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The Uselessness Of MBAs

Two of my favorite management (or anti-management, if you prefer) thinkers and doers, Henry Mintzberg and Ricardo Semler, talk about the uselessness of MBA degrees for managing people in this MIT World video. In the video, Mr. Semler interviews Mr. Mintzberg shortly after the release of Mintzberg’s book, “Managers Not MBAs“, in 2005. The interview is conducted in front of a class full of MIT MBA students.

In case you’re interested, here are some of my notes:

This will work in practice, but will it work in theory 🙂

You can’t create a manager in a classroom.  When you do that, all you do is create hubris.

MBA students are taught how to apply business skills in an assumed command-and-control hierarchy, not how to be a manager. B-schools don’t distinguish between the two.

Management is craft (rooted in experience), art (rooted in creativity) and analysis (rooted in science). It’s not just analysis – which is what B-schools exclusively teach.

Earn a management position first, then go to business school while you are a practicing newbie manager.

There are no naturally born surgeons, but there are many natural managers who never went to MBA school.

The problem with being in a rat race is that if you win, you’re still a rat 🙂

In a study of Harvard MBA gradutates, 10 of 19 were outright failures, 4 had questionable records, and 5 did fine.

The notion that a generic manager can parachute in and manage anything is crazy. There are exceptions like IBM’s cookie man, Lou Gerstner, but failure is the norm.

Many managers practice “Kiss up, kick down”. The dudes who receive the kisses don’t care or want to know about the “kick down” behavior.

Without action, nothing gets done. Without reflection, action is mindless. Thus, mindful action is required for success.

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