“How do we make decisions under uncertainty?” Professor Wei Jiang posed the question to an audience of students last week during orientation. The question not only referred to the lecture’s topic — the financial crisis — but was offered as a framing device for students as they begin core classes in the MBA program this week.

“This will be the most important skill you can develop,” she said.

A new orientation module focused on the financial crisis was created this year to give new students an overview of the causes and issues of the crisis and provide key questions that connect it with upcoming courses in the core. In her lecture, Jiang considered different aspects of the crisis including international policy, behavioral bias, compensation structure, government regulation and risk models.

The module is part of a larger initiative by the School to use the financial crisis as a vehicle to foster integrative thinking in business training. Another element of that initiative is the creation of a new cross-discipline class, which will launch in Spring 2010, on the future of financial services. During the past summer term, former chief legal officer of Lehman Brothers, Thomas Russo, taught a half-term course looking at the crisis.

“Look ahead as well as look around you,” Jiang told students at the end of her lecture. “Think in terms of tradeoffs and equilibrium.”

Photo courtesy of Columbia Business School