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Only MBA can understand these phrases

Only MBA can understand these phrases

Every industry has its own lingo. Business-school jargon may be especially perplexing to outsiders. To help clear up some of the confusion, we asked two MBA grads about the most unusual terms and phrases they picked up in business school. Paul Ollinger graduated from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in 1997 and was an early Facebook employee before becoming a standup comedian. Alex Dea graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2015 and is now a product marketing manager at Salesforce. Read on to find out what MBAs really mean when they call you a “Herbie.”

Resume lock

The “resume lock” is a high-level review of your resume during an interview. Dea said: “It’s almost like a very short, succinct elevator pitch about your background or what you’ve done, the skills that you have, anything that gleans a little bit into how your personal and professional life connect.”


These are two frameworks that MBA students use either to describe their accomplishments on a resume or answer interview questions, Dea said. “You don’t always get a lot of time for interviews, so you want to make sure that you’re being concise.” PAR stands for “Problem, Action, Result.” If you’re using this format, Dea explained, “you would talk about the problem, then you would dig into the actions that you took to help solve the problem, and then you would finally close with the end result that you specifically made.” STAR is very similar – it stands for “Situation, Task, Action, Result.”

Blue ocean and red ocean

Blue ocean is a “nerdy way of describing a market that has yet to be chummed up with competitors or great whites (which are, by the way, man-eating killing machines).” Red ocean is a “nerdy way of describing a market chummed up with competitors and man-killing sharks.”

The 4 P’s of marketing

“Four things — Product, Place, Price, Promotion — contribute to making a product successful or not,” Ollinger writes in his book. The four P’s are also called the “marketing mix,” a term that was popularised in the 1950s by Neil Borden.

The 3 C’s

Ollinger defines the term in his book: A “business model developed by Kenichi Ohmae… It analyses how the dynamics of Customer, Competition, and Corporation lead to the strategic advantage.”

SWOT analysis

Ollinger says this term is a “framework for analyzing a business’ situation by looking at their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.”

Circle of death

At a business school networking event, Dea said, there will typically be more students than potential employers. “What ends up happening is that a lot of students congregate around one employee,” Dea said. “It looks like a circle where there are one employee and the rest of the students are around him or her and it is a game of back and forth of question and answer.” The term is tongue-in-cheek, Dea added, because all MBA students know it’s an unfortunate part of the recruitment process.


The 1984 novel “The Goal,” by Eliyahu M Goldratt, is often assigned at top business programmes. The novel explores principles of operations and supply chains. In one storyline, a boy named Herbie is on a Boy Scout hike and ends up holding up the rest of the troops. So “Herbie” has become synonymous for “bottleneck,” or the thing that’s holding people up.

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