Here, Fresh Business Thinking puts two sides of an argument head to head, and leaves you to make up your own mind;


Too often, tangible benefits of structured business learning drown in a well of over-slick jargon and management mumbo-jumbo, turning potential applicants off before they’ve even started.

The anti-MBA lobby have it easy. Theirs is a dissenting, street-smart voice,
with a healthy wariness of ‘tick-the-box’ management, and a universal appeal which sells an idea well. It contrasts directly with the MBA’s academic style, which has produced great business people, but not-so-great PR. Seasoned,
self-made entrepreneurs are simply not impressed.

FOR; Stephen Koepplinger, AMBA Student of the Year 2005

Increasing the chance of victory

“If it’s not working, make changes” was the advice my father gave me. At 50, it wasn’t working for him, so he changed his career from selling cigars (which he hated) to starting up his own piano-tuning business.
My aspiration is to be a teacher/running coach, but I lacked the capacity to work effectively within the system, so I sought additional education and training to fill that void.
Training teaches one to do an existing job, while education prepares one to do a job that doesn’t currently exist. My training was an MSc in engineering and six years’
experience as a consultant. The MBA, on the other hand, has educated me to create a job that does not currently exist.
My father had no need for an MBA. He was looking for relatively small changes with relatively low risks. Changing an educational system, by contrast, will impact millions. My efforts cannot afford errors, let alone mistakes. My strategy must be robust and well-executed. I required the highest-quality education possible.
People who make a significant impact in their chosen field do so with a combination of well-thought-out strategies, luck and graft.
When I was a child, my older brother used to always win when we played backgammon. This was frustrating. Superficially, backgammon moves are controlled by the roll of a dice. He won because he knew the moves that increased his likelihood of victory. The MBA teaches the moves that leading managers make to increase their likelihood of business success.
Graft is the other major component of the winning receipt. The calibre of the
students on the course, and the real-life scenarios studied, highlight the amount of effort and dedication required to make an impact. The MBA taught me where the bar lies in order to qualify for getting a seat at the table.
If you’re looking to make changes, with a need to reduce the risk of any negative impact of such changes, then getting the strategy right is essential. The MBA will increase your likelihood of getting it right.

AGAINST; Dino Forte, Director, Converso Contact Centres

No substitute for experience

Since I started work straight from school, I couldn’t say that long-term study has played a major part in my career. That’s why I would question whether qualifications such as MBAs are necessarily all they are cracked up to be.
With regard to their value to business, I think it’s a case of horses for courses. I’ve
certainly no regrets and have recognised the ability to spot a business opportunity, react to it, and then learn the hard lessons that come with it, which gave me a better grounding for success than anything I could have learnt from textbooks.
The key problem that MBA graduates need to overcome is how they are perceived by smaller to medium-sized businesses.
An MBA appears to be simply a ‘must-have’ qualification, taken by sharp-suited,
introspective, career-focused individuals who use the latest jargon and theories of current management gurus to impress colleagues, and progress up the corporate ladder. Although this view may be unfair, it is nevertheless one that prevails.
In my opinion, business qualifications, including MBAs, can make a very valuable
contribution. They can provide insight, fresh thinking and the knowledge to look beyond the boundaries of the existing business situation.
But... an academic qualification is only part of the ‘tool kit’ required to be successful in business. It merely supplements other attributes such as determination, creativity and, most importantly, experience. When I’m looking for new employees, these are the qualities I look for first. If they have an MBA, so much the better, but on its own I wouldn’t be convinced.
More than 80 per cent of our management staff are recruited from within, which means they must prove themselves first.
A paper qualification cannot replace experience, and without personal drive and soft skills that can’t be taught, it brings minimal value to an entrepreneurial company that primarily needs people to think on their feet and react to situations as they develop.