Sunday, December 28, 2008

One of the Great Ironies of B-School

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, one of the great challenges in life is accepting that you won't get your predictions about the future correct, so you need to be flexible in your planning. It's exactly the reason most of us go back and get our MBA. An MBA provides flexibility by exposing us to breadth and depth of business knowledge, often filling in existing gaps and further strengthening existing strengths. But the B-School model of groups
and teams, creates two interesting dilemmas:

1) If you only focus on your strengths during group projects, then you deny other people on your team the opportunity to expand their skills, and conversely you will suffer in areas of weakness on other projects.
2) Because of the variety of coursework within an MBA program, there typically isn't enough time to explore the depth of a single area that you may desire.

Faced with our current work culture, and the sad lie of mediocrity, how can anyone justify an MBA program if their goal is to reach higher levels in their organization?

I think the answer lies in an expanded way of thinking about goals and outputs from an MBA program. If you look at it strictly for grades, you'll most likely not retain the knowledge long past graduation. If you focus narrowly on a specific subject, then you have to question why you didn't just take some specialized coursework. But if you realize that the value in the program comes from much more than the coursework, and you deeply explore relationships, experience and critical thinking with classmates and professors, then I believe you'll come to the conclusion that great leaders overcome any areas of mediocrity by not only surrounding themselves with great individuals (who you need to identify, recruit & retain), but by being great in all the areas that exist between the subjects and relationships. An MBA program gives you the breadth and time to explore how to be great in those areas, and to me, that may just be the most important element of any MBA program.