Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Managerial Economics: A Q&A with Nick Wilkinson

Nick Wilkinson

Professor Nick Wilkinson, the author of Managerial Economics, took some time to answer our questions about inspiration, the digital revolution, and the rewards of teaching.

The second edition of your textbook Managerial Economics is publishing later this month, what originally inspired you to write on this subject and how has that developed with this new edition?

I was originally inspired to write a textbook on Managerial Economics because my experience teaching the subject indicated that there was a gulf between students ‘knowing’ the relevant economic principles and being able to apply them to practical problems. Existing textbooks covered material well but appeared to fail to address this pedagogical gulf. The new edition was inspired by the observation that none of the existing texts on the market really addressed issues related to the digital revolution in the global economy, which has transformed the ways we work, play and interact in general over the last two decades.

You mention the importance of the digital revolution that has taken place in the economy, and over the course of the last two years, we have seen the evidence of a wider digital revolution thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. How do you think this shift towards digital is impacting teaching and learning?

This trend appeared some years before the onset of covid, but covid has clearly accelerated the trend. I believe the trend is here to stay, but its shortcomings have become more evident, both to students and to lecturers/teachers. I have now experienced the trend both for myself and for my children. My children’s experience had both good and bad aspects from a learning viewpoint, and as a teacher I have experienced the same.

My students definitely benefit from face-to-face interaction, particularly since they are mainly taught in small classes. Remote delivery has been beneficial in prompting me to develop better Powerpoint slides, which now make face-to-face delivery easier and more productive.

Interactions with students have changed a lot over the course of the pandemic, affecting not just the students but also the teaching experience. What do you find you enjoy the most about your work as a professor?

I believe the most enjoyable factor is the satisfaction derived from observing students make a clear improvement in understanding. This can be seen in terms of either oral contribution or in written assignments.

For example, it is good to see students who were previously not forthcoming in class, either because of lack of knowledge or lack of confidence, start to become more willing to contribute to discussion in a manner which indicates interest, thought and understanding. I often teach students for several modules/courses over a period of four years, and this allows me to see very significant development over an extended period of time.

Sparking interest in different ideas and topics students engage with can be difficult. In your own experience, who are the people who have inspired you and whose work you enjoy?

The people who have inspired me most are not economists! In general, they are people with original ideas who have challenged existing paradigms and have been brave enough to defend themselves against the inevitable opposition and controversy. Such people include Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Kendrick. They specialize in the fields of evolutionary biology/psychology and medicine/nutrition. The psychological biases of conformity bias and confirmation bias have resulted in these writers often facing strong and even personal attacks on their ideas. I believe history will be on their side, since it shows us that it often takes decades and even centuries for revolutionary new ideas to become accepted into the mainstream.

As we come to a close, we’d like to open up the floor to you, which question do you wish we’d asked?

The question I wish you had asked is: ‘what contribution do you think the discipline of managerial economics can make to decision making in the covid pandemic?’

I believe that managerial economics can make a huge contribution here, but unfortunately has been completely ignored. The result is that many government policies around the world have been disastrous.

First and foremost, governments have not been ‘going with the science’ as often claimed. They have ignored both the scientific method and evidence. Fundamentally, they have failed to consider and evaluate both costs and benefits of decisions; for example, lockdowns have been implemented on the basis of the benefit of reducing the spread of disease, without due consideration of the costs, related both to reducing economic activity and the human costs of delayed medical treatment and increased stress and anxiety.

The second edition of Managerial Economics: Problem-Solving in a Digital World, by Nick Wilkinson, is available soon.

►Click here to find out more.

About The Author

Nick Wilkinson

Nick Wilkinson is Professor of Economics at Richmond International University. He has authored two books, Managerial Economics: A Problem-Solving Approach (Cambridge University Pre...

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