Skip to comments.Meet the enemy of the MBA (Why business schools are a waste of time and money)
Posted on 10/05/2010 7:10:54 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
If Josh Kaufman had gone to business school, he probably would have graduated this year with an MBA from Harvard or Stanford. But Kaufman, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and former assistant brand manager for Procter & Gamble, thinks business school is pretty much a waste of time and money.
MBA programs, he says firmly, have become so expensive that students "must effectively mortgage their lives" and take on "a crippling burden of debt" to get what is "mostly a worthless piece of paper." Kaufman believes that MBA programs "teach many worthless, outdated, even outright damaging concepts and practices." And if that's not bad enough, he insists that an MBA won't guarantee anyone a high-paying job, let alone turn a person into a skilled manager or leader.
In an era when MBA bashing has become almost fashionable, Kaufman is emerging as business school's most unforgiving critic. Founder of PersonalMBA.com and the author of the forthcoming book "The Personal MBA," he's a passionate advocate for what he calls self-education. Instead of paying up to $350,000 in tuition and forgone earnings to go to Harvard, Stanford or Wharton, Kaufman says a better way to learn business is to open the pages of classic business texts and learn on your own.
His epiphany occurred five years ago, when he was working at P&G (PG, Fortune 500) headquarters in Cincinnati as an assistant brand manager for the company's Home Care division. He had joined P&G straight from the University of Cincinnati by virtue of the school's cooperative education program. Almost all of his peers and managers boasted elite MBA degrees.
To overcome his feelings of intimidation and to prepare for the job, he began reading, and reading, and reading, from textbooks, such as the "Essentials of Accounting," to "Competitive Strategy" by Harvard professor Michael Porter
(Excerpt) Read more at money.cnn.com ...
have become so expensive that students “must effectively mortgage their lives””
I don’t disagree with this at all...but I am still perplexed why these programs (and colleges, generally, including expensive private undergrad colleges) are bursting at the seams. of course easy credit / cash makes it appear “free”...but surely...at some point, the reality of debt has to sink in?
I started my MBA last year and threw in the towel after the second semester.
It was a complete waste of time and rehash of what I had already learned as a manager.
I felt it was a better use of time to actually investigate business opportunities than to have another acronym after my name.
Besides, my PMP is worth more than a MBA in the current market...
The MBA craze was really picking up in the eighties (along with the yuppie culture). Engineers going into management were advised to forget everything technical, and play the game. I was working for a German owned, German run company at the time that specialized in steel mill machinery (hint: no more casting ingots). Management there did not think highly of MBA’s. The president of the company was a Dr. Ing. (Doctorate in Engineering), and contradicted the “conventional wisdom” of technical competence and business sense being mutually exclusive.
now everyone is going to law school because there is such an oversupply of law schools. ANYONE, and I do mean ANYONE, can go to an accredited law school as long as the applicant has a four year degree.
“Schooling” vs “Education”
Having spent 8 years in graduate school working on my PhD I can attest to the fact that universities have become centers of indoctrination. Rather than teach pragmatic learning and open mindedness they promote ideological purity. We need to get back to practical learning and things that are empirically proven to work. Universities have become merely places where professors sit around validating their distorted ideas and ideologies rather than promote the investigation of truth.
That might explain Gloria Allred....
I believe someone who has an MBA that also has a technical BS degree, such as a BSEE or BSME, is still very marketable.
Piled Higher and Deeper.
Since the 1970’s, inflation in college tuition has been growing at about a 7-8% annual rate vs. 2-3% for the average consumer inflation rate. Some of this is cost-driven, I suspect, with the explosion of administrative costs and overhead at colleges and universities, but all of this hyper-inflation is supported in large measure by easy lending, Pell-Grants, etc., that has just pumped more and more money into college programs. Young people were encouraged “you’ll make so much more with a college degree, you can afford to take on the debt” — well guess what: it just doesn’t work that way any more.
Colleges should be ashamed of the debt burden they’ve imposed on their graduates. And those wonderful bureaucrats in Washington should likewise be ashamed of their funneling grants and other programs that have helped pump-up the bubble of college tuition.
Ah, yes, the law of unintended consequences.
I agree and disagree.
I finished my MBA in the middle 90’s, and it did open some doors for me, same as my PMP. For most students though, it’s nuts to think that you will retain all the facts from twenty 1000 page textbooks, and all the assignments. But what it did teach me, as both corporate manager and entrepreneur/business owner, was to look at and understand at the complete business landscape, and make decisions accordingly.
Now the question is whether I could have reached the same level of understanding by self-studying the texts...and I would say that since I keep studying texts and books anyway, the answer would be mostly yes.
You are correct. The ABA continues to accredit new law schools all the time, adding to the glut. This, while there are virtually no legal positions available. The tuition at these schools is astronomical, some at over $40,000.00 per year.
“now everyone is going to law school because there is such an oversupply of law schools. ANYONE, and I do mean ANYONE, can go to an accredited law school as long as the applicant has a four year degree.”
Quite true. There are no prerequisite courses. As you say, any degree will do. Phys Ed., Dance, whatever. Theater would actually be very helpful. Law schools are incredible cash machines for the host university.
I read somewhere that on average now, attorneys only work about two years in the practice of law; one year less than it takes to get the degree.
A law degree can be helpful in many other areas though, in this over-regulated and bureaucratically dominated day and age, but like the MBA - is it really worth the cost and the time?
As long as you need to learn something rather than to have a degree, you can do a better job teaching yourself than by going to a school
Once the school convinces you that you need their certification to be successful, their job is done.
Delivering education is a cost to them, and they will lower it at every opportunity. In short, once they have your money, they don't care if you learn anything.
MBA programs were designed for people who wasted their undergraduate opportunities on liberal fluff; a crash course on Business topics. Put that on top of a Sociology or EDU indoctrination, and it's like the white stuff on top of chicken poop (it's still chicken poop).
The J.D. can also be the kiss of death when looking for a non-legal position. Employers think you are overqualified and will abandon ship at the first opportunity. I’ve been following some of the law school “scam blogs” for a while now, and agree that law school is a waste of time for most students.
This is a rather timely posting for our family - husband has a senior military backgrd - very successful - but now seems “stuck” in defense contracting arena. We’ve been discussing wether a MBA would “break him out” of the defense world so he could do something different for the last few decades of working life.
I think anyone in any field would jump at his expertise - he feels they don’t “get” military life and want more specific experience...what to do?
My program was through a state college, but the textbooks and materials were from the Harvard Business School. The books cost as much as the tuition.
“As long as you need to learn something rather than to have a degree, you can do a better job teaching yourself than by going to a school
Once the school convinces you that you need their certification to be successful, their job is done.”
Unfortunately the corporate human resources types think in terms of the latter as well. Although I have a BSEE, HR thinking rules that I am not qualified to work on programmable logic controllers since I have not had a formal course on it. Everything is supposed to be spoon fed, and no one is supposed to figure out things on their own, using the basics as a foundation. It’s a variation of the “not invented here” mentality.
I am now a principle at an industrial controls systems integrator. Small outfit with a lot of “out of the box thinking”.
“The J.D. can also be the kiss of death when looking for a non-legal position. Employers think you are overqualified and will abandon ship at the first opportunity.”
VERY true! I have seen employers reject J.D.s out of hand many times.
The last 3 firms I worked for (all were very large and in business for 50+ years) had been turned over from fathers to their sons who had just completed their MBAs.
Two of these firms were privately held while the third had a majority stockholder turn his controlling interest over to his son.
In all 3 cases, these successful companies went bankrupt in 3 years or less.
Now it is either sons are failures at running a business started by their fathers (some truth to that) or there is something seriously wrong with the MBA programs.
In all 3 cases, the MBAs completely ignored what had made the companies prosper and immediately started to manage strictly by the bottom line.
Customers, who in some cases paid a higher price to do business with these companies simply because of the great service provided, started to leave in droves once the service either deteriorated or eliminated.
I can only assume nothing in the MBA programs teach students to focus on the core values or services of a company.
At this point I have zero respect for MBA programs.
“Everything is supposed to be spoon fed, and no one is supposed to figure out things on their own, using the basics as a foundation.”
Which is logically inane. If that concept was fundamentally true, we would have a species stagnation.
RE: A key selection criteria for entry into Harvard’s MBA program, assuming reasonable GMAT scores and academic record, is reported to be: Will this person be highly successful if he or she does not come to Harvard or an equivalent program? If “no” reject him or her. If “yes” accept the person.
Something interesting I read the other day...
DE Shaw used to be one of the most successful hedge funds on Wall Street. They recently laid off 10% of their workforce (a lot of them Ivy League grads were very highly paid).
REASON : Poor business and huge redemptions from investors who were losing money after the 2008 meltdown.
During the boom years, DE Shaw used to place hiring ads like : “Only Ivy League Graduates need apply.”
That is a fascinating data point.
I think there is something inherently difficult about the second generation running the family business. That rarely works. It’d be interesting to study the “why” of that. I’m thinking that the first generation in your cases was probably aware of that trend...so they thought that having the son get the MBA was a good way to start to make sure that their Empire didn’t crumble.
And look what happened.
Probably it would have been better to start the son in the mail room, and let him work his way up to ownership. Now that might actually work....
Will this person be highly successful if he or she does not come to Harvard or an equivalent program? If no reject him or her. If yes accept the person.”
From the institution’s perspective, that makes perfect sense. Kudos to the geniuses at the Harvard Biz School who figured that out. Would that the applicants knew that all they were doing was ensuring the survival of the Biz School.....
It's not that difficult.
The son spent the previous 6 or 7 years learning "business" instead of "the business".
“I interviewed a young guy who told me his BA in Theatre Design was “just as good” as a BSME. He kinda flitted out the room in a big huff as you might imagine.”
Was that right after you fell to the floor, laughing?
Not surprised, but the method makes sense given that they are more likely to know and have access to more wealthy people - easy marks! I would include those who went to prep schools like Andover, Exeter, St. Paul’s, etc. even if they did not make it to the Ivy League.
I love that movie!
I think it all depends on the school and the program. While on active duty in Oklahoma I earned an MBA from Oklahoma City University which I have found to be very helpful. Oklahoma City University is slightly unique in there MBA program. First a student cannot enroll in their MBA program directly from a Bachelors degree program, they first must gain real world experience. Second none of their MBA Professors can be full time professors they must work in the real world outside of a University setting. The second I found to be profound on as not only was an MBA student exposed to the theoretical aspects of the program but also the real applications of the knowledge. A big name school may not be the way to go.
Years ago I decided that I would supplement my BS CE with an MBA.
What I learned was most of the MBA direction was not suited to a small family business. I did not finish but did take several courses that seemed to apply to a small family corporation.
I also agree and disagree. I have a technical undergraduate degree and went back for an MBA. At the time, there weren’t many women in the technical fields, and I needed to have a competitive edge. I went part time for the MBA, and after I got it, decided that I didn’t like working at big companies where my future was limited.
I went into business for myself and kept on learning through the years. My MBA, along with the technical degrees, gave me a wide breadth of knowledge (I made sure that every course I took was practical), and gave me credentials that were impressive to people when that mattered.
The world changes, so people have to keep learning, but that paper can be worth something.
I didn’t go into debt to get my degree. I took my time and saved my money up front so that I could pay for it without going into debt. It took sacrifice on my part. I’m glad I did it.
The real point is he wouldn't have been hired by P&G if he had not gone to a 4 year college(he is technically elite compared to someone without college- doesn't make him better or brighter). The same holds true for MBA's, companies are conditioned to hire them, as they are conditioned to hire College grads.
I went to college for the piece of paper, I knew what they were teaching I didn't want to learn...Liberal state school(cost factor).
Education has rigged the system, either you play or you don't.
We can all strive to be Bill Gates.
I could not agree more about the MBA. During my undergrad I had MBA students in my class (our nomenclature was 401 was senior undergrad, and the same class was labeled as 601 for grad students, or 301 for junior undergrad and 501 for 1st year grad students). They read the same book as me (probably for the second time as they took the same class as undergads), attended the same lectures as me, and only had to do a few extra papers than I did (took the same tests with the same questions as me). Now maybe they also had classes that were for grads only, but all of my undergrad classes had the 301/501 or 401/601 (finance, accounting, mgmt). So in my junior year of undergrad I realized what a racket the MBA was.
“That depends on the school and the program” I think it mostly depends on the individual. Someone who has “wonder” will learn. One who doesn’t won’t. If you wonder how things work and why they are what they are, you will learn.
A degree in a structured program is one way to do this, I’ve found. I came out of an undergraduate ChE program in the 60’s. When I started to work I was somewhat intimidated in my first job by how business worked, so I took an accounting course. The instructor suggested when I did well that I take the GRE and enroll in their MBA program. I did and found it did a good job of helping me with the non-technical parts of my job. I particularly liked the Finance courses and these proved valuable later when I bought a business.
I might have done this without an MBA but I’m not sure I would have had the confidence.
An MBA is no substitute for experience in the trenches. The MBA is background that allows a person to understand what is going on from a deeper context. Look at it this way: a driver’s ed class teaches teenagers the basics of how to drive so they can get a license, but they are not experts in driving. They now know the rules of the road.
The MBA is just like that. People with MBAs know some of the rules of the road, but there is no replacement for time behind the wheel gaining experience. Both are necessary! The sons should not have been turned loose without the experience part, and learning from their family’s success.
Webster University has a terrific MBA program. The MBA grad school is (rhetorically speaking) bomb throwing, “follow the money and create your own company”. Which I am doing now. I would not have done it without that education from that particular school.
It is a great program.
Webster University has a terrific MBA program. The MBA grad school is (rhetorically speaking) bomb throwing, CATO Institute libertarian. The message of the school is follow the money and create your own company. Which I am doing now. I would not have done it without that education from that particular school.
It is a great program
I was referring to the larger phenomenon of second generation failure, not the smaller phenomenon of second generation MBA driven failure.
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