photo by katiew
The last few months have started a debate about the responsibility of business schools and MBA programs for the GFC. You can see a summary of some of the opinions in the online debateon the Harvard Business Review blog. In the same blog, a few weeks ago, David Champion suggestedto blame lawyers instead of the MBAs for the GFC. As someone who was a lawyer until a few weeks ago and is currently in the middle of an MBA degree, I don’t know if to laugh or to cry. This got me thinking about what I am trying to get out of the MBA. What kind of manager do I want to be in the future?
When you are doing an MBA after you have already done an undergrad in business you don’t really learn new things (unless one of two occurs: (1) you had a bad professor in your undergrad and now you have a great one in your MBA or (2) you take some electives that you did not cover in your undergrad).
Still, the fact that you don’t learn new things officially does not mean that there are no educational gains from doing an MBA. In theory, the level of the class is different and thus, the discussion in class supposedly represents the knowledge and experience of the classmates, which is relatively higher. The problem is that most of the times, this is only true in theory. In order to utilize the knowledge of your fellow classmates, you need a professor that leads the discussion accordingly. Finding such a professor is no easy task.
What I found to be the main educational gain from my limited experience with the MBA so far (a few months now), is that even if you are covering the same formal subject, your own experience allows you to look at the same subjects from a different perspective. Which means?
- You are able to be much more critical in each course because you are more aware of the limitations the course suggests.
- You are able to draw on your own experience since the undergrad degree and that influences whatever is taught in class.
- You are able to draw lines connecting ideas and thoughts across different subjects, thus developing a more integrated thinking about each subject. This is very important due to the fact that the professors themselves tend to see things from their own narrow viewpoint.
All of these are great things and the more you can bring into the process, the more you get out of it. connecting back to my opening thought about the GFC, I think the last point is the most important one. Surprisingly, I thought about it after last week, my accounting professor, Professor Kevin Clarke said in class (the quote is not accurate, as it is from my memory):
“The worst managers I know are managers who mange with the accounting systems instead of using is as a tool. In the past I used to think the soft skills are not that important. Now, after a few years, I know that in order to achieve the business success, you need to know how to get people to do things. And that does not is on the numbers”
I think that realizations like these that take a moderate view and recognize that there are a number of facets to each situation should be the lessons we take from an MBA. As someone who sees himself as a future manager (and maybe a leader) I believe that is the main lesson I should take. Integration and moderation as a management style. Some more of that and less thinking with only one side, could maybe have prevented the GFC. Am I ready to do that? Are you? Do I have the sufficient Knowledge? Do you?
The main lesson in my opinion is this: it does not matter what they teach us. It is what we bring to the table. All the finance, accounting, organizational behaviour, marketing and such courses are only tools. Important tools. Useful tools. But just tools. It is our own thoughts and our own legacy that will use them in the future for good or for bad. If the pupils fail, the easiest thing to do is to blame the teacher. Are they to blame?
“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind” Khalil Gibran