Sunday, November 7, 2010

Business School Perceptions

Recently, I came across a link to a NPR show 'On Point' which hosted Dean Blount (Kellogg), Dean Noria (HBS) and Dean Lyons (Berkeley Haas). The show addressed questions such as what Business schools can do to help reboot the American economy.

The show was fascinating - the big question was why do 60% of students go into Finance or Consulting (myself included)? And are these students doing nothing but the same financial engineering, and over-priced consulting 'value add' that doesn't get the economy itself? I have some counter-arguments:

1. While you might not like finance and consulting, they are essential parts of the economy. Financial services are needed for smoothly functioning capital markets, access to capital for entrepreneurs, loans etc. Yes, there are a lot of people making loads of money for what seems like little value-add, but the simple answer is, these services are essential. Should compensation for bankers go down in the long run? Perhaps they should - or perhaps compensation for successfully building businesses should go up to match that. What about consulting? The fact is that it is an essential, and often, immensely valuable service for large companies. Consultants help these companies complement their existing talent pool, bring in expertise from outside the company, and a much needed outsider's perspective. Are there wasted projects? Of course there are. But there is waste everywhere - manufacturing, startups etc.

2. Second, one must look through not just where B School grads go immediately after school, but also, what they do later in life. So many ex-consultants and bankers end up as key executives in large companies, or as Entrepreneurs and investors in Startups. These professions are great in helping people 'polishing' several skills. Do they teach people how to launch and build companies? No, but they can complement existing skills that people come in with.

While the show itself was interesting, what was more interesting was the comments that people left on the website. Take a look at some of them.

"My impression of the kids coming out of business schools today is that the business they are taught is not how to make a good product, how to sell it, or provied good business service but instead are being taught how to weed every little percentile out of their customers which doesn’t provide good business.

No one is interested in manufacturing or making anything – just passing that piece of paper or bundle of mortgages and credit card debt around and around like magical chairs until the last person holding gets burnt.

"I don’t have much respect or confidence for our business school graduates today."

"Many of our finest insightful and innovative economists have commented that business education is more of a problem for our economy than an advantage. (ex:Tom Hudson,Nouriel Roubini, Ravi Batra) Ann’s remarks about financialization describe their critique well. Why are we wasting so many education dollars on business degrees that turn our talented students into brainwashed predators in service to oligarchic interests? People who needed some accounting and management training used to attend inexpensive business academies, and leave their ethics intact. I was dismayed recently when exposed to the financially and ponzi oriented business propoganda being spouted at, of all places, the YMCA. Father and sons slave-catchers was about the limit, I’d thought. The lottery mentality (as taught MBAs) is driving us all crazy and keeping us from desperately needed real work."

"So, 5% of HBS is “solving important problems” — but the other 95% are figuring out how to swindle America: Goldman Sachs et al Cabal (see Baseline Scenario and other blogs), A.C. Nielson on-line data “scrapers” and J&J, Merck and pharma-cons. C’mon, Tom, ask some pointed questions and force the HBS Dean and GS “education leader” to get off their talking points. This is not informative at all."

You get the point. But this made me think: is this what the 'rest' of America thinks of B Schools? Or is there a self-selection bias on who leaves comments on this blog? Ah, I wonder...

1 comment:

  1. I like your point no. 2 in defense of B school grads and how they add value in long term. Thanks for this informative article!