The Value of a Harvard or Wharton MBA Will Slide to Zero. A New Masters of Business Design Should Replace it

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 8, 2009

The Financial Times has it’s 2009 listing of top global B-Schools and there is lots of talk about how the Great Recession has tarnished all B-Schools and their major product, the Masters of Business Administration (so many people are downloading it right now that i can’t link to it—wow). The FT argues that many of the top players in the economic debacle came out of Harvard and the top B-Schools. So something is wrong.

Well, the conclusion is right but the analysis is so tepidly wrong. Start with the degree— Masters of Business ADMINISTRATION. You administer to something in that doesn’t change very much over time. You create tools of analysis and execution that deal with making more

efficient choices of existing options. So you maximize incrementalism. You accept current culture and hierarchy as part of the given problem. And you learn from historic case studies, because they are still applicable to the current situation. That's the MBA for you.

Now join me for the 21st century where none of that exists anymore. We live in beta--life is constantly changing. FOUR GREAT FORCES are keeping us in a field of volatile and continuous change: 1- the rise of Gen Y culture; 2- the fall of the US in global power; 3- the shift to an urban planet; 4- the digitalization of society.

How do we navigate a life lived in beta? Not by administering to it, but by designing it. By creating it. By building it. The MBA should be replaced by the MBD, the Masters of Business Design. Ryan Jacoby at IDEO's New York office has just created his own MBD curriculum and it's probably worth a couple of milliions in IP. If Harvard, Wharton or INSEAD were smart enough to adopt it.

Ryan gets to the essence of what we need today--ethnographic tools to understand and empathize with the needs and wants of the various digital, village, city cultures around the world; methods of framing and creating new options to give people what they desire; ways of designing new business models to deliver new products and services; the dynamics of collaboration and teaming to produce best/fast results; branding and emotional experiences; designing for sustainability; building innovation pipelines--and more. Two B-Schools, Stanford and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto are moving toward a de facto Masters of Business Design. But the FT, as far as i can see, do not credit them in the rankings for this historic shift.

In the end, this is all about learning how to navigate uncertainty by attuning, adapting, creating. It's learning to be part of a creative process, not delivering a finished product. it's about having the skills of someone living in an unknown frontier. No Masters of Business ADMINISTRATION can do thst. Let's try a Masters of Business Design. Way to go Ryan.

Reader Comments

csurowiec

June 8, 2009 11:29 PM

Thank you Bruce! After applying to and being accepted to several top MBA programs, I declined to attend. With an education in fine arts and 10+ years as a management consultant, it was readily apparent, and of course still is, that there is a huge gap in what the MBA does, and the kind of education the world needs it to be. Standford D School (ostensibly an IDEO hub) is a good starting place. Now lets accelerate the pace of change.

Sunny Gandhi

June 9, 2009 10:29 AM

Way to go,

A paradigm shift is what is needed today and hope MBD is what people are looking for.

There are two schools mentioned in the above article
'Stanford and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto'

would like to mention one more Institute which is focusing on Design Thinking and it is in
India,Mumbai

'Welingkar Institute of Management' and they have started a course PGPBD (Post graduate program in Business Design) since July 2006.

Its a 2 year full time course.

jay peters

June 10, 2009 9:02 PM

When deciding to go back for my MBA, I discovered the future "hybrid" degree balancing business and design (MBD) and foresaw this being the next wave.
I eventually chose to go for a Masters
in Business Design, and attended Domus Acedemy in Milan.
http://www.masterbusinessdesign.com

It was an ideal fit for me given my industrial design education and real world business experiences. And it taught me that thinking like a designer lead to monumental innovations.

In retrospect, as an entrepreneur running my own company with a design background for many years, I was always adopting design thinking to solve our business dilemmas. It just didn't have a name then.

IDEO and the D-school are leading the way in the next generation of business thinking, and Ryan Jacobys curriculum is right on target for the necessary training to adopt design thinking for business.

jay peters

June 10, 2009 9:11 PM

When deciding to go back for my MBA, I discovered the future "hybrid" degree balancing business and design (MBD) and foresaw this being the next wave.
I eventually chose to go for a Masters
in Business Design, and attended Domus Acedemy in Milan.
http://www.masterbusinessdesign.com

It was an ideal fit for me given my industrial design education and real world business experiences. And it taught me that thinking like a designer lead to monumental innovations.

In retrospect, as an entrepreneur running my own company with a design background for many years, I was always adopting design thinking to solve our business dilemmas. It just didn't have a name then.

IDEO and the D-school are leading the way in the next generation of business thinking, and Ryan Jacobys curriculum is right on target for the necessary training to adopt design thinking for business.

Jonathan Arena

June 11, 2009 12:11 AM

This is certainly all valid - although maybe what MBA programs need is more application from undergraduate art/design students.

I just graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in graphic design, and am looking forward to attending Harvard Business School's new 2+2 program in 2011, it's flagship year.

Have spoken with Ryan at length about this - the NY branch of IDEO seems to be the "experimental" one. He definitely has his fingers on the pulse of what's to come. I'm curious about the programs at Rotman and Stanford's new "D-School" - the progressive program founded by Tim Kelly of IDEO.

So what is the fundamental difference? What is really in a title? Here at RISD, there is a lot of overlap between departments such as illustration and Graphic Design, Graphic Design and Industrial Design, Architecture and Graphic Design, etc. Harvard's efforts to tap design schools such as RISD seems like a step in the right direction, and here at RISD steps are being taken to better provide a platform for this crossover. I wouldn't say a Harvard MBA will slide to zero - certainly not if I have anything to say about it.

Anna Kirah

June 11, 2009 1:46 PM

Bruce, you nailed this one! This paradigm shift has been in the making prior to the so called financial crisis which started a good 5 years prior to the implosion of the economic world as we knew it. We are in the Age of Turbulence(Chaotics by Caslione and Kotler) and have been for some time only the MBA folks did not get it because the models they use in MBA programmes stem from the industrial revolution and do not account for the FOUR great forces you bring forward! A post graduate programme in business design is just what is needed, and in the mean time companies do not have the time to wait and need to become humble and understand humility and co-create their businesses, co-create new models and strategies that are adaptive and flexible to change because CHANGE is exactly what is happening and will happen in the future.

mf

June 11, 2009 10:24 PM

CCA in San Francisco is another school merging business with design. They have a Design Strategy MBA program and from what I understand it's one of three programs in the US and Canada (Rotman and IIT are the others) dedicated entirely to "design thinking" principles.

I agree with Jonathan in that a degree from Harvard will never slide to zero. However, I do feel that soon, companies desperate for innovative thinkers will find themselves looking beyond the pools of graduates from traditional MBA programs and start considering graduates from more design centric programs like CCA and Rotman.

Is an MFA the new MBA? Hmmmm...not so sure about that. Maybe an MFA/MBA is the new MBA.

Fred Collopy

June 12, 2009 1:47 AM

Why would you look for Harvard or Wharton or INSEAD for this kind of innovation? Is that how it happens in other industries — companies that are making a lot of money doing something put lots of energy into undermining that activity (and their current customers) to create an entirely new business? No. The well-known innovator's dilemma is at work here.

Erica Frye

June 12, 2009 9:39 PM

I'm in the CCA Design Strategy MBA program mentioned above and it is exactly in line with Bruce's ideal of an MBD.

The program approaches business through the lens of design thinking, innovation, and sustainability. And while we're using the MBA label, in our hands-on projects we truly are learning to design (rather than simply administer) businesses -- design their business models, processes, innovations, cultures, and experiences.

It's an exciting program, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Errol M. Gerson

June 15, 2009 7:48 PM

I earned an MBA at the University of Southern California in 1971, and attended multiple post-grad Financial and Management courses over another 10 year period, I found myself equipped to be nothing more than a "Corporate Chicken" without any sense of entrepreneurial understanding, making me a lot less valuable early on in my career.

I began teaching Business Management and The Spirit of Entrepreneurship part-time at the prestigious Art Center College of Design (www.artcenter.edu) in 1972 and have now taught for 37 years and almost 6,000 students. These gifted young students whom I met, while being amazing designers, had little or no understanding about Business or Management. So I set out to develop a Business curriculum in 1972 and have had enormous success in marrying the two disciplines.

Mr. Nussbaum is 100% correct, in that it is about "learning how to navigate uncertainty by attuning, adapting, creating. It's learning to be part of a creative process". I had innumerable success stories sent to me from past students, which validates and verifies my belief that Design and Managerial skills are not only NOT an oxymoron, but that in fact are totally symbiotic.

I am in the process of completing a book on Design and Management which is scheduled for completion in mid 2010 which will highlight some the great success stories of many of my students over the 38 years I have now taught.

Business Schools TAKE NOTE, design creativity is moving from the design room to the Board Room, either the B-Schools will adapt to this new paradigm or end up as fossil fuel in a few million years.

Dave

June 18, 2009 11:26 PM

I've chosen not to pursue an MBA at the midpoint of my career - though many have told me it's the obvious choice for me - because I cannot identify either (a) how it would enhance my career options and choices or - perhaps more importantly - (b) how it would present me with an enjoyable set of new challenges. Of my friends and colleagues who have gone down the MBA path, precisely none have recommended I do the same - their experiences have all been rather disappointing.

On the other hand - now that I am heavily involved in customer experience and design related activities and am enjoying these challenges enormously - I only wish that an MBD was available NOW in our universities in Australia. Sadly I suspect this is several years off, and at 39 and with a family, I can't relocate to the UK or the USA to get closer to the new design thinking within the universities.

But it's really exciting to see the thinking headed this way - I think the MBD (and for that matter, Bachelor of Design?) will engage the up-and-coming Gens Y and Z much more than our current framework of business degrees.

Jeff Shanahan

June 19, 2009 2:16 AM

I looked into a similar program at another Canadian school - the Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) at the University of Waterloo.

Check it out: http://cbet.uwaterloo.ca/mbet/

Timothy

June 21, 2009 2:29 AM

Bruce, you are a great provocateur, but I hope you don't take yourself too seriously. Do you have the equivalent of an MBA or MFA to really be able to defend your position? What are your qualifiactions? Top MBA schools provide fantastic education. I know because I attended one, and I also have an MFA. You pick on the very old "adminstration" part of the MBA and suggest design, but not all business tasks require design for god's sake. By the way, you would be surprised how much creativity you need to apply at MBA programs. I am quite tired of you, Bruce, and I think many others are... have not read your blog in a while and just on the day I decided to see what Bruce is up to you pretty much guaranteed that I will never read you again.

guus

March 1, 2010 10:06 AM

Thank you Bruce.

We are trying to do our share here in Holland;
www.knowmads.nl
we educate changemakers

Goodluck!

hcg

April 25, 2010 3:09 AM

My son has just been accepted to Stanford and Harvard both. We've spent a few days at Stanford and are VERY impressed by the D-school and general freedom and flexibility available at the university. Work in any lab, anytime, regardless of department... nice. Collaboration between artists, historians, entrepreneurs and engineers and maybe a philospher too. I like it! We are on our way tonight to Boston. I am looking forward to finding out more about what Harvard has in this respect. Any recommendations or thoughts would be welcome. We'll be making our decision at the end of the week. Stay tuned!

Post a comment

 

About

Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!