MBAs: Helping or Hurting Your Brand?

March 17, 2009



Is a good
education the key to success? There is no doubt that reading, writing and arithmetic
are important to get ahead in the world. But what about a college degree? What
about a graduate degree? What about an MBA?


Whatever the
value of these degrees are, you can’t get a job in corporate America or Wall
Street without them. In particular, an MBA is the gateway credential into the
corner office. So anybody who wants to be a CEO, a CMO, a CIO or a president, a
vice-president, or a director of a company heads off to business school at age


particular, an MBA degree from Harvard, Kellogg, Wharton, Stanford, or a handful
of other top-tier schools almost guarantees graduates top job offers and a
bright corporate future.


But are these
business schools giving our future leaders the skills they need to succeed?


Judging from
the current economic crisis, something is amiss. Our companies, our banks, and our
government might have the brightest and most educated people in the room, but I
question their decision-making process. Most notably on Wall Street. With 40%
of MBA graduates going into finance, this sector is in the worst shape of all,
clearly something is wrong. What’s wrong starts with our business educational

Read this article from Sunday's NYT's which also asks what is wrong with our business schools.



First of
all, an MBA is not necessary for success. Many of the most successful people in
business never even went to or completed college, let alone business school.


visionaries and business successes like:

  • David Ogily
  • Bill Gates
  • Russell
  • Liz
  • Rush
  • Dave Thomas
  • Henry Ford
  • Richard
  • Barry Diller
  • Michel Dell
  • Richard
  • Larry
  • Anita
  • Sydney Frank


Second of
all, an MBA could be harmful. School teach scientific analysis and logical
reasoning. Students focus mainly on maximizing shareholder value often ignoring
potential risks and long-term effects. Long-term ideas like branding are frequently
dismissed or under-valued.


MBA schools graduate
analytical, left-brain thinkers are often unprepared to deal with the realities
of brands in the real world. What left-brain MBA students need to be taught is
the value of an intuitive, holistic approach. In other words, right-brain
thinking and marketing sense.


I wanted to
go in marketing so I thought about getting an MBA. But what I realized is
everything I would be taught in business school would be the opposite of the approach
that Al preaches. To get good grades I couldn’t argue with professors, I'd have to play nice and I knew I
would be miserable. But most kids don’t have the luxury of working with a
master marketer like Al Ries. So they go and get an MBA.


nothing wrong with an MBA. And there’s nothing wrong with logical, analytical
left-brain thinking as long as it’s combined with intuitive, holistic
right-brain thinking.


It takes
both types to make the world go round. It takes both types to manage the
affairs of a corporation, especially in the marketing department.


Too many
companies are missing the big picture. They’re focused on the trees instead of
the forest, on the short term instead of the long term.


Too many
companies don’t have a “vision.” They’re so busy running off in too many different
directions that they overlook the opportunity to develop a powerful brand that
actually stands for something today and tomorrow.


Too many
companies have boardrooms filled with only MBA graduates and left-brain thinkers. There is
no diversity of thought so bad strategies are followed by more bad strategies and are these days followed by a bailout.
To get these companies back on track, they need to invite in and listen to a
few right-brain marketers. Sooner rather than later.


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