The myth of the well-rounded MBA, part 2

In my previous post, I stated that the Duke CCMBA program has met or exceeded my expectations on all fronts.  I’ve met a lot of great people, improved my technical skills, and traveled to various parts of the World.  But the question still remains, “Am I learning everything that Fuqua is intending me to learn from this program?”  For that matter, “Is the Fuqua ‘Leader of Consequence’ vision for their MBAs the right vision?

Last week, I read an article on titled, “Trying to Create a Well-Rounded MBA”, which pretty much summarizes the Fuqua vision of the MBA degree.  At the same time, Forbes admonishes business schools in the U.S. for lagging behind European schools by not taking a more active role in cultivating well-rounded, broadly educated leaders.  Since we’re already pointing fingers, I’d like to admonish Forbes for their admonishment of U.S. business schools without doing the proper research and highlighting Duke as a positive example of their opinion in the article!

All kidding aside, one of the major tenets of the CCMBA program is learning about the how and why business operates differently throughout the world, not just the technical components.  The conduit for this learning is supposed to be our Culture, Civilization, and Leadership (CCL) class, which has the class analyze different cultures, make short films, and write papers about the business climate at each of our residency locations.  But interestingly enough, it’s not the CCL class where I feel I’ve learned about different business climates and cultures.  The single, best source of my learning about culture and business around the world has been through casual conversations with my classmates (and by extension, this blog).

Maybe I’ll have a breakthrough from the CCL class after the third residency, but probably not.  That’s more of a style/class format issue than a substantive one.  But the bigger question, “Should the MBA be more like a liberal arts degree?”, is a question I would answer with a resounding “No!”  With MBA programs being so short and concentrated, I don’t see the value in discussing Don Quixote,  as is apparently done at ESADE.  If anything, I think the MBA degree should become even MORE technical, given how computers have changed how business is conducted around the World.  With decisions happening at several billion cycles per second, you better know WHY the computer is saying what it’s saying.

I think the onus is on the individual to decide to be more well-rounded after leaving business school (and perhaps even before arriving).  I think business schools, as Fuqua has done, should set an environment that is conducive to learning about other cultures.  However, I disagree that business schools should try to force cultural or liberal arts learning on the students by distilling such broad topics into easy-to-swallow chunks.  The best opportunity for learning about different cultures is from your classmates, but it’s up to each of us to open our ears and minds to what they are saying.

So to answer the first question, of this second post, I do think I’m learning what Fuqua intends me to learn from this experience, albeit indirectly through my classmates.  I also think that the CCMBA is definitely a technical education; we don’t spend a whole lot of time waxing philosophic about what ‘could be’ around the World…we do that in our free time on this blog!  And Ian, you’re not going to convince me that socialism works…but I challenge you to keep trying!

To wrap this up, I’ll conclude the series discussing why I feel the Fuqua vision of ‘Leader of Consequence’ ideal is the right one for future leaders in business.


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3 comments to The myth of the well-rounded MBA, part 2

  • Syed Husain

    I agree, an MBA program needs to be technical in nature. It’s what separates the top MBA programs from the mediocre ones. There certainly has to be an element of the liberal arts to help with the emotional IQ part of being a manager but the numbers need to add up for you to have a business. It doesn’t matter how well rounded you are if revenue At the end of the day you are hired to improve the bottom line, everything else may not be irrelevant but it is 2ndary.

  • Stacey Greenberg

    I really enjoyed reading your take on the CCMBA program! Your sentiments times a million express how I feel about “Don’t be a jerk….” I can’t imagine attending any school that doesn’t follow this theory because all I have ever learned thus far in business is that it’s not the smartest or most “confident” person in the room that gets the cookies!

    Secondly, about CCL: the class and the exercises do get me thinking in a different frame of mind and, agreeing with you, peaks my curiosity to discuss further with my classmates, friends, cab drivers, co-workers, seat mates, etc. So although the class has been hit with some pretty harsh criticism, I think it’s making its impact – in some form or another.

    Thirdly, what a feeling of angst I had lately when I realized the world really doesn’t revolve around the US. We keep hearing what an impact we make but really, on my Air France flight discussions, America was never even brought up when discussing business ventures, experiences or future growth/opportunities!

  • Hey Stacey, thanks for stopping by!

    I can’t imagine what the program would be like if there wasn’t the shared comaraderie and respect. Of course, I’ve try to save my jerkiness for work so that the residencies are that much more fun ;)

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