Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I feel conflicted about MBAs. On one hand, I get that the conceptual and analytical tools that form the bulk of most MBA programs are very useful to someone who wants to operate a business. On the other hand, I know way too many MBAs who can’t manage or lead their way out of a paper bag – and still think they’re the bomb because…well, because they have an MBA.
I just read an article on MBAs and their merits by a guy named Todd Tauber. Todd is fan of MBAs, and basically argues that the current vogue for dissing MBAs among young entrepreneurs is misguided. Interestingly, although he acknowledges that MBAs may be outdated and less useful for the 21st century than they need to be, he also proposes that they’re being fixed even as we speak, that the B-Schools “get it,” and are in the process of making MBAs relevant.
Uh-huh. I’ve been hearing that for a long time, and I don’t have much confidence that it’s true. ...
[M]y experience of observing and working with people who have MBAs over the past 40 years leads me to believe that whether or not people have that degree doesn’t seem to have much to do with whether or not they’ll be able to create happy, successful lives for themselves. Having an MBA really just means that you paid your money, and you went to class and studied sufficiently to pass enough of your courses to graduate. It doesn’t predict whether you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to the real world, and – most important – it seems to have very little bearing on whether or not you’ll be able to continue to learn, to keep acquiring the skills and knowledge you’ll need along the way.
I’m convinced that being a world-class learner is much more important to your success in business (and in life) than having any kind of advanced degree. In fact, I become more sure every day that the ability to learn quickly and deeply is the single most important skill for the 21st century. Someone who’s a great learner will take best and fullest advantage of time spent in business school – but he or she will also take best and fullest advantage of all the circumstances and resources available to him or her every day. The key is that ability to learn – it’s like a continuously revving engine of growth. I actually wish there was another word for it – ‘learning’ has such boring, schoolroom-ish connotations as a word. How about mastery? Maybe we should call such people masters of mastery.