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« The Scourge Of Academia | Main | Happy Sputnik Day »

Is The MBA Obsolete?

I hope so. I've alway thought it was a highly overrated degree.

Posted by Rand Simberg at October 04, 2007 03:38 PM
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I remember reading an newspaper column a long time ago (back in the mid 1980s) by Tom Peters ("In Search of Excellence") on MBAs. He argued that you could trace the decline in American industry to the increase in the number of MBA degrees being awarded. IIRC, his argument was that the business schools were teaching people to concentrate too much on short term next quarter results instead of taking a longer view.

I remember this simply because I think he was right. I've seen way too many penny wise, pound foolish business decisions driven by short term thinking.

Posted by Larry J at October 4, 2007 04:09 PM

Heck, a lot of my undergrad courses were *harder* than my MBA courses. Admittedly, I went to a hard undergrad school and a no-name public university for the latter, but still... it was pretty much a joke.

My understanding is that the "real" MBA schools can still be useful, but not useful enough to support the expectations given to their graduates.

Posted by Big D at October 4, 2007 05:18 PM

The chance for a MBA candidate to be embedded in a network of talented top business school classmates is alone worth the tuition at the top B-schools. And if your employer wants to pay your way than it is a no-brainer.

I've found an MBA to be very complementary to an undergrad in hard science and in-depth technical experience. Does one need an MBA to be a successful business person or entrepreneur? Of course not.

Can it accelerate one's career by distilling industry best practices and management methodologies faster than one could learn them first-hand by trial and error? In my experience, it did.

Still do this day I can count on the insight of classmate SMEs employed in firms around the world.

Posted by John Kavanagh at October 4, 2007 06:25 PM

I forgot to mention that top MBA programs prove to be veritable incubators for student business plans. Is this unique to business schools? No. Yet entrepreneurial MBA students have a great forum with classmates and professors to reformulate their business strategy while the B-school's alumni network includes many venture capitalists.

Posted by John Kavanagh at October 4, 2007 07:03 PM

As a soon to be graduate, I have to agree to a point. For the people who view an MBA as a meal ticket to an executive role, it's useless.

I have never thought of it in that fashion (OK, I thought it would help, but it was never a guarantee). The program I am in was definitely worthwhile since it helped me finely tune my business writing skills and my strategic thinking. With that, gave me the confidence to start thinking of myself as more than a "telecom lackey".

Posted by Brian at October 5, 2007 05:25 AM

Well, I'm on record as blaming most of the things I think Bush has done wrong, on his M.B.A.

<waits for Anonymous Moron's head to explode>

Posted by McGehee at October 5, 2007 06:19 AM

Three points:

1) There is a huge difference between an MBA and an Executive MBA. Good eMBA programs won't even accept you unless you've actively managed people and business for at least 10 years.

2) Yes, an MBA as a shortcut to the executive washroom might have worked in the 70s and 80s but it only created mediocrity. But not all MBA schools are created equal. Some focus on middle and upper management in Fortune 1000 size corporations. Others focus on entrepreneurship. Focus on the program, the professors and the people, not the school or the degree.

3) I _still_ say we need more people in the space business who have business background. At Georgia Tech I'm pleased to see many Aerospace Engineering students who take Management classes (even some in marketing!). Whether that's through an MBA or by working as an investment banker for a couple of years doesn't matter. Everyone with an engineering degree needs some kind of knowledge and experience about the business they work in.


Posted by Michael Mealling at October 5, 2007 08:38 AM

I found that my eMBA has been extremely valuable - but I got it after beign successful in business. First build a few small companies, then get your MBA - and turn the small companies into larger ones. Seriously, my MBA paid for itself before I was even finished with it!

And I totally agree with needing better businessmen in Space...

Posted by David Summers at October 5, 2007 09:06 AM

This blog article on MBA's is typical of how personal opinion has replace information. Here is an article from the NY Times on the value of an MBA.

M.B.A. Programs Pay Off for Women Seeking a Return to Wall Street

More to the point is how loud the market speaking in the huge demand for MBA programs, especially by individuals who are working and recognize the value of the degree. If MBAs were lacking the value as this blogger claims then why would so many individuals pursue one? Or recommend to others at their work place to do so? Especially if the want a promotion...

My guest is the entire purpose of this blog article was just to gain the author cheap PR by using the strategy of saying something that is creates a stir because it goes against that individuals know from experience.

Posted by Thomas Matula at October 5, 2007 11:02 AM

I've wondered for some time about MBA programs.

MIke Griffin -- holder of an MBA as well as several other advanced degrees -- said in his first speech as NASA Administrator that he didn't really understand culture issues because of a lack of knowledge of human psychology. Then there are George Bush's failings, attributable in part to his poor understanding of human psychology. Finally I remember a Mensa member who also worked in technology and had an MBA. To say his people knowledge was in some very important ways really lacking.

While at Space 2006 I met briefly a woman who was touting an aerospace focused MBA at, if memory serves, the University of Tennesee. She had batchelor's and masters degrees in mechanical engineering with, in contrast, a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. FWIW, that is somewhat parallel to my backgrounds in physics and social psychology. I raised the point with her about people from at least some MBA programs lacking the basic knowledge of human behavior that I thought they should have. She informed me that, while it was indeed possible to get an MBA that gave basic knowledge of that kind, it was also possible to avoid it entirely.

Yes, I am of the opinion that leaders, whether business, social or political, should have well rounded educations and understand their limitations. They should also listen to others, especially when the others have demonstrated significant abilities and knowledge in an area where they do not.

Posted by Chuck Divine at October 6, 2007 09:38 AM

Very interesting discussion/exposition.

Kudo's for all of you.

Posted by Dennis Wingo at October 6, 2007 10:42 AM

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