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How To Get Ahead In Business (Without An MBA)

Humorist and longtime Fortune columnist Stanley Bing says, “forget the MBA.” He’s got the low-down on what you really need to master in business. Plus: the sky-high state of executive salaries.

Harvard Business School is one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the country. Our guest today suggests those kinds of degrees aren't necessary for business success. (HBS / Facebook)

Harvard Business School is one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the country. Our guest today suggests those kinds of degrees aren’t necessary for business success. (HBS / Facebook)

In the job desert of the Great Recession, a lot of Americans went off to grad school.  A lot to business school.  “B-school.”  For the MBA.  Master of Business Administration.  Fortune magazine columnist, business commentator and humorist Stanley Bing says “not necessary.”  Don’t go.  You’ll have a diploma – the “sheepskin” – but all you really need is drive, common sense, and a few basic insights.  B-school deans may disagree, but Bing says he’s got the formula.  On power, performance, mojo, and town car management.  This hour On Point:  Stanley Bing on going for the brass ring, without B-school.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Stanley Bing (a.k.a. Gil Schwartz), writer, humorist and columnist for Fortune magazine. Author of “The Curriculum: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Master of Business Arts.” Also author of “Crazy Bosses” and “Executricks: How To Retire While You’re Still Working.” Also senior executive vice president and chief communications officer for the CBS Corporation. (@thebingblog)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street JournalThe New ABCs of Business — “Words may mean different things in the workplace than they do elsewhere. (Business thrives on imprecision when it suits the occasion.) This makes defining terminology particularly crucial: One must understand what is being obscured as well as what is being said. Here is a partial listing of some especially helpful words to know. The general study of business verbiage, however slippery and challenging, is extremely rewarding for those who believe that it is sometimes important to understand what other people are saying.”

Quartz: If MBAs Are Obsolete, We All Are In Trouble — “While creating a product and starting a company have never been easier, building and sustaining a business have never been harder. And lean is not everything. That means business education has never been more important. But first, both b-schools and companies need to learn some new tricks. ”

Bloomberg Businessweek: Dear Mom and Dad: Please Send Cash for MBA –”Parents will kick in 15 percent of the cost of business school on average, up from 12 percent in 2009, the survey says. That means mom and dad will help cover a decrease in the amount students expect to receive in scholarships, grants, and fellowships, which fell to 18 percent in 2013 from 20 percent in 2009.”

Read an Excerpt From “The Curriculum” By Stanley Bing

Executive Compensation In America

Lynn Stout, distinguished professor of corporate and business law at the John G. Clarke Business Law Institute at Cornell Law School.

New York Times: Executive Pay: Invasion of the Supersalaries – “Economists have long known that high executive pay has contributed to the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else. But the role of executive compensation may be far larger than previously realized.”

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  • Shag_Wevera

    I wonder if an economic system is the only way to organize and run a civilization.

    • John Cedar

      I wonder if all cars should be designed to run on five wheels.

      • Shag_Wevera

        I don’t get it. Not at all.

        • John Cedar

          What is random musings of abstract ideas that have already been contemplated, explored and dismissed by legions of brilliant humans, for all of human history.

          • Shag_Wevera

            Or, just dogma and inertia.

          • JHL27

            Shag, spike for John C.

            When the point is made that what has evolved in the human condition are the various economic systems that we see, it’s not insightful to comment as you did “or just dogma and inertia.” Do you realize that or were you just responding quickly because you’d been crushed?

            BTW: what do you offer in its stead and where is the existence theorem? Try to avoid the halcyon days of yore and work with the present reality for your transformational roadmap.

            On the other hand, I have always thought that things would be different if people could fly like birds. And the oceans were fresh water. And there was a Good Ship Lollipop.

    • twenty_niner

      There are other options:

      http://www.ic.org/directory/communes/

      Just keep an eye on the Kool-Aid.

    • geraldfnord

      Economies are technologies for allocating pain related to acquiring and consuming goods, especially survival goods; because hominids have inbuilt notions of fairness and narrative, this translates into a valuation mechanism for the people involved—most of us want to believe that those better and worse off than ourselves are so for good reasons, otherwise we’d be unhappy continually, and most of the Old Fairy Stories (from the Torah to Revelation to Quran to the stories collected by the Grimms) tell us that this were so ….so we generally don’t tolerate bad lives for bad people and good lives for good people so much as determine who’s good or bad based on who’s been rewarded and punished.

      I’m sure there will always be pain to allocate, but once we get our act together sufficiently well so as to destroy survival needs’ scarcity, it will be easier to see the allocation mechanism for the arbitrary game it is, and so not a good normative basis for our value-judgements of ourselves and others. With that decoupling, one might say that the society would not be based on the economy, at least of goods, though there would be similar mechanisms for allocation of social esteem and/or fame (which as an autist I could comfortably ignore, so yes, my I-still-believe-mostly-accurate assessment _is_ certainly coloured by my wishes and fears…I’m sure _yours_ aren’ t analogously distorted).

    • Paul Gerrard

      It depends on how narrowly you are defining ‘economic system’

  • Maureen Roy

    Still happy to have a BA in English….but then it mostly means I spend time editing the grammar of people making a lot more than I do…. ;-)

    • OnPointComments

      I couldn’t help but think of the song from the musical “Avenue Q.”

      What do you do with a B.A. in English?
      What is my life going to be?
      4 years of college, and plenty of knowledge,
      Have earned me this useless degree…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4f-4CajQyg

      • The poster formerly known as t

        It’s easier to get a student loan than a job at a living wage. Plus, the professional class insists that their education, not their aptitudes or personalities, played the biggest role in their success because it means more potential students when they burn out (or get pushed out for being too old and expensive) and want to take a nice, easy job in the education sector.

  • Shag_Wevera

    Rocketing toward a world of worker ants and queens. I thought part of sentience and civilization was the texture that non-essential things like philosophy and literature give to the fabric of life.

    • twenty_niner

      That’s great, but someone still needs to make the ink and paper, and print the books. And then someone else needs to farm something for you to put in your pie hole when you’re done philosophizing. And then someone else needs to make fertilizer for the farmer so he can grow something for you to put in your pie hole. And then someone else needs to extract the natural gas for the guy making the fertilizer, and so on.

      I guess we could simplify things and divide up into Eloi and Morlocks. The Eloi sit around reading poetry. The Morlocks do all the work. Then when the Morlocks are done for the day, they eat the Eloi.

      • The poster formerly known as t

        All civilizations have Morlocks and Eloi. The Eloi are not necessarily sitting around and reading poetry all day but they have the option of doing so because they are free from having to work everyday. Many of the Eloi spend their time as administrators or taskmasters, supervising the Morlocks. In our society, everyone aspires to be Eloi and the Morlocks who do the actual work, in the Primary and Secondary sectors, are treated with a certain amount of disrespect because manufacturing and farming is seen as low-status and moronically, low value in too many cases. In our present society, part of the big push for college is so people so that they can become managers, teachers, and other professionals far removed hard labor or creating something physical. Meanwhile… we automate or degrade the income of workers who produce anything physical or do physical labor, outside of sports and entertainment. This is all happening in a context of overpopulation. There are not enough resources to accommodate more workers, more products or more free loaders.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    You could start an electronics eavesdropping business to spy upon your fellow Americans. You don’t need an MBA for that. Just a complete disregard for the Bill of Rights enacted in our US Constitution. So what’s the problem, ‘eh?

  • ToyYoda

    The excerpt above a talks about not appearing stupid. However, in an I read recently interviewing top innovators and venture capitalists, one of them was asked what is a truly innovative idea? The VC responded its often an idea that looks totally “stupid” but in hindsight makes perfect sense. And his example was twitter.

    How does this article and the excerpt above fit together?

    • geraldfnord

      As a physics graduate student, I finally understood the importance of being able to readily say ‘I don’t know.’ and ‘I don’t understand.’—but too many outside that world confuse ‘ignorant’ and ‘stupid’….

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Jon Corzine* received his MBA from U. Chicago Business School then went on and had a happy career losing+ other people’s money. Perhaps an MBA is not the ticket one with no prior knowledge would assume.

    * Being sued now by unhappy coupon clippers.
    + Actually losing, his claim is he doesn’t know what happened to it. Begs the question: so what’s the 2% and 20% for? I can lose my own $ without charging myself management/profit fees.

    • Guest

      Brilliant commentary, funny, and unfortunately so true.

  • twenty_niner

    Get your MBA by actually going into business. You’ll either lose everything, but will have learned a lot about business. You’ll just tread water, but will have learned a lot about business. Or you’ll make it big and will have learned a lot about business.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Yep. If your own $ isn’t at risk you might as well just play video games. Hoober Doober

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Go and beggar your neighbor
    Go ahead and cheat a friend
    Do it in the name of Friedman*
    You’ll be justified in the end.+
    –AIG jingle

    * Uncle Miltie
    + Well, quarterly anyway

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    $300k! Goodness, you could get 10 real-world educations for that.

    • geraldfnord

      Nope, Caltech’s up to at least 10K,and most can’t hack it in but three years.

  • ToyYoda

    Regarding the section above talking about appearance.

    About 15 years ago, I browsed through a serious career book and it had a section on how to become a CEO of a company. It stated that the ingredients were to master debate and elocution, take an acting class, and have the ability to take other people’s credit.

    I concluded something I already suspected: Not all, but most CEOs are glib liars.

    Fast forward to today, and studies show that CEOs are have a rate of psychopathy 4 times higher than the normal rate. Psychopaths are known to be glib liars.

    It’s been my experience working at start ups in most of my career, that if they are not psychopaths, then they are “psychotic optimists”.

    There’s been many times where I have sat in company meetings where the CEO talks of sunshine and denies any rumors of layoffs. Then, a week later, we discover a “secret” lay off of a significant number of workers.

    • geraldfnord

      I’d call that last more ‘sociopathic optimism’, the optimism of someone who’d be optimistic if the rest of the world were consigned to Perdition but he would be well set-up…and get to watch.

      To hell with drugs tests for executives! we need mandatory Voight-Kampff testing.

  • J__o__h__n

    George W Bush has an MBA from Harvard.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      We find for the prosecution. Bailiff, lead the MBAer away.

    • TFRX

      Before GWB’s friends bailed him out the first time one could get more than their fill of glossy stroke books hard-hitting business magazine covers extolling the managerial wonderment of Saint Ronnie.

      Y’know, not needing to know or care much, intellectual curiosity charitibly described as “flatlining”, and succeeding by simply selecting good people and “managing” them.

  • geraldfnord

    I’d guess that close study of hierarchy mechanisms in Pan troglodytes chimp bands would be a good start.

  • AC

    that little fedex intro made me laugh. i do a lot of career fairs for my comp for new grads and its amazing how many are arrogant when they inform me they expect to be a manager. you have to work at my comp for 5 years before you even QUALIFY to enter our long program training on management…they huff and walk away!

    • J__o__h__n

      But surely knowing the latest jargon is more important than having experience.

      • AC

        all industry has specific ‘jargon’. and i learned none of it in my degree. to be fair, if you’re in a tech field, academic focus is on the math and physics. only when you get to the real word and see your expected to ‘produce’ something with that knowledge that it becomes clear there’s a lot you don’t know…..

    • geraldfnord

      See: a big part of why we tolerate a great deal at the top, a barely adequate deal in the middle, and a sh–ty deal at the bottom.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    You should know SNAFU, FUBAR, and OMG, too.
    –Bear Stearns Management Handbook

    • geraldfnord

      What about FUDD?

      (Which would make a great title for a remake of an old Bill Murray movie starring the Loony Tunes [or Merry Melodies] crew, preferably ending with Fudd’s snapping and blasting the Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, and all other such to Cartoon Sheol.)

  • Jim

    Save your money and get a CFA. Mba schools are for profit factories.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    “How To Get Ahead at the Unemployment Line.” Now available at my website. Hoober Doober

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Synergistic Integration.*
    –Timothy Geithner, 2013 Commencement Speech, HBS

    * That was it. Got his handshake/applause & went off to his next appearance.

  • ToyYoda

    I would want to get an MBA not for the knowledge, but for the connections.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Go to federal prison. Skip the queue. Hoober Doober

    • AC

      you’re better off joining a professional society in your field for that…

      • ToyYoda

        Well, I don’t need connections in my field. I need connections in finance, in HR, in marketing, in venture capitalists. That sorta thing. I know more than enough engineers; lots of engineers often criticize the “bean counters”, but most would be horrible at running a business.

        • AC

          i won’t disagree with that statement at all

        • The poster formerly known as t

          By “running a business “you mean managing other people through a combination of personal charm and intimidation.

  • ToyYoda

    Don’t need an mba. But what about this: Suppose, I want to start a company that does robotic surgery for the purpose of making medicine cheaper. I know nothing of robotics nor of surgery. I certainly don’t know if I can make a business of it. So, how would I convince VCs to give me the start up money to do this?

    • twenty_niner

      You’re not. Even if you had a PhD in robotics, you’d have to show up with a prototype (at least) that demonstrates some disruptive feature such as price or performance that could unseat the established players.

      Even then, VCs won’t be interested until you’ve gotten some Angel investors on board and one of your prototypes being used by a potential customer with that customer enthusiastically endorsing your product.

      • ToyYoda

        Yes, I know this. But, I wanted to know if the author has a blue print for something outrageous because lots of companies are started that way. For instance, zeppelins as a large cargo transporter.

        I had a specific example in mind that I heard in NPR. They had interviewed a CEO of a company with a “breakthrough” nuclear fission technology. The CEO had no domain knowledge of the tech, and since this would be a new kind of tech, he wouldn’t know how to run this kind of business either (although similar). And, you would need a ton of money for exploration, think of a startup pharmaceutical company. Yet this guy became CEO. How?

        • twenty_niner

          “Yet this guy became CEO. How?”

          Can’t speak to that case, but in general, for start ups, the CEO is the guy (or gal) with the overall vision for the company, is best able to execute the vision, and is best able to raise capital. If you can raise capital with BS and fun-house mirrors, more power to you, but I’ve personally yet to see this happen.

          • ToyYoda

            Yeah, I know all this too.

            Anyways, there’s a term in the start up world called “pivoting”. That is when you change the vision of the company. This happens more often than is appreciated. I’ve been at two startups that did this. One of them changed its mission statement 5 times. The book “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Horowitz talks about how he had to pivot several times in order to save his company.

            So, I really have to disagree that they have the “vision” of the company. They may have a really bad one. In fact, I’ve been to incubator conferences where some VCs say a vision will organically appear. Such is the startup culture paradigm shift due to “internet speeds”.

            Then there are examples I on bloomberg with CEOs being hired who have been transplanted from an entirely different field; luxury bag CEO going to a car company. A cereal CEO going to a steel making company. That sort of thing. Why not a car company hire a CEO from the car industry or an upstart from the car industry? These things are really peculiar to me, and I wish the author would address some of these things.

            I guess I agree with the author on the qualities the CEO needs. I am sort of on the fence about the need for an MBA, because I really believes its connections, and you can get that in prestigious schools, and I’m irked that qualities that make a CEO are the qualities that -I think- make for “low grade” person.

            Anyways, thanks for letting me vent.

    • hennorama

      ToyYoda — given that your idea is about 30 years old, with established providers, I doubt any VC would have even the slightest interest.

      • ToyYoda

        Well, there are companies starting right now that specialize in robotic surgery like Mazor Technologies that started recently. So, I disagree that there is no interest.

        Anyways you’re missing my point. It’s not *this* idea in particular; I am just throwing it out there as a hypothetical. I’m wondering how people land CEO jobs, when they don’t have domain knowledge nor business knowledge of the field.

  • Oh bummer

    Food Stamp Recipients Outnumber Women Who Work Full-Time

    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/food-stamp-recipients-outnumber-women-who-work-full-time

    I wonder how many of those ‘recipients’ have an MBA?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Exec. Compensation Committee: You did it. You impoverished the planet.
    Jamie Dimon, MBA: What’s my bonus?
    Planet Earth: What do you do for an encore?

    • geraldfnord

      J.D.: There might besome tube-vent worms on Europa thatcould evolve into something sapient in a few hundred millions of years…to the Stasis Chamber!

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    William Hewlett and David Packard, degrees in ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING, Stanford.

    Q.E.D.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
    –J. Wellington Wimpy, author Wimpy’s Law*

    * Taught at fine business schools everywhere.

  • Mariamirojohnson

    Today’s conversation brings to mind Father Guido Sarducci’s Five-Minute University:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Far too many people—especially people with great expertise in one area—are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge.
    –Peter Drucker, Harvard Business Review

  • AC

    i have to say; what’s he’s talking about can’t be across the board, is it? my mentor who just retired was THE nicest man, and respected world-wide. i can’t think of any of the big wigs i’ve met being that way.

  • ToyYoda

    The author talks about CEOs having brain defects. Tom, why don’t you raise my point about psychopathy to the author? I would really like to know what he thinks. It seems like the only thing that gets raised are one-sentence snarky comments that get a rise out of guests.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Wall Street Implosion, Explained

    Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails. This is The Generalized Peter Principle.*

    * Laurence Johnston Peter (September 16, 1919 – January 12, 1990)

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Jeffrey Skilling, Wharton graduate. GO TEAM!

  • The poster formerly known as t

    Why do we need all these new MBAs for? We actually need more small scale farmers and skilled trademen than arrogant blowhards, unsexy as that is. Is this an aspirational thing?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Andrew Fastow, MBA in Finance from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. GO TEAM!

    Don’t cry for Andy. He’s now on the pressed-chicken luncheon circuit.

  • Douglas Christian

    With many years in executive recruiting, I have seen how business school mantras, such as keeping the work force numbers low, have led to wild distortions that adversely affect business strategy:

    One common example are companies that lay off their permanent work force that know the company and hire temporary contractors for far more money per hour, so executives can report they have reduced the work force.

    Another example is Managing by Spreadsheet (MBS), which means that salaries are seen only a high expense, rather than the unique contribution the workforce makes. MBS, means research organizations lay off their researchers, as they are too expensive, which is ironic and stupid.

    • J__o__h__n

      Don’t forget making short term quarterly profits at the expense of everything else.

      • Douglas Christian

        Agreed.

  • J__o__h__n

    Is he funnier or wittier in the book? I didn’t hear much evidence of either.

  • Satwa

    I’m not for or against this argument but this is very parochial thinking. Many MBAs presumably go into all sorts of sectors, including running colleges and universities by the way. There are many MBAs working at colleges, not teaching but running the business side (they all have a business side.) Some go work for the UN, World Bank, Government, international non-profits. Not every MBA wants to be a CEO of a giant corporation.
    You need statistics to back up the claim that you don’t need an MBA, not just more anecdotal evidence from someone who made their money during the gravy train years, when all profit ultimately was coming from the future debt of the younger generation today. The arrogance of your guest is palpable, probably because he doesn’t have much education.

    • The poster formerly known as t

      MBAS=More administrative bloat. During the last 30 years we’ve seen more MBAs, because of centralization of power, and concentration of re wealth, but we haven’t seen better run institutions.

      • Satwa

        I disagree. Institutions are much better. They are not as male dominated, white dominated, they are not as elitist, old school buddies patting themselves on the back. They are more global, and less parochial. More intelligent. You are hankering for “the good old days” which never existed.

        • The poster formerly known as t

          Nothing has changed .

          There’s still a LOT of elitism and buddies looking out for each other. Global, sure. Global is larger. Larger, as we’re finding out doesn’t mean better, well, at least not better for the vast majority .Less parochial, sure with many businesses trying to redefine themselves as “service providers” or getting into finance (as lenders) or by being all things to all people by buying out their competitors. Power does the same thing to whoever has it in large organizations, male or female, black or white. Power perpetuates itself .

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Executive Compensation Committee Memo

    Take number of wives + girlfriends; multiply by $10M
    Take off shoes; count number of toes; multiply by $5M
    Take hands from neighbors’ pockets; count number of fingers; multiply by $5M
    Add $50M for something having to do with somebody’s performance
    Add $100M for squirts and giggles
    Sum and multiply by 1.75.

    Total = Average* CEO annual salary and bonus.

    * Not that any of these guys are average.

  • James

    Another example of the wonders of government intervention.

  • creaker

    The oligarchy is working to the point where they have everything and the rest of us have nothing.

  • J__o__h__n

    I learned more from the scant minutes with the second guest. Executive pay would have been an interesting hour.

  • Satwa

    You need statistics to back up the claim that you don’t need an MBA, not just more anecdotal evidence from someone who made their money during the gravy train years, when all profit ultimately was coming from the future debt of the younger generation today. The arrogance of your guest is palpable, probably because he doesn’t have much education.

    • twenty_niner

      Here are some stats:

      1) MBAs were invented around the turn of the 20th century.
      2) MBAs really didn’t pick up steam until after WWII
      3) The entire industrial revolution was built buy guys who didn’t have MBAs: railroads, steel, oil, radio, telegraph/telephone, electricity, steam power, autos, aviation, etc.
      4) Silicon Valley was built buy guys who didn’t have MBAs: Beckman, Fairchild, National Semi, AMD, Intel, etc.

      • tbphkm33

        I completely agree – MBA’s created things like the military industrial complex, the dysfunctional health insurance system, the industrial food supply that has left millions in poor health, etc. You are hard pressed to find “MBA” behind any visionaries or true leaders.

  • The poster formerly known as t

    Self esteem comes from competence, feelings of value to oneself or others. If you can’t earn a living, your self esteem would naturally be lower. If you are valuable you will be able to earn a living an have a higher sense of self esteem that comes from being able to provide for oneself and being of value to oneself and others.

    Unwarranted self-esteem is not going to be rewarded in the real world. As soon as people see that you can’t walk the walk…you are toast…unless you have some friends in high places who can “hook you up”.

  • George Williams

    According to DegreeRegistry. org , a general MBA can be obtained for as little as $6k and as high as $120k. If students would do a little research, they would find that it is not nearly as expensive to get a college degree

  • Ben N.
  • tbphkm33

    I have always found that if you really want to shoot for the top, don’t go the MBA way. The results tend to be too cookie cutting – great if you strive for becoming a mid-level functionary, bad if you want to go further.

    I work in international business development, small group, but we are responsible for over $1.5 billion in US exports every year. We have found that MBA’s are too constricted in their thinking and seeking to apply case studies to the situation at hand – realities that do not lend themselves to international business. To effectively compete in foreign markets it is essential to be able to look outside the box and draw upon a broad educational and experience background. For medium size manufacturers we end up cleaning up, or solving, issues created by their high flying MBA’s, who finally are humbled with the realization that they are not God’s answer to the world.

    MBA degrees are fine, if the student strives to be a clog in the wheel, go for it. If at all debating, chose your own path. Getting an MBA for a rubber stamp will not create satisfaction. That is akin to getting an MD because your parents pushed their whole life for that – you will not be happy or great in your profession.

    • ExcellentNews

      You think like this because you export goods and create US jobs. LOSER! You need to go into job outsourcing and importing goods made by slaves and sold on credit (at 0% introductory APR :). Do this, and the millions will pile in your Cayman Islands account faster than you can count. Now you see what you MISSED by not having an MBA.

  • tbphkm33

    For undergraduate, I attended one of the nations top liberal arts colleges – a school who’s alumni continue to gain easy admissions to business and medical schools across the country simply because of their writing skills. Every undergraduate class had a written paper component – even math classes. Before graduating, you were going to learn writing and research.

  • eoonline

    At first, I found the first segment, the scathing indictment of the MBA, amusing. I thought it was a belated April Fool’s joke. Only later in the segment did I realize that the author was trying to make an earnest argument (admittedly, tongue-in-cheek).

    First, I agree that an MBA is no guarantee of success. Notably, I’d agree with Mr. Bing/Schwartz insofar as I’m not a huge fan of someone who finishes their undergrad and then goes directly to B-school, expecting to land that prime job. Furthermore, many of my most exceptional team members do not have an MBA, so the business degree is not a necessary qualification (and given some MBA’s who haven’t succeeded, it’s not a sufficient qualification either). Notably, for some positions, I’m thrilled to find the enterprising liberal arts undergrad who knows how to form a cogent argument and communicate effectively, who I can teach the business/technical basics.

    But to dismiss the MBA so glibly reflects an ignorance of what it takes to build a business. It undervalues the true discipline of successful business leadership and management. For my leadership positions, I need people who can manage their P&L, (not, as Mr. Bing/Schwartz suggested, someone who learns how to b.s. their way through it). I need people who can actively be engaged in the business strategy, not people who focus on Dilbert-esqe office politics. Give me an enterprising liberal arts undergrad who, after a few years in business under their belt, goes back and gets a MBA, any day. Clearly, it’s the person, not the degree, that makes a successful leader, but it’s naive to dismiss the MBA out of hand.

    If someone is one of those rare entrepreneurial types, then perhaps an MBA might not be the right path for them. But hopefully they’re smart enough to surround themselves with a team of people who have the sort of grounding in business basics (through a mix of practical business experience and/or formal training) to make the enterprise succeed. To dismiss the MBA out-of-hand is facile.

    The opinions of this first segment strike me as the musings of someone that has never built a team, never built a business, never managed a dynamic enterprise. I get the impression that these positions were cobbled together by listening to tales of woe recounted by failed middle managers.

  • Satwa

    Yes, Warren Buffet was born into a political and financier’s family, and may have already met the President of the United States before he graduated high school. How many people have those insider connections from the get-go?

    • ExcellentNews

      About 10% of the oligarchy have a conscience (it’s a generic abnormality) They realize they owe their wealth to the work, sweat, and smarts of the rest of us. They realize the role of blind luck and privilege in “making it”.

      These 10% of the oligarchy do not fund Beverage Parties shilling for an inheritance tax cut. They tend to give most of their money back to the public when their life ends (and sometimes before).

      I wonder why you bring up Warren Buffet? Is it because he is of the 10%? Because otherwise, the Koch Brothers, Rupert Murdoch or King Faisal are better illustrations of the handful that decide life and death for the rest of us. MBA or not…

      • Satwa

        We don’t want their charity. We want them to stop thinking they are so great. They are all the same. Buffet may ‘try’ to good, but how can an idiot, who has done nothing in life except make money, ever have a brain that is able to do any good? If it works it would be by statistical chance only.

  • ExcellentNews

    You clearly do not need an MBA to start/run a good, successful business that contributes to society. Screw that, though. Without an MBA, you are hopelessly outclassed in the critical strategic skills of shilling, cronyism, bullying, peddling, bullshitting, misrepresenting, lying, fudging, character assassination…etc. Our oligarchy needs people that are professionally trained in these areas to finish off the American middle class and win the race to the bottom.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 23, 2014
In this Saturday, July 12, 2014, photo, migrants walk along train tracks and boxcars after getting off a train during their journey toward the US-Mexico border, in Ixtepec, southern Mexico. (AP)

Crisis at the US border. What do Latinos on this side of the border have to say? We’ll ask our special roundtable.

Jul 23, 2014
Actor Wallace Shawn attends special screening of "Turks and Caicos" hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on Monday, April 7, 2014 in New York.  (AP)

From “The Princess Bride” to “My Dinner with Andre “and “A Master Builder,” actor and writer Wallace Shawn joins us.

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Jul 22, 2014
Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, aka "Elephant Bill," is the hero of Vicki Constantine Croke's new book, "Elephant Company." (Courtesy Random House)

We’ll travel to the jungles of Burma for the remarkable true story of Billy Williams—aka “the elephant whisperer”—and his World War II heroism.

 
Jul 22, 2014
Smoke rises after an Israeli shelling at the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City, Monday, July 21, 2014. The top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signaled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional cease-fire with Israel, while Israel's defense minister pledged to keep fighting "as long as necessary," raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks. (AP)

The escalated Gaza offensive. We’ll get the views from both sides and the latest developments.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: July 11, 2014
Friday, Jul 11, 2014

As we prepare for a week of rebroadcasts, we reflect on Facebook posts, misplaced comments and the magic of @ mentions. Internet, ASSEMBLE!

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Two Former Senators, One Fix For US Democracy?
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

Former US Senators Tom Daschle and Olympia Snowe joined us today with a few fixes for American political inaction.

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Future Radio Interns Of America: On Point Wants YOU!
Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

On Point needs interns for the fall. Could YOU be one of them?

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