MBA? Or Master of Barely Anything?

Emerging in to the light from a three-year tunnel of studying an MBA whilst working in a demanding full-time job inevitably begs the question “was it worth it?”

What did I sacrifice and what did I gain? Well I obviously I sacrificed any notion of holidays and a social life, but this simultaneously made it easier to save capital to invest. The real question is what value came from the MBA itself? Although an MBA from a Russell Group/Ivey League university is no longer the golden ticket it once was, it is still a useful trinket on one’s CV. But the chorus asking “of what practical use is it?” steadily grows. A construction consultancy I worked in five years ago held MBA’s in almost outright disdain as having no practical value whatsoever, not helped by the completely unjustified sense of superiority the holders of MBAs often had and the jaw-clenchingly cheesy MBA jargon they took delight in spouting. Despite this, I decided to pursue one because my first degree was a technical one and I thought having a broad spectrum of business theory could only help me as an investor.

First up was strategy, which I looked forward to because I thought it might give me some insight in to determining the companies with a durable competitive advantage. Despite many weeks exploring the depths of ‘classical’, ‘evolutionary’, ‘processual’ and ‘systemic’ strategy, I couldn’t help feeling as though I had gained no advantage over Warren Buffet’s excellent five minute explanation of strategy I had going in to the course.

Next up was International Business, a module I truly enjoyed because it explored the relative mechanics and merits of alternative political and economic systems. I also got to write an essay on the causes of the global financial crisis (which was not only fun, but gained me a superb mark!).

However, following this, it became a slog. Marketing was mildly interesting in the context of learning how to trigger an irrational desire within humans for something they do not need (the cornerstone of my holding in Coca-Cola), but I had already picked up everything I essentially needed to know about Finance, Operations, Organisational Behaviour and Supply Chain Management either through reading or through work. I can see why people might require an MBA if they have come from a purely technical or creative background, but I can’t see how it produces an advantage to those who already have knowledge or experience of business.

I could not help thinking that much of the MBA is about conceptualising common sense. This may be a detrimental view. But then again as we all know, common sense is not that common…


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