The best answer, especially if you ask a consultant, will be… it depends…
But before we get to the details of the depending answer, let’s see what the context looks like. I guess we all acknowledge the fact that basic education is one of the ingredients to success. Reading, writing and doing basic maths is definitely helping us achieve something hopefully relevant with our lives (at least enough for us to realize what’s going on).
What about a graduate degree or an MBA? Laura Ries considers that, for anyone who wants to work on the Wall Street or aims at sitting in the CEO chair sometime in the future, and MBA is a must have, because not having it will not open you the right doors to grant you entrance into these worlds.
Moreover, having the right MBA from the right school (i.e. Harvard, Wharton, Kellog, Stanford, to quote Laura’s picks), might even guarantee you a pretty good job in good corporations. However, is an MBA really necessary to be a successful CEO or antrepreneur? David Ogilvy, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison or even Larry Page proved it is not.
On the other hand, John Thain (Merrill Lynch), Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers), Vikram Pandit (Citigroup) and John Paulson, the hedge fund kingpin, all have an MBA. As New York Times puts it, they’ve all got fat bank accounts and have had their share of media coverage all over the world and, yet, these have not protected their businesses, at least not more than the US Federal Reserve had.
Uhm… the conclusions so far do not look really bright for the MBA. You don’t need one to be successful and having one is not necessarily protecting you from failures. Even worse, Laura thinks that MBA’s could even hurt you, especially if they are too analytical and too theoretical (left-brain oriented), thus leaving your creative side (right-brain) somewhat outside focus. The reason why Laura thinks this is because she believes that it takes the both brain sides to make the world go round, to properly manage a corporation and to be successful in the long run.
The usual critics of business education also complain about these things. “Some say the schools have become too scientific, too detached from real-world issues. Others say students are taught to come up with hasty solutions to complicated problems. Another group contends that schools give students a limited and distorted view of their role — that they graduate with a focus on maximizing shareholder value and only a limited understanding of ethical and social considerations essential to business leadership.” (New York Times)
On the other side, Business Schools claim that MBA’s teach you wonderful and useful things about doing business in an analytical way. In fact, they do recognize the problem that comes with too much analysis, and while using analysis upon themselves, they did started to change and cater for the right brain as well.
If you read between the lines above, the “negative” treats of the business schools are in fact quite positive. While I am extremely biased when I say this, I do realize (and I hope you realize it too) that the answer to the question in the title is a strong yes, especially if you want to run a company (yours or someone else’s), not because you cannot succeed without it, but rather because it will make it easier for you to be successful. You just need to be extremely careful how you choose your MBA program (and the reasons why you should choose one program over another are quite complex, including school brand and their care for your creative and leadership side).
(originally published at: blog.ceubusiness.ro)