Henry Mintzberg: MBAs Aren’t Fit to Manage

Business professor Henry Mintzberg of McGill has a new and critical book out on MBAs and business schools in general. Here are some typically Mintzberg-ian quotes from “Managers, not MBAs” :

“Trying to teach management to someone who has never managed is like trying to teach psychology to someone who has never met another human being.”

“The dangerous people, especially in this hyped-up society, are … those whose confidence exceeds their competence. These are the people who drive everyone else crazy. MBA programmes not only attract significant numbers of such people but encourage their tendencies.”

I’m admittedly no fan of traditional business schools nor traditional MBA factories, but here are two comments, the first made by the author of an FT piece on the book, and the second my own:

  1. If MBAs are value-destroyers, as Mintzberg argues, as opposed to merely being empty degrees, then the market will take care of itself — eventually. After all, markets work (mostly), and easily-identifiable people who suck value out of companies perpetually are self-refuting.
  2. A long-time business professor who professes distaste for MBAs is more than a little incongruous. Granted, perhaps he think this is a good position from which to effect change, but an easier interpretation is that Henry has found a convenient synecure from which to cynically send self-elevating criticisms.

 

Related posts:

  1. Henry Blodget, Michael Lewis, and Vampires
  2. How Not to Manage the Press
  3. Slate Hires Henry Blodget
  4. No (more) hedging for Blodget
  5. Value of MBAs: $-250,000

Comments

  1. Sami Kohan says:

    I think these comments apply more to b-school profs than students. Most management professors haven’t managed a thing in their lives wheras most students have some business school experience. My management classes were essentially a either A) a waste of time and/or B) A very expensive game of buzzword bingo

  2. Paul K says:

    That is fair comment. You might change Henry’s musings to, “Someone who has never worked outside of academia teaching management is like someone who has never left the house teaching psychology.”
    It is a constant source of amazement to me how business schools remain (arguably) the only professional school where research & teaching lag practise. The point was driven home to me again recently in reading Howard Schulz’s memoir about starting Starbucks.
    At one point Schulz recalls how he was frantically looking to find out the latest thinking on some issues related to running growth companies. He mentions talking to consultants, analysts, other executives, and board members, and reading widely, but nary a mention of reading the latest research.

  3. Matt Stoller says:

    If MBAs are value-destroyers, as Mintzberg argues, as opposed to merely being empty degrees, then the market will take care of itself — eventually. After all, markets work (mostly), and easily-identifiable people who suck value out of companies perpetually are self-refuting.
    Well, that depends. If markets incentivize companies to hire people whose confidence exceeds their competence and who use political connections to compensate, then no, markets don’t work.