By Erica Olsen Published on 05-11-09
Strategic Management: Who will lead us during/out of the recession?

A recent BusinessWeek article from Harvard University’s Bill Taylor piqued my interest this week. It’s an issue that’s made it’s way through the business press as well as business blogs and elsewhere for some time now- are MBA’s really worth it? Mr. Taylor, cofounder of FastCompany and recent Author of Mavericks at Work, seems to be baiting the same argument with this intro:

Now, I understand the use of students from elite business schools as a proxy for “talent” in the business world. But as the economy experiences the most deep-seated changes in decades, maybe it’s time to change our minds about what kinds of people are best-equipped to become business leaders. Is our fascination with the comings and goings of MBAs as obsolete as our lionization of investment bankers and hedge-fund managers? Is it time to look elsewhere for the “best and the brightest” of what business has to offer?

The rest of the article makes sense- basically it’s citing work that has suggested that MBA’s come out of college filled with booksmarts and ready to write maticulous business plans, while entrepreneurs are quicker thinkers, more prone to seat-of-their pants leadership ready to make snap decisions. Meh.

As an MBA and an entrepreneur, I take offense to this kind of either/or argument. In fact, the majority of business students that I took classes with had already proven their leadership skills in the “real world” (I wasn’t ever aware of any of my classmates coming from imaginary worlds) before deciding to enter school again for their master’s degrees. There didn’t seem to be sides drawn between who had book smarts and who had street smarts- we were all fairly smart people who had learned how to work with each other.

Had every single one of us lead the charge during a recession? No. But you could carve up any two groups and try and pitt them against one another in this kind of thinking. Who’s more prepared to deal with the recession? Blue Collar or White? Conservative or Liberal? Men or Women?

I personally think that those who are willing to persist will win this one, and they didn’t go to any particular school to get any particular degree- they’re just people who won’t stop working. What do you think? Are business schools somehow producing a class of workers unprepared for the real world?