Thursday, October 13, 2005

The MBA Menace

There has been a lot being written on MBAs in general and particularly the US style of MBAs. I have touched about it before: here and here.

Check this.

I couldn't get too mad at the MBAs, though. They didn't create the system. Had the blogger been back in the Navy, where putting out fires is serious business, he'd surely have pressed more. But he was at Wharton now, where perception is reality, return on investment is all that counts, and the only fires worth putting out are the sparks inside ourselves

The entire article shows how much the MBA is all about money making and nothing else. Sometimes I wonder if I am in the right field at all, with my assertions that as an MBA I want to make a difference to the world and all. Is this course tell you anything that can help change the world?

Henry Mintzberg attacks the MBA again. He calls it the MBA Menace.

Sure, you've taken courses called "management" and "strategy." But these were about looking in from the outside. The truth is, no one can become a manager in a classroom. Management is not a profession, nor is it science. It is a practice that depends mostly on craft and significantly on art. Craft is learned by experience. Art can, of course, be admired in a classroom--think of all the visionaries you read about in cases. But voyeurism is not management, either, nor does it develop creativity.

I hope you learn. The world desperately needs dedicated leaders. Not heroes on some kind of fast track, but decent human beings who engage themselves and others substantially. That could be you--if you can get past your MBA.

There, that's it.

I have started to wonder if the Australian MBA is better than the US ones. My school does not use Case Studies much. Some of them use it, but it is not a case study approach. 80% of the students are part-time students who are working and studying at the same time. Somehow that seems to be a good combination.

Australian's do not put a lot of emphasis on rankings as much as Americans do and even Indians do. So most of the MBA schools are doing well and people go to the one nearest to them.

And frankly Australians do not believe that the MBA can make a huge difference to their career nor get them stratospheric salaries. They kind of follow the idea that it is good in the long term - some knowledge, some connections and a degree to brag about which can open some doors. Of course, the money comes with it I guess.

Due to the nature of the Australian MBA I am getting more freedom to find myself and the stuff that I want to do. There is no specific emphasis on ROI or Finance or technology. In a way it is helping me find myself.


Anonymous Sarah said...

Yes, the MBA is a strange course really. I thought MBA’s were a relatively recent phenomenon, say last 20 years. After reading your blog I decided to investigate and came across an article that says they have been around for over a century!

So maybe it is not just a passing craze....

But I do feel that I am studying something a bit yuppie-ish, with all the hedonistic connotations of being a yuppie: big business, fast car, high prestige, high salary.

Yet just like you, it’s actually not the life I am striving for. I too look to be in a position where I can contribute positively to society. Qatar’s society in particular.

Although to be fair I don’t think our Australian counterparts are exclusively motived by financial drivers. I get the overwhelming impression that many of them are on the course to learn, and enjoy the opportunity to talk about their learning. They also want to gain from each other’s experience, but unfortunately on this course there is limited opportunity for that. As many of them are professionals with families, it is understandable that they expect an MBA will further their professional development and careers.

I am also looking for professional and personal development, but not in the sense of promotion etc. Suhit, you and I are in our twenties; perhaps it is just too early on in our careers for ROI to be a concern for us.

However just like you, the MBA has given me the opportunity and space to THINK. Back in my old job I used to ponder issues related to strategy, leadership, human resources etc. But I never had the opportunity to share my views. The MBA is liberating in that it has enabled me to discuss these topics and be actively encouraged to explore the theories and principles in relation to my own organisation.

Another thing I am gaining from the MBA is to learn HOW TO THINK. Before I came here, a great person in my organisation who I highly respect emphasised the following: the main skills I should be looking to develop are systems thinking, critical thinking and creative thinking. I have taken this advice to heart and it’s these skills that I will take away from my MBA and will be able to apply to various situations both personal and professional.

Sometimes it’s hard to get to the crux of what an MBA is. It certainly means different things to different people, no matter how universities choose to position and advertise their courses. I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to do an MBA; one day I hope to be able to give back to the country that provided me with this educational opportunity.

18 October, 2005 15:14  
Blogger . said...

Nice insight, Sarah.

Honestly, I can relate to your view. I want to do what I can to contribute.

My motto in life is simple - to life enrichingly.

An MBA is just another milestone in that regard. I believe I can be enriched by the experience, though I strongly disagree with Tkacik in "Is Wharton Ruining American Business?" that all their MBA candidates are mindless drones who would have sat through a fire?!

Life is what one makes of it. There is no formula and it is folly to think any specific b-school guarantees success.

On the other hand, it does seem that at the end of the day the Alumni's Career Services is the reason to get that MBA. It puts the school's name on the letter and get powers-that-be to notice one's resume.

How did you decide your specialization or general MBA?

03 January, 2006 15:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah, Suhit and my unknown friend,

It was great reading your insights. I am glad i came across this blog site. personally i believe that its the atmosphere and the students at a univ who would help us develop insights and develop the 3 thinking areas that Sarah talked about.

I am looking for a career break in investment banking and am currently a software engineer for a fortune 10 company. Like Suhit said, I believe case study related teaching is very important. I am disappointed to know that Suhits univ doesnt do that since I have offer from that univ too, but i guess i will go with UWA since the course structure and its components appeal to me.

On the academic side, would anyone know which college would be the best for investment banking specialisation ? I would be checking this blog site periodically to see if anyone has replied.

Thanks Suhit and Sarah and keep up the good work. Sarah I do hope you develop the 3 skills in abundance and are able to contribute to your society.

15 January, 2006 17:29  
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