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August 13, 2007

MBA in a Page


My buddy Ray Schraff from Hyland Software pointed me to this site containing a comprehensive list of management theories. It is an “MBA in a page,” and I mean that in a pejorative way.

Here are some examples from the page: GE/McKinsey matrix, Kaizen philosophy, Capital Asset Pricing Model, Business Process Reengineering, and Scenario Planning.

You can use the page as a test: Anyone who knows all these theories is someone you shouldn’t hire.


This posting has generated a lot of anger. Many MBAs unsubscribed from my feed because of it (perhaps I can now raise my CPM—I’ll check with Federate Media). That said, today my feed count is the highest it’s ever been. Tomorrow I am going to post a Truemors promotion, so I expect even more people will unsubscribe.


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MBA's have done more to destroy this country than any other group. They don't create anything, other than an intangible "maximization of shareholder value," unconstrained by time, and through useless, three-letter-acronym-encrusted bizspeak, know only how to bilk investors out of their dollars - thus proving once again that the two most-common elements in the universe remain hydrogen and stupidity. Damn them all for giving us such wonderful terms as outsourcing, downsizing, Six Sigma, TQM, and other ineffective shell-gaming phrases, designed to hide the fact that they will never abide by true ethics, character, integrity, and excellence.




I am a would be MBA and I found this post really interesting partly because I can get an idea about the things I am supposed to know and things I shouldn't be wasting my time on. I agree that nothing substitutes the common sense and you just can't teach that in Business school.

as a close relative of the species of mba, i am pretty glad to meet all of you in this topic, and hear your points of view on mba or not, and related. while I am currently doing an interesting "project" related to Guy's post and the argument from all of you, I'd like to recommend you now to have a look at this funny clip on youtube:



A students teach.
B students work for C students.

Look at any list of prominent business owners in the US...most of them didn't finish college, and some didn't finish high school.

A business degree will sometimes help you get a job, but often won't do what it's supposed to do: help you create a successful business of your own. If you want a job, an MBA just might do the trick. If you want a successful business, it might be smarter to take the same money and time and invest it in yourself.

hi guy
myself i don't have a MBA and anyway i was regarded to betoo short to play basketball well.

when defining business strenth i always look at far more simplistic way, money in the bank = strong. no money = weak. to get money in the bank you need to sell something and spend less.

I am an MBA, and been trying to undo it. In my neck of the woods, we have what is called a "BBA" also, and unfortunately this is where I started off as an 18-year old. Apparently, MBA after a work experience, and a different bachelor's degree isn't that bad. But BBA + MBA is horrid.

What I found problematic with MBA was its total lack of concern for any of the values that I held important. It was all about learning this or that tool or technique - and one couldn't even see as far as to where and how the technique was to be applied? There were plenty of specific examples - yes - but no UNIVERSAL WISDOM. More tragic still is the mindset that this list of theories and tools creates: that before taking action, one must run through a mental list of the tools and theories. Action-oriented MBAs are usually those who are able to bypass this mental checklist. They were usually the "back-bencher" folks, as I've observed.

The Economist, on May 10, published an article + backgrounder about revamping business education. http://tinyurl.com/yoxq3x

There is now an NGO called MBAs Without Borders that puts MBA degrees in a better perspective than orientation with a cut-throat mentality - which isn't there on the paper, but in the aura of MBAs.

MBAs aren't "bad people." It's the b-schools and the curricula that suck. Personally, I got by through spending more time in the library issuing books on ecology, games, learning, etc. that interested me - and never opening the suggested texts. "Beyond Gray Pinstripes" was also an inspiration. In short, I learned the theories in schools, and went about on my own to get wiser about the PURPOSE of learning it all.

Enough said.


The art and science of Management started with real-world practitioners noting down what works in the field, and what doesnt. Somewhere down the line, academicians took over!
Doesn't still mean knowing a theory or two diminishes your networth. In-fact it helps when you do not have real world experience in that area. All said and done, MBAs run all of the billion dollar firms, and college-dropout CEOs having made their moolah by stroke of luck once, often miss the next upcoming wave, and conviniently blame it on their staff! What say.

Guy, fantastic post as always. And I'm one semester away from my MBA. If we can't laugh at ourselves, what's the point? I'm certainly not unsubscribing. =)

Brilliant! I have really enjoyed reading the comments.

As I have studied anthropology, international politics and business, the most valuable thing I have picked up is from anthropology. Understand what your tribe/customers are thinking. When you have figured out what it is that triggers them and fullfills their needs, not yours as a business person, you've figured out the most valuable thing for your start-up.

We can think of the growth stages of a company as follows:


Each of these stages has its own characteristics and more importantly, they are in tension with each other.

The mature stage is interested in efficiency or refining processes. Isn't this the appropriate stage for the MBA, and not be creative. I am thinking that creativity is generative and innovation is more about refining something already in existence.

This is a fantastic resource, despite Guy's aversion to MBAs. Asking the right question is harder than answering the wrong one; and frameworks assist with asking the right question.

I first learned about this site when I started working in strategy consulting. I go there infrequently, but find it's a good way to stimulate alternative approaches to problems.

I withdrew my applications to 4 MBA schools and will refocus my talents to make a social networking site.

Interesting article....

"For those who major in business with the aim of making pots of money, there is little scope to discover one's own talents, develop one's own values or learn about a world wider than school or college."


and again this article highlighting the jaw-dropping excesses at Enron, fueled by "I'm SO smart MBA types" is MUST reading for ALL:


I have an MBA earned in the late 70s and run a niche-product manufacturing business we started in the early 80s. My original reason for getting an MBA education was to get 10 years business experience in two years. Like several posters have stated, the opportunity to study case histories of business successes/failures and to get a feel for various aspects like organizational design, behavioral cause & effect stuff has been useful. Regarding MBAs noting being good salespeople, having people skills, yadda, yadda, yadda, it is usually not the degree or education that made them into being poorly suited for whatever endeavor they are attempting (or not attempting) to do. Rather, the MBA's stumbling block is usually caused his/her innate personality and attitude orientation. Its not the MBA degree that creates the narcissistic jerk, rather it is the narcissistic personality plus the MBA that creates/yields the jerk.

Guy, you're just too old to read that small font. Get some glasses, roll up your sleeves and dive in. That page rules; frameworks are the source code of business thinking and the info here can help you hack it. This page is full of great information, and it is a crackup seeing Valley ego balloons totally whiff the basics. If the companies that you are part of don't get cracking and learn how to apply these frameworks, tell them to prepare to be Friendsterized by someone who does.

Not to mention - that page has a very clear set of business models that no Facebook app will soon match - attract business users and show business-related ads that are bidded up in value by serious businesses. Nice job valuebasedmanagement, and good luck without those frameworks all y'all haters.

- Jef

Find me a person who knows and can apply all of those business theories on that page and I'll show you a person who doesn't care at all about your dinky little startup.

It's Web 2.0 blatherheads, not MBA's, that are creating the next bubble. Every single entrepreneur presentation you witness online = "we have no business model and never will". Every single VC presentation = "show me the money". Sounds to me like a few MBA's in that mix would be a good thing.

When a site as basic as HotorNot.com pastes the entire overhyped and codercentric Web 2.0 field with respect to business model innovation, don't tell me that my MBA is irrelevant.

- Srini

Why is everything always so black and white. There is no such thing as a good MBA or a bad MBA...being an MBA is not a profession like being a doctor or lawyer, or construction worker for that matter. Having an MBA doesn't make someone arrogant, nor does not having an MBA inoculate someone against arrogance.

When considering new hires we should evaluate each individual candidate's suitability for the job we are trying to fill (education and previous experience/accomplishment are as important as personality and 'fit') and not make blanket statements about people with certain educational backgrounds.

All the MBA bashing smells just a bit too much like self-justification and insecurity. Of course, the MBAs who unsubscribed seem a bit insecure themselves.

Lest we forget, Guy (you know, the one who's thoughts we all like to read each day in this blog) has his MBA as well (from UCLA Anderson if I'm not mistaken). Should we bash him too?

Guy, the orgy of anti-MBA postings here show less intelligence than the two people who were offended and unsubscribed.

I hope you are just being too subtle and your point is to criticize the wrong attitude for a start up environment, not foster a blanket indictment of MBAs. You well know that it is the person who makes the difference, not what school they attended nor the degree(s) they possess.

The general anti-MBA stuff here smacks of the same brand of idiocy that brings us class warfare and partisan politics.

Yes! I found the article - plenty of ammo in support of Guy's disdain of "look at me I'm smarter than you" MBAs...many of whom had jobs at a company called Enron:


Reminder: George W. Bush, aka Puppet-In-Chief, aka King George, aka Chimpy McFlightsuit, aka Worst President Ever...

...has an MBA.

Guy, an interesting follow-up to how your barb at MBAs got so easily under the skin of some MBA folks would be revisiting all those oh-so-smart MBAs at Enron. There was a fascinating article someone wrote on how Enron wonks would get to do whatever projects they wanted without regard for past success, but rather how smart they were on paper. If only I could possibly find that again...

And BTW I have an MBA. I got it to engineer a successful career change, not as a testiment to show off to people as if to say "ooh, look how smart I am!"

If THE MBA PROGRAM was so special we would be reading and learning daily on blogs the methods and process mba's learn and use, unfortunately we don't.
MBA's don't create new business they're there to clutter board rooms.

Actually, my statement isn't all that silly on the face of it.

Take for example, the following quote:

Here's what a business plan should address: Executive Summary (1), Problem (1), Solution (1), Business Model (1), Underlying Magic (1), Marketing and Sales (1), Competition (1), Team (1), Projections (1), Status and Timeline (1), and Conclusion (1).

That's from this post:


Ok, so let's pick it apart.

Problem/Solution: You don't need an MBA for that, most entrepreneurs can get their head around that.

Business Model:I suppose someone can simply say "we are going to emulate _____ as a business model." But when the hard questions start about whether the model is viable, then what?

Underlying Magic: That's a wash.

Marketing/Sales/Projections: Referring to


There are a lot of assumptions and tough questions surrounding these areas, and this is where the MBA earns their keep. I'm not saying that they aren't as susceptible to the lies as a non-MBA, but the marketing plan, the numbers, are the story. A VC wants to know that you have a plan to market, that you have realistic projections, and that they are going to see a return on their investment. The tools that an MBA gains help sell that story.

Timeline: I think this can go either way. In a pitch, however, you would probably get grilled on what assumptions underly the Timeline, including anything that seems to be dependent on "underlying magic", infusion of capital, or time to market. I would want this checked by someone that had some skill in operations management, at the very least.

If I am an entrepreneur, I want someone that can help me answer the sort of questions that will help me obtain funding, not simply come in and be at the mercy of some MBA trained VC.

If I am passionate about what I am doing, then I would expect nothing less.

I see MBA based principles and theories as essential building blocks for anyone in business. However, "principles without practices" take you nowhere.

Unfortunately I see too many "book smart" individuals passing themselves off as Business Coaches and advisors who can't (or don't) apply what they learn to real life scenarios while their clients pay the freight. It's all about application, accountability and results!

Taking offense and unsubscribing is a sure sign of one's insecurity. My track record does my talking...

Having an MBA is not much different than alcohol abuse in this regard: An asshole who is also an alcoholic is simply a bigger asshole when drunk.

Like any other segment of the population, there are MBAs who are upstanding folks (and hey, even a few lawyers!) and assets to their communities and their companies.

And then there are the other ones. You don't know who you are. But your co-workers do.

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