Common Sense and the MBA

Common Sense and the MBA

Wednesday 5th February 2020

We were a militant lot, as MBA students in the mid 1990's. I recall complaints about lecturers, about the facilities, even car parking (the GTi's needed looking after). The Professor, head of faculty, regularly had to perform, and use his 6ft 4ins rugby No.8 type physique to the full, to placate us.

We all felt righteous in our indignation at some elements of the course. We were the customer. We had written personal cheques, on registration, to pay for our tuition. Many of us had sacrificed our full time jobs in pursuit of knowledge. We had expectations.
But it was the Professor who had the last laugh.

On the day we graduated we congregated in the main lecture hall, just those who had collected their certificates, where members of the faculty made speeches of congratulations, wishing us the best for the future etc. Then came the "Prof".

He started in the same manner, congratulatory, and then proceeded to the challenges we had overcome, about the "opportunity cost" for those who had given up full time careers - and then came the "cannon" sign off.

"Of course you have given all that up, taken on the challenges, paid out a lot of money. You go on from here, and I wish you all the best, having learnt Common Sense" - that's somewhat paraphrased however the phrase common sense stuck in the mind.

I got to think about this, and, over the years got to understand this. What I had learnt was a language, and obtained a toolkit. That was it. A language that enabled me to speak with senior executives in a language that either they could relate too (if they had an MBA) or could see through the language to the underlying logic of my dialogue. The toolkit enabled a logical approach and could have been based on the "barrow boy entrepreneur" mind - an approach to commerce that was innate rather than structured as the toolkit was.

An MBA therefore teaches common sense. Those with common sense, and experience using it successfully, do well. Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson, Brian Cauldwell - to name but a few. Granted there are also MBA successes, but the point is made. Even Del Boys entrepreneurial approach has value!

So to those graduates (first degree), think again about loading up your student debt further by doing an MBA. Leave it a few years, apply some common sense, and you too could reach the heights. To those without a first degree, but with common sense, an academic education is not the "b" all and "end all". By the time you reach your 40's the playing field is flat - and academic record pails into insignificance compared to business track record.

My Dads advice in life was to "work hard, play hard". Mine is "work hard, play hard and deploy some common sense". Academic success is no guarantee of commercial success if you don't!