After two years of intense studying, writing more than 75,000 words, many exams, hundreds of hours of lectures and a fascinating expedition to Hanoi, Ian and I have finally formally graduated for my MBA.
When starting this journey, I asked myself whether I would be wasting my time. Well, it was not a waste of time – learned some interesting things; visited a fascinating city; met great people and did some interesting research. During my two years of intensive study I have, however, also cultivated a critical attitude towards the material touted as management theory.
One important aspect that seems to be forgotten in many management books is that running a business is first and foremost about the actual production process and provision of service. Management supports these activities, but cannot replace them. Studying management does, for example, not teach you anything about how to make the best horse saddles or provide world class healthcare.
If management theory is separated from what the business is about, the organisation can fall victim to fads that only achieve to alienate the people it is supposed to help.
Henry Mintzberg, copiously referenced in graduate schools around the world, is critical of the MBA phenomenon and argues that no education can teach intuition, creativity or insight:
Management is not a profession, nor is it science. It is a practice that depends mostly on craft and significantly on art. Craft is learned by experience. Art can, of course, be admired in a classroom–think of all the visionaries you read about in cases. But voyeurism is not management, either, nor does it develop creativity.
The Frugal Law Student refers to a New York Times article about the favourite books of the most successful Chief Executive Officers. Interestingly enough, they do not seem to read books like From Good to Great, Seven Habits of Effective People, Six Thinking Hats or any other self-help book. Their favourite books are fiction, poetry, philosophy and biographies. To become a good manager, it is important to be well rounded and read the classics.
The title of this post is inspired by the traditional Zen koan attributed to Zen Master Linji:
If you meet the Buddha, kill him.
What Linji is trying to say is that those who are on the road to enlightenment should ignore all their perceived conceptions of what enlightenment is. This also applies to the halo some people seem to apply to themselves after completing an MBA.
Now that I have been adorned with academic robes myself I will deconstruct everything I have learned at the Graduate School of Management and share my thoughts on lucidmanager.org. Ian and I invite you to join us and share your thoughts on this journey of creative destruction.