MBA courses evolves with the season.. Especially in Europe!
The course begins in Spring.. It’s sunny and the air is fresh. We begin with applied disciplines like statistics, economics, financial accounting and few other “soft skills” courses like leadership, organizational behavior and managing across cultures. It’s all great… you realize suddenly “wow, I never thought about working capital as such a critical issue” or “wow, rights to private property is so important for an efficient economy” and you also tell yourself “wow, I’m such a great leader, maybe I don’t really need this MBA”… It’s the time for settling in, warming up. Bottom line, you are having a good time… Nothing heavy, yet there are some insights every so often which catch your attention… But then, the underlying feeling is “Yeah, I like it… but Is this it? Did I spend all that money for this?” :)
Then we enter the fall schedule. Days are becoming shorter and eventually there is hardly any light when you leave home at 8.55 AM (Classes begin at 9.00 AM) and there is even lesser light when you walk back home at 5.30 PM… Sunlight becomes a precious commodity. It’s a feast of a season for the cynics in class. “but” is the most used word in class discussions :)
We study functional disciplines like corporate finance, business law, human resource and business ethics… with some sprinkling of other applied studies like decision modeling and “soft” stuff like negotiation skill. The questions in class are filled with cynicism.. “really, is corporate finance that important, I mean you can twist the present value with small changes in risk premium”, “yeah, but you can never predict what motivates people… Maslow’s theory is nice… but”, and “ethics! sure Mr. moral high ground”… and then there are others who are from investment banking who go “you know, corporate finance is the single most important function which decides success”, there are folks from HR background who go “people are the most important assets.. I can’t believe MBA students fail to get this simple fact”… of course, there are others with strong principles that go “Wall mart, BP, McDonalds, Dove (those who market it) are all unethical… I think even Greenpeace is unethical”. So you know what is happening here, we look at these courses in silos… we are always thinking “OK, it’s all great… but I’m never going to work in HR department or in Finance… so, I’ll just skip this section”. Incidentally, this is the season for late night parties, overshooting your budget for beer, the creation of a brand new segment of students called “late comers” and poker nights :) On the other hand, you begin to build an illusion that since you have studied all those different disciplines, you know more than your ex non-mba colleagues and you are smiling at yourself thinking “of course I’ll land a fantastic job because I can now have a conversation with the HR director, the CFO or the Public relations manager in their own language”
And then begins the winter schedule… Now that we are past the shortest day of the year, light shows up again… Not just light… real sunshine (even when its -5 degrees)… its the time when you are not sure if there is hope or if its all downhill from here… here’s when the school sort of tells us… “Alright students, let’s talk real business now”, It’s time for strategy management, marketing management, innovation management, operations management, management accounting etc… Is it a revelation or what?!?! This is when you realize Management is an art not science… there is science behind each discipline just like there is science behind every note or sound… but there is no science to tell us which disciplines to use in different situation… you could be working on an innovation case and be needed to use statistics, managing across cultures, strategy, corporate finance, decision modeling and leadership all in the same case and in different degrees… it’s the time you feel… “It’s all coming together”… its the time you tell yourself “ah, that’s what the professor meant when he said (5 months back) that strategy follows structure”, it’s the time you rush back to your text book about that HR management, organizational behavior or corporate finance which you then believed you’ll never touch again, it’s the time to say no to every party invite you receive and it’s the time to get serious :)
It’s all coming together… I’ll simply have to wait to see what’s next… the bottom line at the end of September was “did I spend all that money for this?” and at the end of February (almost)… the feeling is “Wow, this is the best investment of my life”…..
There is still a long way to go in the MBA… If the economy continues to sink the way it currently is… I might change my mind… I’ll take the liberty to preach as I end this post :) MBA students have different objectives when they begin the year… some are here to be successful in their career, others are here to take a break from routine… some are here to have fun for a year… I’ve realized that the sole purpose of pursuing studies must be an uncompromising pursuit of knowledge. Yes, after the MBA, students will land good jobs, they will have had a lot of fun and a great break… but these benefits are only incidental… if these become the main purpose of pursuing MBA, students I believe will lose more than they gain. They lose that one opportunity to truly learn every day and make it a habit forever.