There is an old joke that asks how you know that someone has an MBA. The answer is quite simple: they will tell you – usually in the first few minutes of meeting them.
You may see this as arrogance but in reality an MBA is a hard, tough and complex study in which you dive into a range of disciplines, in some depth and learn how organisations move from ideas to their full potential. People call attention to this qualification because it was hard work and stretched them to achieve more than they ever though possible.
Imagine studying a degree that claims to touch the most important aspects of organisational management and that must serve as the workbench for people managing organisations of all sizes. While most Masters degrees only tackle one subject, the MBA tackles typically 14 subjects and a research dissertation.
And while many organisations want to relegate an MBA to a professional degree – in reality it is the passport to doing and understanding the world of business, yourself within it and also to ask important questions around purpose and how to achieve it. An MBA is the key to becoming a professional manager and is a must for anyone that need to build a broad understanding of management self, teams and organisations.
Right now the debate is if it still relevant to have an MBA? To establish this argument, it is important to ask if you would want someone to act as a manager that does not have an MBA? So many times people make decisions that have a complex impact on an organisation, without the necessary background to understand that impact. At least in an MBA you learn about the interconnectedness of various disciplines in an organisation as well as the ability to at least research and develop plans and strategies to execute on the change that you want to see. It also gives you the tools to manage that change, understand the financial impacts of what you are doing and at the same time grow teams that have meaning and purpose.
In a modern age the MBA has become a basic entry level requirement to do business in many industries – and has moved from being an elite, best only qualification – to a must have that every person that is running an organisation can benefit from. Some organisations insist that they will only hire MBA graduates as entry into a range of disciplines including management, sales, strategy and finance.
The challenge is that organisations are looking for more specialised MBA’s and individuals are also looking for ways in which to go through the MBA experience in more life-style oriented ways. Evening classes, weekend classes and 1 year MBA options are becoming attractive as more people want to have the experience of an MBA.
A typical MBA course is a short introduction by a lecturer, a read through a study guide and text book, to take you through the main areas of the topic, lectures, videos and a tutor to guide you through your learning. This all works towards an assignment, in which the student typically produces about 20 pages of well-researched content on the key questions that are presented for this module. The module culminates with an exam that tests your knowledge across the whole area and that assures that the learning outcomes have met. All this is facilitated through extensive quality assurance, academic rigour and at a relatively fast pace. Before you know it the next module is on you and you have to push ahead to keep on delivering and not to fall behind.
MBA’s are also about other factors. Food, fun, networking, alumni and the life experience of research, projects and hard work all contribute to the equation. You build lasting friendships and relationships and alumni always help each other. Being an MBA student is a rare opportunity to share ideas with other likeminded people that all want to challenge themselves to run their own lives better and to be better managers and leaders. You share values, perspectives and approaches and you are always willing to respect someone that has an opinion. What makes the MBA different is that it is real. You do not only talk about change in organisations – but you see the opportunity to change organisations through your day-to-day actions.
You also get to test business models, in the incubator of sharing it with others that can analytically and spiritually add value to those ideas and theories. It is a safe space where you both give and get and as long as you are open to possibilities – you may find great ideas there. It is an opportunity that both challenges your rational thinking and also inspires you to think bigger. You challenge yourself to find out more and sometimes the journey in seeking an answer leads into a side investigation that gives a totally new perspective.
The research journey is also one that is quite fascinating. After doing 2 years of theoretical and applied studies – you get to take those ideas into a topic and formulate a study to the real world. In many ways this is a journey of self-discovery because you have to prove something that you believe it. By pushing through to the other side you achieve a monumental project and it would be rare to find a student that has completed a research study that is not willing to tell you all about it and to know what it is to finish such a project. And the skills learnt in this process serves as a prototype for taking ideas and turning them into reality.
Recent studies have shown that the return on investment equation is important in the MBA decision. If you study an MBA, people expect to earn higher salaries and get better jobs. This type of behaviour is possibly sullying the situation because as with all studies – you can only make someone better if they are actually hard workers and make the most of an opportunity. Just because you have a degree – will not mean that you will necessarily be better at what you are doing. At least at some level though, academic institutions can certify that you have reviewed and worked through a subject at a level that is necessary to achieve a full understanding of the subject and through good academic design you end up achieving a full understanding of the relationships between different subjects.
So the MBA is a journey, possibly unlike other journeys, and one in which people can really find out more about themselves and their worlds and how to make an impact on it. Are you ready to challenge yourself to do an MBA?