If MBAs are useless, we’re all in big trouble

Discussion in 'Business and MBA degrees' started by Lerner, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    If MBAs are useless, we’re all in big trouble – Quartz

    If MBAs are useless, we’re all in big trouble

  2. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I just don't see how this relates to many MBA specialties - e.g. Finance, Supply Chain Management. I think a fair bit of this "innovation-speak" is slavery to mantras and buzzwords.

    Yes, the value of a generic, vanilla MBA might indeed be less than it was -- and that's mostly because it's been oversold; so DARN many schools offer them and so DARN many people enrol, often without thinking the end-game through.

    However, people who hold degrees are always supposed to be able to think -- and often to have specific skills. "Skills that pay the bills" are often part of MBA programs, as I've outlined above. Now, don't tell me all that thinking and all those skills are suddenly not needed any more!

    Not all damning reports are valid - but all generalities are false - including this one. :smile:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 29, 2013
  3. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    What venture capitalists are saying the MBA is useless? I would venture to bet that most people in VC have MBAs. I'd say the ROI on an MBA not coming from a top-25 program is negligible in most instances, but wouldn't discard the degree entirely.
  4. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Good question.

    (From the article) ...all the cool entrepreneurs and venture capitalists

    Wow! All the cool ones, huh? Maybe all the trendy ones too, for all we know! And only one entrepreneur (Tullman) and not one VC named! :sad: Hmph! So much for this...

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 29, 2013
  5. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

  6. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Peter Thiel offers young people 2-year, $100,000 grants on condition that they do not use the money to go to college.

    He started this program in 2011. So the first cohort of award winners is finishing up with their 2-year grants this year.

    Results have been mixed. It appears that at least some of the 2011 award winners have decided that the next step is to ... attend college.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2013
  7. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Without necessarily endorsing Thiel's approach, I read the article you cited and don't agree that it suggests mixed results. It's not like going to college is an "18 or never" proposition, so if even a fraction of the Thiel fellows feel the fellowship was the right choice (and with a number of them raising seven digits of VC money, I'd say that's the case) it seems more like a pretty big success.
  8. Intlprof

    Intlprof New Member

    Entrepreneurship, innovation, VC's, and MBA's

    The Wharton MiddleEast group has invited me to an innovation workshop next week. Wharton is sending one of their entrepreneurship and innovation experts Prof Karl Ulrich and the focus is on innovation tournaments. There is a tourney going on concurrently. I am guessing some VC's will be there, in case there are any bright ideas worth pursuing. It is worth noting many Wharton MBA grads go onto VC.

    My MBA is from Webster, and to be honest the VC's and organizers probably don't care so much where your MBA is from, or if you even have one, because I imagine there will be engineering students proposing green technologies that do well. Many I know have fielded bids or are supporting people who have put up ideas, in hopes of getting noticed.
  9. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Thiel's program was designed to highlight alternatives to college, by encouraging talented students to (literally) drop out. If Thiel Fellows leave school to collect the $100,000 with no strings attached, but head straight back to school after the grants run out -- then the Thiel Fellowship doesn't highlight alternatives to college at all. Instead, it just becomes another well-funded, prestigious academic honors program.

    For example, a Watson Fellowship provides similarly expensive and prestigious grants to graduating seniors, with no strings attached. If Thiel Fellows go back to school for their degrees, then they really aren't much different from Watson Fellows (except that a Thiel Fellowship is pre-graduation, and a Watson Fellowship is post-graduation). In both cases, you would end up holding a college degree plus a prestigious fellowship that presumably funded some memorable experiences.

    Now obviously there is nothing wrong with funding a prestigious academic honors program. But if that's what the Thiel Fellowship becomes -- and that does seem to be how some Fellows are treating it -- then I suspect Peter Thiel will be disappointed. He was trying to challenge the conventional academic structure -- not become a part of it.
  10. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    If all of the Thiel fellows did that, then I'd say you're right. But if only a few do, then I'd say you're not. If most of them end up doing what Thiel hopes they'll do, start businesses, then his program is a success even if a few of them "wash out" and go back to school. That's especially so since the prevailing view is that everyone who wants to be anyone should go to college.
  11. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Of course, there could be an even more awkward outcome for Thiel. What if an applicant is awarded a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship to skip college -- and then turns it down to attend college instead ?

    it's not a hypothetical question, because at least one MIT student has done exactly that.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2013
  12. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Same answer. One, not awkward at all. A significant number, sure, that would be different.
  13. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    One challenge for Thiel is that his program seems to be heavily oriented towards students of the most elite universities -- Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc (Thiel himself has two Stanford degrees). And the reality is that if you have the opportunity to attend one of these schools, then (by and large) you should take it. Of course there are no guarantees, but in general, a bachelor's degree from a top-tier US university actually is a worthwhile investment.

    Thiel may be right that some college programs are an expensive waste of time and money, and that there could be other paths to professional success that would be much cheaper and faster. But perhaps it is the low to mid-ranked schools that are the most questionable investments -- not Stanford or MIT. Theil's arguments might be more compelling (and more applicable to a broader audience) if his program encouraged students to drop out of Podunk State, rather than Yale.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2013
  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    For ordinary people with metered ambition, I agree with you. But if the reason you attend such a school is to have access to the sort of environment where you can raise six million bucks for your startup, and his program lets you do that without it, then for you this might be the better way to go.

    The twin dangers here are in assuming that this approach is good for everyone just because it's good for a few, or in assuming that unless it's good for most people it's good for no one.
  15. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    MBAs are useless? Hey! I resemble that remark!
  16. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I'll grant there are alternatives to college - there always were. What there is not is a generic, wide-spectrum replacement!

    Don't worry, Ted. As I see it, the MBA is not inherently useless. But - as with any other degree, you have to actually use it for it to be considered useful. :smile:

  17. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    I would be interested to see how the people who got the grant and who are now going to college compare with those who did not have the experience. I suspect that the ones that had the grant have an educational edge because of the experience. It is easier to understand theory if you have been in an environment where it has been applied or, even, not applied but should have been. It is hardier to understand the relevance of something if you have never seen it applied or had to do something with it. The dynamics of doing reveal the need for knowledge.
  18. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    Cheer up, all! I've had more than a few people tell me I was wasting my time learning languages yet stand here with ~90% of ever dollar I've ever earned and ~90% of every friend I have coming as a result of doing so. I've also been told by countless people that studying the Bible is a waste of time and here I stand with 90% of my life satisfaction and 90% of my friends coming as a result. One crazy fella told me that lifting weights was a waste of time, so I picked him up over my head, spun him around and tossed him into a river with one arm.

    Moral of the story: utility is in the mind of the beneficiary. My lats, however, are undeniably an awesome sight to see.
  19. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I agree, the more technical MBAs (e.g. Finance, Accounting, SCM, MIS) are beneficial as they can train you for specific business certifications such as CPA, CFA, etc that carry value in the market.

    The general business, softer, from a low ranked school has almost no value in my opinion other than 3 letters.

    The argument of many is that you cannot train managers in a class room but I believe that you can learn accounting, finance, SCM in a class room.
  20. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I, too, have enjoyed learning languages. In the nearly 60 years years since I began, no money has come of it, (none sought) but much pleasure. Using languages in the workplace led to the dubious privilege of doing more work (translations, fielding extra calls, etc.) for the same pay as those unafflicted with such skills. Fortunately, I retired long ago.

    Although I'm not religious, I have learned some Bible Greek. I know no Hebrew except the alef-bet, which I learned almost by accident at 12. This week, I managed to obtain a free Biblical Hebrew grammar and parallel-version Old Testament from the Internet and intend to study them. Unlike Maniac, I did not make any friends studying languages - or studying the Bible - or doing anything else. Fact is, I don't have any - and that's fine. I do have family.

    I refuse to learn weight-lifting, as someone with lats like Maniac's will likely come along and toss me into the river! :smile:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2013

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