December 26, 2014

"The M.B.A.... is 'a challenged brand.'"

"That’s because the degree suggests a person steeped in finance and corporate strategy rather than in the digital-age arts of speed and constant experimentation — and in skills like A/B testing, rapid prototyping and data-driven decision making...."

17 comments:

rhhardin said...

The with money / without money test is always useful.

Anonymous said...

I think the MBA is going through transformation. It is still the best professional degree for advancement at any age. If you can get an MBA (evening, weekend, etc.), it is a good thing. I got my MBA some years ago and then the world of political consulting became a reality. This is why I know things, which many find out only after the ballots are counted. I know (wonk).

buwaya puti said...

I have some trouble getting my head around what these guys are saying.
I got my MBA decades ago, and the big thing then WAS flexibility and innovation, as in the old McKinsey approach used by Tom Peters, etc.

More recent stuff, at least in Industrial America, has been a total reversal of this, with an emphasis on paralyzing formal systems of all sorts for heavily documented process and project management. This requires detailed, long term, and inflexible planning. That is still what the large employers pay for because they are overwhelmed by regulatory and legal requirements.

These guys must plan to work somewhere where there are no regs.

The Drill SGT said...

Another MBA here. The Army sent me to grad school to develop a career path in "Operation Research / Systems Analysis" ORSA. MBA schools and Industrial Engineering MS's were the formal way to get that training 35 years ago.

My 13 core (accting, finance, econ, Org Dev, etc) MBA Classes (UCI) combined with 10 electives at UCLA all focused on applied math, operations, and computer science...

What is old is new again...

Outcome, an MBA with a spec in OR

Bruce Hayden said...

It is decently unlikely that most people can get a business going absent the sort of things that business schools teach. Accounting, profit and loss, finance, marketing, management, etc. They are almost equally relevant whether you are engaged in a traditional business, or the type of fast moving business that the authors are talking about.

Real story. 30+ years ago! my neighbor opened a surplus store. Maybe a year later, he asked me why he wasn't earning any money - he was moving pleny of stuff, and wasn't seeing anything from it. I answered him with two questions - where did his original inventory come from? (He borrowed to fund it) how much did he owe today on the inventory? (Nothing). The amount that he had paid off in his case was roughly his profit for the year - maybe $75k. Not bad for one of the three (or four) businesses he was engaged in at the time.

Of course, usually it works the other way - the entrepreneurs think they are doing great, because they are flush with money, but ultimately go bust, when they burn through what they borrowed, etc.

Much of what an MBA learns seems obvious in retrospect - but most, it seems, don't know it. And i have to admit that one of the last places you will find this knowledge is in law firms. My father used to complain that most attys don't understand balance sheets and income statements, and he was right (he had a BS/BA before his JD, and his mother taught accounting).

I work with a lot of inventors, and am not surprised when many of them don't make it (and fail to pay my last bill). Sure, some times you can grow a new business fast enough that accounting, finance, etc, don't matter. But that is highly unlikely, and those who try most often fail.

Bruce Hayden said...

Drill - OR emphasis in his MBA here too. I had a math degree and a lot of CS by then, so it was more fun.

damikesc said...

I think MOST post-grad degrees are a "challenged" brand. Seldom do the grads get extra knowledge from the extra time at a college.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

I think much of the 'challenged brand' aspect to today's MBA is based on grade inflation (real or perceived), rather than course content.

That's been my direct experience, anyway.

The future belongs to respected 'certifications' that vouch for demonstrated competency and actual practically-applied knowledge.

JSD said...

MBA is definitely a challenged brand. I can see value that brand name schools confer. They start out with fairly high selectivity and substantial cost on the front end. It’s a pretty good place for Wall Street and publicly traded companies to find talent. At that level the profit is found in financial engineering, creating value and selling equity.

Main Street is about filling bank accounts with money. I meet a lot of wealthy non-credentialed business owners who know their finances cold. They only need good lawyers and CPA’s to navigate contracts, regulations and taxes. There’s not a lot that an MBA can do for them.

mikee said...

I had to look up A/B testing.

I have thought of that for 40 years as "scientific method."

How time does change things the least that matter the most.

David said...

There is always a odor of self promoting bullshit when you run in a herd of bulls. Digital Age herd members are not exempt from this rule. They are describing how they have learned to use a tool that someone else invented. Good for them. Meanwhile, some true innovator somewhere else will invent something they never thought of.

BudBrown said...

That got me laughing. My dad was a lawyer, did some small business refinace stuff.I think. I'm walking into his bedroom where he has the business phone, it was a party line
so that dates it. All I hear is my dad in an irate/dumfounded/annoyed
voice saying "you cant buy an airplane!" I guess that was the flush with cash phase.

PB said...

Having multiple engineering degrees AND and MBA from upper-tier programs, I'll say that to a large extent the MBA provides little value in and of itself except as a selection process of high-performing students that eases the recruiting process for companies. It does provide some education in a number areas the student might not face in other programs.

I'll also say that the CTO of Twitter has absolutely no credibility on which to judge MBAs. This guy is practically a whelp who fell into his job and wealth and likely would have no idea what it takes to run a business for the long-term profitably.

PB said...

Can this oh so wise CTO who claims to be a valid judge of MBAs tell me when Twitter is going to make a profit? Right now they are heading down the well trod path of companies convincing themselves that the path to success is through an unbroken series of quarterly losses.

ken in tx said...

Getting an MBA helped get me promoted from Capt. to Major in the Air Force. I had to fill some other squares such as Air Command and Staff College. Getting an MBA is a good way to advance a career. It is not a good way to get a job. I was told by a teacher in Indiana, that having a masters degree of any kind pretty much prevents you from being hired as a teacher there. They have to pay you more by state law, but can't expect or require you to do any more than any other first year teacher.

Anthony said...

The MBA is a damaged brand because big consultancies hire a bunch of MBAs fresh out of school, who then make cookie-cutter recommendations for cost-cutting which result in job losses and lower employee morale, and which often don't save the company.

Give McKinsey a bunch of MBAs with knowledge of A/B testing and the rapid business environment of the tech world, and they'll just make new cookie-cutter recommendations that only work for 10% of their clients, and damage the rest.

Peter said...

Bruce Hayden said, "entrepreneurs think they are doing great, because they are flush with money, but ultimately go bust, when they burn through what they borrowed, etc"

Wow, double-entry bookkeeping actually works?

Isn't an overemphasis on "digital-age arts of speed and constant experimentation" what created the dot-com bust? All those businesses full of speed and constant experimentation, but no profit and no reasonable hope of ever earning one?

(Although I'd agree with anyone who says one doesn't really need to get an MBA to learn this. And the MBA credential itself isn't really all that valuable unless it's from a first-tier, brand-name school.)