Per my meditation on Steve Jobs last week, I’ve been thinking about advanced business degrees and entrepreneurship.
Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal came out with a whole section on the value of MBA’s the day after Jobs’ death (October 6, 2011-Section B). In an article titled, “Is an MBA Worth It?,” reporter Melissa Korn interviews five students on the value of their degree. While these students were generally positive about their degrees, she points out that companies are significantly reducing their hiring of MBAs in favor of their less educated and elitely sculpted brethren. While the MBA may offer credibility across industries, may result in extra earnings, and should offer rich peer-level networking opportunities, corporations are becoming less sanguine about this accreditation–even among the most prestigious institutions like Wharton, HBS, CBS, Booth, Tuck, Kellogg, Fuqua, et. al.
Whatever the reasons for corporate caveats around MBA training, these caveats should apply in spades to MBAs for entrepreneurial leaders. While there is a real need for the traditional training in green-eyeshade strategic and practical orthodoxies and legacy business skills that can be easily slotted into corporate culture, I am quite agog at the proliferation of institutions that now are offering MBAs in entrepreneurship. I can see how they can teach you how to run an entrepreneurial company, but not to create one.
One of my clients at Corporate Rain International is a very successful multiple entrepreneur who actually teaches a course in entrepreneurship at Tulane Business School. I asked him frankly over dinner last year how in the world do you teach entrepreneurship? (I certainly couldn’t.) How do you teach originality? How do you teach personal vision? How do you teach stewardship of the larger universe your parvenu company is part of? How do you teach the passion for freedom? How do you teach the courage to fiercely fail and even fail multiple times? How do you summon sufficient hubris to slay the dragon of self-doubt each day and continue to create something out of nothing? How do you teach all that and many other non-quantitative intuitions? How do you bring love into the building of a company?
There seems to be a romanticism that has developed around entrepreneurship in our country. It’s cool to be an entrepreneur. But, I tell you, most of the successful entrepreneurs I know, including myself, are somewhat eccentric, if not downright odd.
So was Steve Jobs. Jobs created his own country, his own universe of meaning, his own private Idaho where he could live with freedom, passion, and love. It is no wonder it is a country many people want to live in with him. An MBA will not teach you how to create these things.
Whale ships, not MBAs, make entrepreneurs. Thank you, Herman–and thank you (again) Steve Jobs.