Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Harvard Business School turns 100

Here's the website for the Centennial celebrations. On this occasion, the Financial Times has published a column by Della Bradshaw on the utility of MBA programs [Thanks to T.T. Ram Mohan for the link]. Here's a short excerpt:

More significantly, the MBA gives people the opportunity to switch careers, according to Paul Danos, long-term dean of the Tuck school at the ivy-league Dartmouth College. “What is great about the MBA from the student’s point of view is that it lets you change your life.” Students enter as information technology specialists, engineers or soldiers and leave as management consultants, bankers and entrepreneurs.

It is a transformation appreciated by MBA students and alumni. “If you’ve never been in business before, as I hadn’t been, it opens up this mysterious world and language,” says Philip Delves Broughton, who graduated from Harvard in 2006. “The MBA provides a decoder to how business people talk and think.”

Neil Courtis, who graduated from Insead in December 2007, uses the analogy of a car. In their previous jobs, incoming students had concentrated on one aspect of the business – the windscreen wipers or the tyres. An MBA opens the bonnet and shows how the whole engine fits together. His one criticism is that the MBA does not teach implementation. “You don’t come out as a mechanic.”

Mr Courtis believes there are things an MBA cannot teach. “You can teach analysis but you can’t teach judgment,” he says. An MBA, he adds, can give “a sheen of knowledge – it’s a bullshitter’s paradise”. Such scepticism can be seen in the acronym’s many unofficial elaborations: Mediocre But Arrogant, Master Of Brainless Axioms and the like.

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Previous posts on critiques of management education: here and here.

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Bonus link: MBA Advice from the Oracle of Omaha.