What’s the point of an MBA?

  • What's the point in an MBA?An MBA is a well-named degree. It is a masters in business administration: worthy, but possibly dull. Until it gets hyped up by business schools touting their courses and their fees.


    The MBA teaches you what all universities teach: explicit knowledge which can be codified and transferred from one generation to the next. So an MBA is good at stuff like finance and accounting, and even at marketing and strategy. But it really does not teach you the one thing we all want to learn: how do I succeed?


    An MBA can not teach you the stuff you need day to day to survive and succeed: how to deal with stroppy colleagues, unreasonable bosses, conflicting priorities, conflicts, crises and chaos. One investment banker told me “motivation? I know all about that. Did it at business school. Maslow, innit?” Life is never as simple as business schools like to make out.


    So why is an MBA so popular? Because it should really be called the Marriage Bureau Agency. Business schools deliver career marriages between ambitious employees and demanding employers. The student knows that he or she will get access to a better career. The employer knows that the business school has done a large part of the selection for them: finding the most able, ambitious and hard working people of each generation. The learning from the course is more or less irrelevant. Few people go on to use the Black Scholes option pricing model, or to develop a new core competence for their firm.


    In practice, most of what you learn at business school can be picked up in a short book. And if that short book also added in all the stuff you don’t learn at business school, you would have a very handy book which might just be called The Mobile MBA.