I have to confess that my personal MBA is the “Real Life” Managing the Basics of Actuality variety.
What’s significant to me is that I have mentored MBA students; most often in aligning a course assignment to resemble something in “Real Life”. I have mentored and consulted for many early stage companies, entrepreneurs and small businesses, and a couple of times I have actually looked at the curriculum of a college MBA course……each time thinking; I really should get the MBA credential, considering what I do. Each time though, it seems many of the courses I would probably be taking are what I already teach in “Real Life”.
Managing the Basics of Actuality is the “real life” MBA. In my on-going pursuit of more information, I asked for answers from five MBA-savvy individuals, all with first hand experience, and with very different perspectives and valuable lessons learned:
What was not taught as part of an MBA course, but needs to be learned as part of the “MBA of Life?”
While my MBA courses focused on the internal workings of finance, accounting and marketing, it did little to address the external workings of real people, specifically the art of business networking.
I’ve worked in Fortune 100 companies and start-ups and the ultimate key to success in most business situations is who you know — and then, who THEY know!
I learned this the hard way when two of my most important business mentors died unexpectedly within one year. Slowly but surely I watched as well-sponsored colleagues were placed in important jobs and high-visibility committees, by their executive champions. It was as if an experiment in business networking was unfolding before my eyes!
Today, the importance of network is amplified by the social web. For the first time in history we have the opportunity to connect with thought leaders around the world through free, real-time global communication channels. Those with the ability to tap into this resource will open an unprecedented world of opportunity. In today’s real world MBA, the first class I would teach is Twitter 101!
Alexander Conrad is on the board of advisers of Albers school of business and was my co-founder at emaidaASIA (a failed startup). I met Alex networking on twitter.
I recently read this bit below from Brad Feld …..it strikes a chord with me and leads me to some thoughts on failure and the ‘MBA of life.’
“Choose people over ideas: I have never regretted making new friends through an angel investment that failed. I have always hated working with people I didn’t like, or didn’t think were A+. It’s an easy filter – use it.”
I believe people who have a history of taking significant business risks with their own resources are often the best partners for entrepreneurial endeavors. This is not solely driven by the successes they’ve had, but also by the inevitable failures they’ve had along the way. There’s nothing quite like failing on your own resources as a learning catalyst to success. Learning from failures incurred when operating on OPM can be valuable too, but there is no better success criteria than learning from failures where your own resources are at risk.
Lisa Petrilli is an executive marketing consultant who received her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. She blogs at LisaPetrilli.com.
There are opportunities that arise when you’re immersed in an MBA program that simply cannot be replicated in the “real world,” and vice-versa.
In my case, my Leadership Class at Kellogg couldn’t prepare me – didn’t prepare me – for one of the most significant leadership challenges: talent management. Early on in my career I recognized a talent in one of my employees that was not being fully tapped in her current role. So I expanded her role – to her great delight – and gave her the opportunity to shine with more responsibility.
Unfortunately, the talent itself wasn’t enough to make her successful handling the added responsibility, and I ultimately had to be honest with her. I had to look in her eyes and tell her she wasn’t meeting expectations, reassign her, and then I had to find ways to motivate her to want to remain as an important part of our team’s vision.
It was a lesson I’ll never forget and one I never could have learned in my MBA program. The real test of ourselves as leaders comes when we look others in the eyes, and ourselves in the mirror.
I remember sitting in a dimly lit classroom one evening, a couple months into my MBA program. A gentleman in a suit was reading PowerPoint slides covering U.S. Code to a captive audience, many of whom were checking email on their laptops. A snowball of dissonance began rolling.
How might this information benefit my business?
OMG. I have so much I need to get done for my business.
Learning about running a business is keeping me from running my business.
The tiny snowball was now a massive, white boulder, hurtling down a sub-conscious, synaptic hill. I turned and faced it, arms outstretched as if greeting an old friend, and as the chilling tingle of revelation ran over me, I smiled, becoming one with it.
Some people like to know a thing or two about swimming before they get in the pool. I can dig it, but, to me, getting an MBA without running your own business is reading the instructions and leaving the Ikea furniture in the box.
I dropped out. No intentions of going back, either. The Real Life MBA is a product of action. To me, everything else seems like a roadmap to places everyone else has already gone. I’ve got a compass and a sense of direction. I’m looking to the future.
FOCUSING & PERFECTION
Blake Holland was a JD/MBA candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Law and Haas School of Business, when I interviewed him. A child of Silicon Valley, he is focused on Digital Media and Technology in the U.S. and Asia.
The classic refrain of “under-promise, over-deliver” falls on deaf ears in most MBA programs. In fact, students learn quite the opposite. We are encouraged to maximize our experience by getting involved in as much as possible, often at the expense of the quality of work we bring to each activity. This instinct to over-commit can get young professionals into real trouble.
In entry level positions, poor execution can be more damaging to one’s reputation than almost anything. Having a history of poor execution severely limits one’s ability to move up in a given organization. After all, if you can’t execute on the tasks you’re being assigned now, how can you be expected to perform at the next level? Perhaps there is value in growing by pushing our limits in our MBA programs, but that lesson must be tempered with the reminder that, once we step outside the safety of business school, we may need to force ourselves to focus and deliver perfection.
AND some more interesting reading: