFO (First In, First Out) are acronyms used in accounting for inventory. Although the goofiest thing about these acronyms are their pronunciation, I find them funny because they are somehow constantly relevant to my life. Every time I go grocery shopping, I think “I’m going to FIFO these groceries.” But every time I go into the fridge, I end up LIFO-ing these groceries. That’s how I end up with spoiled vegetables and expired kombuchas.

Swati Patel, Rice University (Jones)

McBainCG: It’s always funny to label the big three consulting firms as “McBainCG.” A few of our professors use it to generalize McKinsey, Bain, and BCG and it always gets a smile.

Vito Errico, Yale

Pay to Play: This term sounds like it should be used in a scene in The Godfather. “Pay to Play” actually means that in a subsequent round of financing the previous investors in a company are required to invest in the company to keep their pro rata share of the company or their preferred shares will be converted to common stock.

Andrew Engram, U.C.-San Diego (Rady)

PIE and 4 Slices: I’ll pick on our strategy class, since they relied heavily on acronyms (e.g., GSCAL, DSIR, PARC, etc.). The one that most of us struggled with most was “PIE and 4 Slices.” Think of it as Stanford’s less popular and more confusing version of Porter’s 5 Forces. While it caused some eyes to roll, I’ll acknowledge that it differentiates itself by distinguishing between value creation (i.e., “potential industry earnings”) and value capture (i.e., buyer power, supplier power, rivalry threat of entry).

Geoffrey Calder, Stanford GSB

Relationship IPO: The first time a business school couple posts a picture together on social media.

Alyssa Murray, MIT

IE Business School’s Alissa Warne

Three S’s: Sleep, Socialising, and Study. It’s the notion that you can’t have all three but need to prioritize the top two. Frankly, I think it’s possible to do all three if you only need 4 hours of sleep, go out twice a week at the most and study without procrastination. In fact, I think it’s missing the fourth: job hunting!

Alissa Warne, IE Business School

TIGS: At some point during our first year, someone coined the acronym “TIGS” which stands for “This Is Grad School!” Whenever we were stressed out or someone was complaining about school work or the job search, someone would just say, “TIGS.”

Steven Murchison, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

TL;DR: It might not be an MBA-specific term, but I had never heard of it before Tuck. I kept seeing it pop up in student e-mails, and so I finally researched the definition. It stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read.” I was so confused because people would use it to summarize a point at the beginning of the e-mail…when no one has yet read the referenced content! SMH. I fell into the trap, though. I now use it too.

Kayla Lorraine Demers, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

TOSCA: Of all the problem solving and strategy frameworks we were taught at HEC Paris, TOSCA wins. It’s a method to develop the core question or business problem. I don’t know who developed it, but it stands out because it brings all the drama of opera to the challenge. Using the plot and the name of the opera, it helps frame a problem. Trouble. Owner. Success Criteria. Constraints. Actors. TOSCA.

Tricia Wilson, HEC Paris

Turkey Drop: Referring to relationships that break up around Thanksgiving of your first semester. Using this phrase trivializes the experience of a b-schooler in a relationship. As someone who came in to b-school in a relationship (and is still in that relationship!) it seemed like too casual of a term for how tough it is to be in a relationship while in b-school. I found that talking with my classmates who were also in relationships was a huge well of support and helped us get past this silly term.

Jasmine Hagans, USC (Marshall)

University of Chicago’s Anish Bhatnagar

UPOD: Under promise, over deliver. Hearing it spoken makes me think of those Pod storage units.

Amie Pierone, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

VUCA: Used to describe a business environment that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Sure, the acronym makes sense, but also “VUCA” sounds like a contagious disease, no?

Briana Saddler, Columbia Business School

WACC: Weighted Average Cost of Capital) – Every time I hear it, I just think of the “wiggity, wiggity, wiggity wack” line from “Jump” by Kris Kross.

Shirley Liou, University of Washington (Foster)

ZOPA: This stands for the “Zone of Possible Agreement” in a negotiation. It describes the open field where two negotiating parties would be better off compared to if they didn’t have a deal. “Zopa” sounds like the capital city of a European country.

Anish Bhatnagar, University of Chicago (Booth

Have a business school concept, acronym or cliché that you are fond of using? Share it (and what it means) in the comments section below.



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