Thinking About an MBA? You May Want to Think Twice and Listen Hard in Kindergarten


Thinking about waiting out the recession by getting an MBA?  A recent Newsweek article may may you think twice. The article, Happy Birthday, Harvard B-School reported on an 18-month study on the state of the M.B.A. conducted by Harvard professors David Garvin and Srikant Datar. They interviewed deans, recruiters, faculty and alumni from several dozen top business schools.

Their conclusions?

At some companies, longer-tenured employees without an M.B.A. face better odds of getting promoted than newcomers who hold the degree, and some employers now dissuade star employees from returning to school for an M.B.A. at all. Recruiters say the M.B.A.s they do hire have learned little about such skills as giving presentations, navigating corporate politics or leading co-workers. “The M.B.A. degree may be at an inflection point,” Garvin says.

The article goes on to say:

In the symposium’s most thoughtful remarks, Civil War historian and Harvard president Drew Faust suggested that B-schools may teach their students to become so focused on competing against colleagues and tallying individual rewards that they suffer “a kind of blindness” to “the fundamental interconnectedness of humankind, of societies and of economies.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of higher business education.

Clearly, in the working world, being able to communicate and lead are two crucial “soft” skills employers seek.  Having written about the importance of being connected, I’m intrigued to note the focus on the “fundamental interconnectedness of humankind.” In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says, “…Community and alliances will rule in the twenty-first century…[success is] dependent on whom you know and how you work with them (291).” He asserts that living a truly connected life is a prerequisite to success. If this is true, it looks like the M.B.A. may not be the path of choice.

Could it be that all we really need to know are the lessons we learn in the sandbox? Is the poem “All I Ever Really Need To Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” turning out to be really true?

What do you think? When do we learn our most important skills – the sand box or the ivory tower?

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1 Response to “Thinking About an MBA? You May Want to Think Twice and Listen Hard in Kindergarten”

  1. 1 Dawn Papandrea November 6, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Coming from the school of thought that higher or continuing education is always a good thing, I do still think each individual considering a high priced degree like the MBA, should assess if/how it will help their career. Some employers may give a bump up in raise or hold promotions until you achieve the degree. In other cases, an employer may even pay for you to get the degree — a no-brainer that it’s worth going for. But based on your post and what I’ve been hearing, an MBA is only part of the equation — career advancement will ultimately come down to one’s work ethic and on-the-job skills, not just a piece of paper.

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