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Why the MBA can be a waste of time and money

Recently there has been a number of journalistic articles on the role of the business schools. One notable article comes from The Guardian (2018). The catchy title is Why we should bulldoze the business school’ 

The article raises several questions about whether there is an actual need to have Business Schools but also the type of impact they generate in the economy through their educational methods.

According to the author it is stated that

“Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed… Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether.”

The question is what makes the author to develop such negative idea about business schools. Martin Parker claims to have taught at Business Schools for 20 years demonstrating his dependence from making a living and from working at the Business Schools. What changed?

In this newsletter we take the opportunity to respond to the big challenge raised through this newspaper article offering useful advise and suggestions for how to make your MBA experience a valuable one. In light with the logic and reasoning deployed by Martin Parker we agree that Business Schools have become aggressive in their marketing and promotion methods often offering little value. MBA Winner was created as a service from the ongoing realisation that the quality and level of support students got was inadequate. We do not assign responsibility to tutors for such development. We know that the range of responsibilities can become burdensome. However, in a similar line of logic we believe that the students should NOT be the ones negatively affected by this implication. In other words, we do not believe that it is right for Business Schools to continue to act as the ‘cash cows’ whilst exerting more demands on the students to meet their academic demands.

The tone of Parker’s Guardian article can come across as particularly harsh when read it! However, there are many truths disclosed in it. Even though MBA Winner might be criticized for helping MBA students with their work we believe that we add real value by developing long-term relationships with our clients and with enabling them to overcome their challenges. On numerous occasions we have been appraised by our clients because they are able to identify with the type of impersonal Business School culture that Martin Parker identifies in his article.

 

Where do we go from here?

A close reading of Parker’s article reveals an important and general problem which has to do with the experience of learning, and knowledge application. In particular, he suggests that Business Schools often design their learning methods as ‘apologists’ creating false expectations to students about how the business world works and what interventions they should make. Even though this is an interesting but yet broad subject we are not able to exhaust it. However, we want to tap on the main and important issue so that you can get something positive out of your MBA. We believe that the problem has to do with the experience of ‘transferability’. That is how something is being developed within a ‘specific’ context and becomes available and applicable onto a ‘different’ context. For example, business undergraduate and MBA Students learn about how organizations operate as systems that need to rely on their tangible and intangible resources. Magic phrases like ‘competitive advantage’ ‘SWOT’ and ‘value-chain analysis’ are taught as frameworks. Students develop certain understanding for how business operate but such knowledge exposure remains highly limited and even misrepresented. Why? Because students are not able to experience the realities of the business world in the way information and knowledge is communicated.

Courses for Horses

Academics who might want to challenge the level of criticism expressed by Parker focus on the nuances of academic knowledge being distinctively different from business experience and knowledge. In other words, academics defend their role as individuals that help others obtain ‘knowledge’ which is general. Hence, academics that might oppose to Parker might argue for how the study of knowledge is mainly about the methods and the process that someone uses to question and produce conclusions. In this way, business schools continue the long mission of academia which is to equip people with the capacity to study and produce their own conclusions about organizations. Moreover, this group of people will argue that such experience cannot be evaluated through specific outcomes. In other words, Business Schools cannot be expected to ‘manufacture’ individuals who are going to be ready to get straight into jobs. Hence, this group of people think that they need to separate how business operate as profit-making machines and how this is different from the way organizations need to be studied through the use of academic theories.

Back to Transferability

How is it possible to get out of this labyrinth? What can we do? At MBA Winner we believe that the answer to this difficult question is to be found in the concept of ‘transferability’. That is, how students are able to identify the limitations of their knowledge whilst doing their BA or MBA and how they can contribute to amplifying their knowledge through their own application methods. Our experience from working with numerous MBA students taught us that the more difficult challenge is in the translation and the transferability of knowledge. What does transferability mean as a concept? It means that MBA students are not limited by the information and knowledge gained from the Business School. Instead, they are actively engaged with questioning how this information applies onto different contexts. This attitude does not mean that students start to question the validity of the knowledge taught. Instead, they start to recognise their more generalised relevance. However, this is not a set in stone process. Instead, it is an ongoing journey of self-discovery. Knowledge is a highly personalised product of one’s experience. It is comprised of information and the experience of application. Hence, we do not consider transferability to be an experience that can be easily taught in the same way that someone cannot teach someone else for how to drive a car! It is an experience subjected to trial and error. However, we believe that this experience holds many promising solutions because it pushes the individual to identify with one’s interest and also to deal with a growing uncertainty for that which is NOT known. Such experience remains essential for developing strong aptitude towards transferability as a process that enables someone to create connections even when they are not there. For example, we can take the example of ‘change management’ in order to illustrate our point. Change management is regarded as the discipline in which managers and employees are working together for identifying a set of relationships and how change can generate new opportunities. It is often thought in the business wold that ‘organizations are not going to survive unless they change’. Hence, students might develop a positive idea about how change is an important prerequisite to development and to success. However, the attempt to personalise the concept of change within their own experience can easily reveal the ‘pains of change’. In particular, people do not want to change because they are fearful of the uncertainty and the difficulties in making a change transition. For example, it is easy to identify how students can have difficulty changing their own method of study and engagement with an activity. Hence, the individual’s experience can become an important source of reflection for how change actually work and what are the challenges with change.  We consider this personal engagement with one’s own experience to be an important starting point for the development of ‘transferability’. Clearly, as Business School are criticized for their capacity to produced tangible results it is evident in our view that there is going to growing attention onto ‘transferability of knowledge. This might take time until it is fully realised. However, we want to take the opportunity through this newsletter to bring this issue to your attention and encourage you to develop transferability into an actual skill. MBA Winner is committed to enhancing the students’ experience of transferability in order to achieve a value-added experience through their studies.

References

The Guardian (2018) Accessed online on 4 June 2019 from URL: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/27/bulldoze-the-business-school

 

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