Q. You’ve written that you doubt the efficacy of MBA programs to prepare future business leaders. What would an effective MBA program look like?
A. The question is, what substance of business are you focused on? The conceit of the MBA is that you don’t need to have any substance at all. It’s just this management science, and you can apply that equally well in a software company or an oil drilling company or a fashion company or a rocket company. That’s the bias I’d want us to cut against. So for the degree, people would learn substantive things and then on the side you’d pick up some business skills. But you wouldn’t treat the business degree as the central thing.
I think one challenge a lot of the business schools have is they end up attracting students who are very extroverted and have very low conviction, and they put them in this hot house environment for a few years — at the end of which, a large number of people go into whatever was the last trendy thing to do. They’ve done studies at Harvard Business School where they’ve found that the largest cohort always went into the wrong field. So in 1989, they all went to work for Michael Milken, a year or two before he went to jail. They were never interested in Silicon Valley except for 1999, 2000. The last decade their interest was housing and private equity.
So there is something about the way in which business school is decoupled from anything really substantive that I’d want to rethink.