Derek Bok, the 25th President of Harvard, famously said: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” What we need is more business education, not less!
“Try ignorance” though said in a different context has become more relevant in the present scenario. A leading Japanese multinational, which is into electronics and infrastructure, systematically, breeds high levels ignorance in their staff right from the stage of initiation, simultaneously imparting highest level of knowledge in the area of their work. I was surprised to find a senior Japanese technician totally ignorant about his company info like turnover, manpower count, he didn’t even know the name of his chairman. He innocently admitted that he only remembered the person he reported to, and people who reported to him. Yet he had contributed constructively to the infrastructural aspects of the power plants, his company built in many countries.
Now compare this to a senior executive from west. He will not only remember everything about his chairman (down to the scandals). He will give you all info (including personal) about other heads like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet et al.
Now how does it affect the performance? It does I feel
Now brain like any other data storage system has a fixed capacity for storage. You can only recall what is stored. If you store irrelevant stuff, you are left with a very limited space to store the stuff relevant to your work .It may be enough to carry you through normal times, but not during crisis situations. Japanese realized this early, and the results are there for all to see. A badly battered World War II country rose like phoenix to become the world’s leading economy within two decades.
Who is to blame?
Every one in the establishment, especially those in B-Schools. In order to make themselves relevant, they teach a lot of irrelevant things. A better part of my life has been spent making the students unlearn things not relevant their jobs.
“Mintzberg, a professor of management at McGill University, and a known B-School baiter says that the idea of a foundational education at or near the beginning of a managerial career is fatally flawed. It’s not called the “practice of management” for nothing, he says, and you can only learn the nuanced lessons of management by managing.”
He adds, “.You wouldn’t send a doctor out to practice without years of study; why a manager? Because most of the things a manager needs to know–whether that’s how to motivate people or assess a balance sheet–are context-specific, he says, and not universally applicable. Yes, a manager needs to understand the basics of finance, but that is best learned in a real-world setting. Furthermore, an MBA degree gives graduates a false sense of their capabilities, which can cause tremendous harm to an organization.”
It’s a strongly a contra view–but in this environment, one that suddenly seems a bit less radical.
Where is the solution?
Turn to east & orient; adopt their proactive ways of recruitment and training. Select specialists (Masters) in the related field, rather than management generalists. Impart job specific intensive customized training and keep updating their knowledge to get results. US multinationals in India have already started that practice they are picking students from high schools & undergraduate colleges and grooming them into successful executives. One of the US multinationals had tied up with a university to impart education customized to its job needs. It sponsored the education and absorbed the students after completion.
Either reform the B-School curriculum to make it industry or scrap them altogether.
You don’t need a MBA to create economic crisis. It should be focused towards effectively manage one.
Before concluding, I am tempted to narrate another incident about another senior Japanese techie. My friend wrote to this man to get a car stereo, whenever he came to India next. The man wrote back. “Ok I will get the car stereo, but what about the car.” It took a while for my friend to understand the message. Now the perception of the Japanese was, to get a car stereo, you had to buy a car, pluck the stereo out, and…. What to do with the car? Now he could be excused for the ignorance of the fact that car stereos were available separately in the market. Because this ignorance led to the expertise in his own field.