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B-schools? They are just starting points
Rashesh Shah in New Delhi
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November 13, 2007

Business school education is of great value. Management tools and techniques, exposure to concepts and the understanding of business have been very useful to me.

But, at best, B-school education is just a good starting point. There are things in real business life that MBA education does not, or maybe cannot, teach you. These are lessons that one learns on his own.

  • People matter. This is a clich�, but it takes real experience to understand the true meaning behind the clich�. More than any other asset or tools and techniques, people matter the most. While MBA courses cover subjects like HR and organisational behaviour, these are usually considered "soft" courses. Maybe the fact is that people skills cannot be taught, they have to be acquired.

  • Life is non-linear. Thanks to Excel spreadsheets and the inherent MBA proclivity towards stability and linearity, most of us look at the world in a linear fashion when we come out of business schools. But life is hugely non-linear. Most projections underperform in the short term, but massively outperform expectations in the long term.

  • Having vague and fuzzy aspirations. Management graduates are supposed to be precise and quantitative. Hence, the plans they make are definitive rather than aspirational. Also, management graduates are taught to be realists, rather than have grand aspirations. What can we solve today, as opposed to what can I create tomorrow. But business requires an acumen beyond that.

  • Outcomes are more stochastic than we think. Business life is a lot more random than we are taught to believe. MBA education leans towards deterministic models. For instance, B-school education teaches that an X input will generate a Y output or that X stimulus will have a Y response. However, in the real world, life leans towards randomness.

  • People are not always rational. People have emotions, ups and downs, likes and dislikes. As a manager and leader, one has to take into account all these factors, including our own emotional being. Most of these traits cannot be taught, only acquired by experience. Hence I believe that experience is a good partner to a business school education and not a substitute.

    Rashesh Shah graduated from IIM, Ahmedabad in 1989

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