Managers not MBAs

I just read the abstract for a book called Managers, not MBAs which is focused on the concept that MBAs are being thought too much theory which is completely useless in a business where leadership and proven experience are the basis for performance. The book also claims top-school MBAs are arrogant and makes a case for top Harvard graduates who failed miserably in business. Furthermore, enrollment in the best schools is limited to students with high test scores instead of professionals with proven performance. The fundamental premise is that management is art and our education system focuses on theory.

 It is true that in general, education is not evolving as quickly as businesses do. However, as long as companies keep hiring MBAs to high-paying high-profile jobs, the schools will continue to offer them, students will continue to pursue them as there is little incentive to change anything. I think some schools are trying to move in the right direction by introducing more case studies and role playing.

 I still think there is a huge opportunity for innovation here for academic institutions and hiring departments in all sorts of companies.

Is your hiring department screening candidates based on the practical skills needed to do the job? Take a clue from The Apprentice: Donald Trump did not hire the top graduating students from a brand-name school nor he made his choice by a written test on management theory. Of course, that scenario would have produced poor rating in all likelihood. At the end, trump hired the person who performed best in real-life scenarios.

That’s why I found it so interesting to interview at Microsoft. The focus of the interview discussions are not based on what positions were held or what you studied. Interviewers present challenges that test problem solving, innovation, and other much more important, sometimes relatively subjective aptitudes. I think the fact that Microsoft is known for hiring smart people (except for me maybe) proves the point about the opportunity for companies to look at candidates in a new way.

Is there a market for a new kind of academic institutions, the Harvard of the 21st century?