Does an MBA Degree Prepare Graduates for the Real World?: MBA News |

Does an MBA Degree Prepare Graduates for the Real World?: MBA News

By QS Contributor

Updated May 29, 2018 Updated May 29, 2018

Top MBA employers are finding that an MBA degree doesn’t prepare candidates for a real world business environment that is constantly changing, according to Leading in Context, a report from Duke Corporate Education which canvassed the opinions of 40 CEOs in 2013.

This is particularly the case in the areas of problem solving, the ability to connect different aspects of business, holistic thinking and the courage to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity; all essential traits top MBA employers look for.

Terence Tse and Mark Esposito, writing in The Financial Times in reaction to the report, believe that there are three reasons for this dissatisfaction.

Firstly, that teaching to an MBA degree is increasingly disconnected from the real world, with standardization leading to the issue becoming widespread, as business schools seek to attain or retain accreditation. This leaves very little scope for exploring alternative, innovative teaching methods which could potentially equip candidates more effectively.

Secondly, professors lack real-world business experience. While academic research contributes to the cause of accreditation and underpins career progression, few incentives are on offer to encourage professors to gain experience through consulting work.

And finally, academic research is overly theoretical with only limited practical application. 

Top MBA employers face increasingly tough business environment

The Duke Corporate Education report suggests that we are living in an increasingly interdependent world that has “untethered many of the assumptions and beliefs that leaders have depended on to frame their leadership context”.

Leaders have found themselves facing an unpredictable environment where their ability to foresee problems is severely constrained. Problems have become more multidimensional and their solutions more complex and corporate, hierarchical power is not proving entirely suitable to this new environment. This is why the need for confidence to make decisions in uncertain environments, holistic thinking and problem solving are increasingly valued by top MBA employers, and why any failure of the MBA degree to adapt to these needs is ever more problematic.

Creative teaching to MBA degrees aims to address issues

At some schools, efforts are being made to change the paradigm. Jack McCarthy, professor of organizational behavior at Boston University’s School of Management, is connecting business with music performance (jazz musicians) to help students better understand teamwork, creativity and shared leadership, reports The Financial Times

“[The performance] is a metaphor for the work we do today…yes there are structures for how we get things done, but to truly be creative we need to build from others in the ways that jazz musicians do,” he believes.

Professor Robert Sullivan, current dean at the Rady School of Management (UC San Diego) introduced an acting class at the Tepper School of Business (Carnegie Mellon University) when he was dean there “to help students get comfortable in their skin and manage their nervousness…communicate and get people engaged”, reports the same article.

Whether or not the bold new teaching incentives utilized in MBA degrees – particularly at schools that are not among the global elite – will make the difference in a complex business environment remains to be seen.

QS research – which looks at the opinions of 4,300 global employers, suggests that top MBA employers want more from their employees in terms of soft skills, although they are satisfied with the leadership skills they possess.

This article was originally published in April 2014 . It was last updated in May 2018

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