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Indiana University Bloomington

Operations & Decision Technologies

Real-Time Data, Real-World Problems

Wayne Winston

John and Esther Reese Professor of Decision Sciences, Indiana University

Wayne Winston

“We teach our students how to think—and that gives our students an advantage.”

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Wayne Winston rocks the spreadsheet.

One of the foremost experts in spreadsheet modeling and applied probability, Winston can bend Microsoft Excel to solve all kinds of problems—from ranking football teams to estimating a demand curve to determining which mix of players or products will yield the best results on the court or the biggest impact to the bottom line.

“The spreadsheet is a canvas for the business analyst,” says Winston. “I can’t paint masterpieces, but I can paint a really beautiful picture of the real world in Excel.” 

And Winston’s paintings with numbers are in high demand with corporations and organizations as diverse as Cisco, U.S. Army, GM, Ford, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers, Pfizer, WellPoint, eBay, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, and the Dallas Mavericks. His book, Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football, largely draws on the statistics tracking and rating system he developed for Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a Kelley School alumnus.

Whether he’s using data analysis for a sports team, a Fortune 500 corporation, or a case study for his MBA students, Winston focuses on how real-time data can help teams and businesses make better decisions.

“Math can’t solve everything,” says Winston, “but it’s an important tool. You’re crazy if you don’t do the math, but you shouldn’t base decisions purely on math.”

Winston’s reputation as a strong teacher and dynamic lecturer is long-standing. An avid reader of both the Economist and People magazines, Winston has been known to pepper his lectures with business case studies along with examples taken straight from the tabloids. His enthusiasm, expertise, and ability to keep classroom discussions fresh has earned him more than 30 teaching awards over his tenure at Indiana University, seven of them campuswide recognitions.

“I like showing our students how they can use Excel as a tool to solve real problems—in marketing, finance, supply-chain management,” says Winston. “Students at the Kelley School come out of the undergraduate and MBA programs better at Excel than almost any other school.”

That focus on real-world applications is a big part of the Kelley School philosophy, Winston adds.

“We focus on teaching our students how to think,” he says.  “And that gives our students an advantage.”

In Brief

Favorite TV shows

Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, and Gossip Girl.”

Web sites I visit every day

“My own, waynewinston.com, and truehoop.com.”

What I’m reading right now

“To be a good teacher in my field, you have to know Excel, math, and business, so I try to keep up on the latest books in those areas. But gossip also interests me, so add People and US magazine to the list.”

Published April 28, 2011