What You Don’t Need to Get Ahead

Here’s something interesting from AdAge.com: MBAs can be bad for your health. Your career health, that is.

 Yep. Turns out that a survey of marketing execs from 32 different consumer-product companies showed a distinct disadvantage for companies that carried a Masters of Business Administration grad at or close to the helm.

 And we’re not talking tiny companies here, either. General Mills, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Pfizer, Clorox Co, Cadbury, Energizer, Kodak, Dunkin Donuts… they all made the survey list.

 On the list, there were 18 underperforming companies (sales growth lower than 7% annually) that were twice as likely to recruit their marketing execs from fancy M.B.A. programs.

 Of the outperforming companies, far fewer M.B.A.s held top positions (about half as many)… even though sales at those same companies grew 6.2% faster than sales of the underperforming competitors.

 What’s more, job satisfaction at the no-or-limited M.B.A. companies was higher, office politics tended to crop up less often, and in-house training was both more prevalent and successful.

 Did all grad degrees in the study fail the test? Nope. Just M.B.A.s. Interesting. Boy, am I glad I spent my time in grad school studying philosophy and classical lit instead, eh?



  1. John,

    One of my mentors used to say: “Greatness comes from hard work and in the trenches experience”.

    The biggest problem with the business education system is that the vast majority of the teachers don’t have any of that in the trenches experience.

    Perhaps if academia recruited experienced business people to teach, the outcome would be different. The sad thing is.. it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know.


  2. A fine point and definitely on the money. Not that theory isn’t valuable… but, to put it another way, who would you rather hire to play the piano? The guy who likes to talk about them… or the one who actually plays them?

    That said, by the way, I feel the same way about copywriters who actually write copy vs. the ones who just sell products about how to do it. I’m in the former category, with an enormous percentage of my income coming from the copy I write for clients. The same is true for the other industry names for whom I have enormous respect.

    Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, Gary Bencivenga, Michael Masterson… there are others… and each of them has made far more actually doing what they recommend, long before they started also making money recommending based on insights of what they’ve done.

    Big difference, in my book.

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