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Is this MBA education’s Kodak moment?

Source | LinkedIn : By Praveen Suthrum

With $16 billion in revenues and tens of new products, Kodak’s value to the world was unquestionable at its peak in the 90s. None of its executives foresaw the company going bankrupt in less than 20 years because of the digital camera.

Ironically, a Kodak engineer invented the digital camera back in 1975 but his bosses shut him up.

Several industries have experienced their Kodak moments by ignoring a changing world. 

Music was changed by iTunes. Retailing and books by Amazon. Auto by Tesla. Hotels by Airbnb. Taxis by Uber. Technology infrastructure by Amazon Web Services. But unlike with Kodak and photography, industries are transforming faster than ever before.

We seem to be in the midst of MBA education’s Kodak moment.

Top MBA education limits itself to a very small pool of students with high academic and test scores, an ability to express in English, and means to pay over $100,000 in fees and expenses. This limited pool is taught management case studies and frameworks in a classroom format that has repeated itself decade after decade.

Once selected, students feel obligated to seek high-paying jobs that justify the time and expense towards earning an MBA. Many seek careers in investment banking or consulting, which they promptly leave after 2-4 years realizing that it’s not really what they had expected.

When MBA schools compete, they compete with themselves – top schools compare themselves with each other but never outside the MBA world. Several publications contribute by creating rankings based on various considerations – from what recruiters think to how much students get paid after graduation. Most MBA schools align their activities to do well in these rankings.

Just like Kodak in the 90s, the MBA ecosystem is locked in a world of its own.

MBA professors love citing examples from Amazon on how the company not only disrupted itself but also the publishing industry by launching the Kindle. But most are shy to disrupt their own classes by going online and extending themselves to a wider world.

They fail to notice that people are skipping GMAT altogether and taking their money elsewhere. Thousands are seeking Management 101 via trendier content like Six Months to Six Figures for $79 or The $250 Marketing Plan for $39. Many others opt for the month-long altMBA that runs five times a year and costs $3,000 in fees.

Udemy, Lynda (owned by LinkedIn), CreativeLive, Teachable have democratized management education by tapping into a market cold-shouldered by traditional MBA programs.

Unlike edX or Coursera, these companies are creating management professors out of everyday professionals. They’ve broken courses down into chewable chunks and digestible dollars, making them accessible to everyone.

Specialized content, such as emerging technologies from Singularity University or creativity from IDEOU, eats into the Executive MBA pie.

I purchased a Kindle soon after its launch in 2007. For a while I read all my books through the device. But then I started buying paperback again.

Years later, I seem to have settled into reading several books on paper and a few others on Kindle. I’m sure am not alone.

Amazon didn’t cannibalize its market. They expanded it.

The world is changing. Fast.

Soon, 40% of the US workforce will be made up of freelancers. AI will begin to compute better than rookie consultants. Robots will replace the average industry worker who at an earlier time needed managers.

Advances in 3D printing, drones, Internet of things, virtual reality, synthetic biology and genetics will need management thinking of a different kind. It’s not a world that traditional MBA programs are ready for.

MBA programs have transformed countless lives, including mine. It brought structure to my thinking. Gave me confidence in my leadership abilities. Helped me form an invaluable network of friends and colleagues.

Read On…

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