MBA Terms & Lingo You Should Know

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Starting a new masters program can be exciting, but it is important to learn certain MBA terms and lingo that might be used in business school. Learning these phrases will allow you to easily understand your peers, professors and other business professionals you may encounter on your business school journey.

MBA Terms, Abbreviations, and Sayings

Below are some terms, phrases, abbreviations, and concepts that might be helpful to learn before attending business school.

  • Actionable – Capable of being completed, i.e., something that you can take action on.
  • Bandwidth – Physical, mental and emotional capacity to complete a task.
  • Best practices – The best or most commonly accepted methods for approaching a task used by other companies or in the industry.
  • Blue and Red Ocean – A blue ocean refers to a market that has not yet been saturated by competition. A red ocean refers to a market that is already filled with tough competitors. The red ocean analogy refers to sharks in the water that have caused the water to become “bloody” from feeding on everything in the ocean, whereas the blue ocean does not have many sharks.
  • Boil the ocean – A slang phrase meaning an inefficient way of doing things. Boiling the ocean refers to a highly inefficient way of producing salt.
  • Business model – The method or process that a business uses to create value for customers.
  • Buy-in – Another way of saying the agreement, support, or consent.
  • C-level – C-level refers to top executives at a company whose titles begin with the letter “C.” These positions can including positions like the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).
  • The 3 C’s – The 3 C’s of business (a business model developed by Kenichi Ohmae) are company (corporation), customers, and competition. Proper analysis of these three business areas can give a company the advantages it needs to be successful.
  • Cash Cow – Something that brings in a lot of money for a business, usually a product or customer.
  • Commoditize – To turn into a product that doesn’t stand out or is similar to most products on the market. Having a product become a commodity is something that most businesses want to avoid. However, products can become commoditized if too many competitors enter the market or copy your product idea.
  • Competitive advantage – An advantage or differentiator that a business has over other competing businesses.
  • Core competency – A business’s core area of focus or expertise.
  • Data driven – Backed by data, analytics, research and/or numbers. Gathering data and numbers to back up a business decision often makes the decision seem stronger.
  • Deliverables – The final product or result that you are expected to present to your superior or client after a project or assignment is completed.
  • Disruptive – A business model or product that changes or revolutionizes the current market. A disruptive product can be a new product that is leagues better than any other product on the market or technology that changes how new products are created.
  • Due diligence – The act of doing enough research to investigate and gather information on a matter.
  • Granular – Getting down to the details.
  • Low-hanging fruit – Low-hanging fruit on a tree is often the easiest to pick. This phrase refers to finding the easiest opportunities to pursue to improve business operations, results or profit.
  • MECE – MECE stands for Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive. This business mapping process developed by Barbara Minto in the 1960s is used by strategy consultants to segment people into buckets.

For example, categorizing people into groups by age would be MECE because no one can appear in more than one category. However, categorizing people by hobbies would not be MECE because people can have multiple hobbies and appear multiple times in different categories.

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  • Monetize – Make money from.
  • 4 P’s of marketing – The 4 P’s (also known as marketing mix) stands for product, price, promotion, and place was a concept created by Neil Borden. Analyzing these four areas allow businesses to successfully create and market new products.
  • Product – What is your product? What are you selling that provides value to customers?
  • Price – How much are you selling it for? Is it competitive with other similar products on the market?
  • Promotion – How will you promote your product? What marketing and advertising methods will you use?
  • Place – Where will you sell your product? How will customers find it?
  • Paradigm shift – Moving from one business model to another
  • PAR and STAR – PAR is an abbreviation for Problem, Action, and Result. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. These concepts provide students with a framework to approach behavioral interview questions.
  • Pushback – Resistance to an idea, usually from upper management or clients
  • Repurpose – To take an asset or process and reuse it for something else
  • SWOT Analysis – SWOT stands for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This type of analysis allows companies to identify the best way to position and market their products.
  • Strength – What are the strengths of our product?
  • Weaknesses – What are some weaknesses in our product?
  • Opportunities – What are some good opportunities to improve our product or gain more market share?
  • Threats – What are some possible threats that our product faces from competition, changes in the industry and other factors?
  • Value proposition – A statement that communicates how your business or product creates value for the customer.

Taking a few minutes to understand these MBA terms and phrases and abbreviations can make your transition into business school easier.


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