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What is Business Acumen?

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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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There are a number of different schools of thought regarding business acumen, though it is generally considered to be an ability to quickly make good decisions that ultimately prove profitable. Two things that are often associated with it are financial literacy, which involves an understanding of finance, and behavioral economics, which is the study of how and why individuals and institutions make the financial choices they do. Some of the competing and complimentary views on the subject suggest it involves leadership, a focus on human resources, and the ability to combine subjects like financial literacy and business literacy. There are a number of different methods to develop or improve business acumen including courses, simulations, and personal psychological assessments.

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While the definition of business acumen is simply the ability to come to good business decisions quickly, there may be some disagreement in certain circles as to what this actually entails. The disagreement is not necessarily on the definition so much as on how this particular form of acumen is attained. Some sources suggest that business acumen requires a specific insight on the way that the business world operates and an ability to execute profitable decisions based on this knowledge. Others suggest that specific knowledge of financial and business literacy are required, and that an individual must be able to see and predict where and how one will affect the other. Another interpretation is that a successful businessperson must have a quality known as business intelligence and be able to interpret data through that lens.

A number of schools have programs of study that are designed to help students develop their business acumen. These are common in various business schools and they typically involve a variety of learning methods, such as seminars and workshops with both theoretical and practical components. Some forms of business acumen training may also include industry specific information and hands-on training from successful businesspeople.

Many businesses place a great deal of importance on the idea of business acumen. They may seek to employ people with the requisite qualities or use one of several methods to develop acumen in their existing workforce. One way companies may attempt to train their existing managers is through business simulation. These types of training programs can allow mid- or low-level managers to gain real experience in making important financial decisions that may lead to an improvement in their acumen.

Some companies may also use psychological assessments to determine the potential business acumen in their employees. These assessments may test an employee's knowledge of subjects such as financial literacy in addition to determining whether they have particular personality traits. This may be due to the thought that acumen has a personality based component in addition to requiring specific business knowledge.

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