Value of an MBA

I was visiting home for a few days during the summer after finishing from my graduate program, and my father asked me a question:

“I read that Mark Cuban thinks an MBA is a waste of time.  Do you still think it was a worthwhile investment?”

My first reaction was that Mark Cuban has a business degree himself.  And he does, graduating with a B.S. BA from a great school.  But then I looked up the quote, which was from a Reddit session:


I agree with his assertions, though not the final assessment.

If your need is better knowledge, there are cheaper faster ways to acquire the necessary information.  If you don’t have the experience you need, there are faster ways to find the skills you require.  If you’re not able to convey your qualifications effectively in an interview, you can hire a career coach to help you speak more effectively.

Is investing in yourself a path to nowhere?

And yet I still chose to invest in an MBA.

Here’s why:

If you know what you need to reach your next goal, go out and get it.  But if you don’t know how to grow to the next level, or you don’t know the right questions about your next step, or you don’t know how to move beyond thinking like an individual contributor to thinking like a business owner, and if you don’t have a community to help you…

…than an MBA might really help.

While an MBA will give you a range of new skill sets, it is not an investment in acquiring specific capabilities.  There are numerous graduate degrees that will help you analyze data, or make financial projections, or understand accounting.  An MBA is an investment in choosing the right things to apply your skills to, in asking the right questions, in figuring out what matters most.

And—spoiler alert—the answer is people.

Sure, you’ll learn about the numbers, and the financial statements, and the analytics.

But if you don’t start with the right question, all the analytics in the world won’t get you to the right answer.

This isn’t to say that numbers don’t matter.  The spreadsheets and the revenue forecasts and financial statements all have to come together to make sense.  You can’t ignore the numbers and be successful: they’re necessary, but not sufficient.

If you only think about the people and ignore the numbers, you’ll be missing an opportunity—because you won’t be able to make the change you want.  But if you only think about the numbers and ignore the human being involved in the decision, you’re missing the point.  Because the people are what matter.

And here’s the thing:  if you put the people at the center of the decisions you make, and you understand the numbers, and you take the time to build real relationships, and you’re willing to have the authentic conversations necessary to bring others along with your vision of the future—you can make a difference.

And that’s what I learned in my MBA program.  It’s all about the people.  If you have the right perspective and put in the effort, you can make a positive change.  And life is better when you can do it with friends.

So – that’s why you would consider investing in an MBA.


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