It costs a lot of money to go to business school. I think its bloody not worth it for most true entrepreneurs. To put it bluntly, business schools are old fashioned, out of touch, arrogant, and greedy. And their cost continues to grow in juxtaposition to their increasing irrelevancy to fast-moving business reality.
Note Carl Schramm, former executive director of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, has been railing for ten years that "Business schools are failing. They are still basing their curriculum on the old economy.....You can go to business school and work hard, but be in no way ready to start your own business." (You Tube, 10/31/06 to present) He's right. Yet business schools compete with each other with vociferous claims to teach entrepreneurship.
It is not that what business schools purport to do is not needed. Quite the opposite. There is constantly increasing international demand for corporate leadership and good management. Indeed, more than 12,000 institutions worldwide now deliver some form of higher business education, according to The Economist. But for the incipient entrepreneur, tutelage in the current business academy may even be counterproductive in a world where the only constant is change.
So, by what right do I as a small businessman who never went to business school say this? I say it because I care about the viability of entrepreneurship as an ongoing institution. And note that even among corporate managers, the salient business leadership skills are changing.
Because of falling applications, business schools have tried to present a more piquant and cutting-edge face to stay relevant. So they claim to teach the culturally cool subject of entrepreneurship. But the tenured professoriate of the business academy is no longer in touch with our brave new emerging business world.
I have written often about entrepreneurship as artistry. To put artistry back into business teaching, business schools first and foremost must put philosophy, psychology, religion, ethics, and the humanities back on the front burner. They have to train businesspeople in meaning before teaching the proper management of the P&L. The millennial workforce looks for leaders of vision and authenticity, undogmatic managers who are attuned to the "we" of business leadership and not just the bottom line.
Business schools need to train their students more like social workers and poets. Perhaps a serious new business curriculum should start with a full year of nothing but the "why" of business. A new generation of workers seem to want a clearly delineated purpose from any business entity they work in. They want their work to be a function of love, as well as lucre. This can only come from business leaders who have deeply pondered what they believe and who they are and what is their place in the world.
The world's bullshit meter is more finely-tuned than in the past. Successful business leaders must become known for their authenticity, global perspective, creativity, and comfort with chaos.
This is not just granola hippie impracticality and madness. It is business selfishness. The very practical success of cutting-edge autodidactic business leaders like John Mackey, David Neeleman, Elon Musk, Danny Meyer, Tony Hsieh, Kip Tendell, Steve Jobs, et. al., in their variegated ways, is the future. What academic institutions need to do is find an institutional way to bottle the elixirs of insight coming increasingly from the ranks of entrepreneurship itself, not the sylvan groves of the traditional business academy.
All this said, I do feel there is a place for business school training for the entrepreneur. Take David Smith, CEO of four-time Inc. 500 honoree TekScape and a fellow member of the Inc. Business Owners Council in NYC. He recently completed the first leg of a three-year program at Harvard Business School called OPM (Owner President Manager). Dave has been pretty much an autodidact until now. He never even went to college. But he has found reentering this educational program with his peers (business owners grossing $10 million to $2 billion) enormously enriching. (It's also exhausting--they go from 7:30-10:00 six days a week. David describes it as "living like a monk for a month per year.")
The group of business Alphas does the traditional HBS case study method, three per day for a full month. That sort of training makes sense for an extant entrepreneur who knows where she is going. But to say a two year MBA can turn a student into an entrepreneur is fulsome nonsense.
As Herman Melville put it in Moby Dick, "A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard." Whale ships, not MBAs, make entrepreneurs. Thank you, Herman.