When I attended Rutgers University to major in economics, I had friends that wondered why I would want to study the stock market. They believed that was what economics was all about. Little did they know that the field of economics encompassed so much more than stocks. The American Economics Association defines it as the study of how people choose to use resources. More than that, economics is the study of people, and their well-being in regards to how they use resources.
I use my economics degree every day in human resource management. Though the Cabot Advisory Group, I help companies with organizational design, employee communication, and strategic planning. While working as the head of Human Resources for Merck & Co., I used my skills and understanding of how people thought, worked, interacted, and what made them motivated. Economics helped me to become a strategist in organizational planning and structuring.
A perfect example of the study of economics was a task force requested by President Reagan to search out government inefficiency and financial waste. The task force was called the Grace Commission, and after two years of digging around in government processes, we compiled a 47-volume report, totally more than 21,000 pages. The reports explained the inefficient process and offered more than 2,400 recommendations on how to fix them. What may be even more interesting than the reports themselves, was the fact that Congress largely ignored the warnings and recommendations presented in them.
Steven Darien is a guest lecturer at the Harvard, Columbia, and UCLA schools of business. Darien has also been featured in Fortune magazine and profiled by Harvard Business School.