Soundview Executive Book Summaries

The Classroom vs. the Real World

Without revealing any political affiliation, I can tell you that I was reading a number of different blogs over the weekend and one blogger commented on the number of people advising the government who possess an MBA. The blogger created a very interesting debate about whose opinion should be asked to influence the drafting of public policies. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, he framed his argument with the assumption that MBA-holders have more of a foothold on academia and theory than on practical business experience. Of course, the counter to this argument is whether or not CEOs with real world experience are capable of offering an objective opinion to any government whose policies could cut into shareholder earnings.

While this debate could rage on for days, I came away from reading the blogger’s post with some additional thoughts on the value of the MBA degree. The blogger cited author Henry Mintzberg who examined the success rate of CEOs from a list of Harvard Business School “superstars.” While CEOs holding an MBA didn’t come out on top in Mintzberg’s study, I personally felt he looked at too small a sample. The MBA is valuable and so is real-world experience.

In Soundview’s latest edition, we summarize Mintzberg’s book Managing. This book examines the nature of both leadership and management and attempts to answer some of the questions plaguing business today. One of the most important aspects of management examined by Mintzberg is the way in which a manager’s job duties disconnect him or her from the people he or she is supposed to manage.

In some respects this question parallels the argument made by the blogger. If a manager is constantly in meetings, looking at “big picture” items, he or she is playing the role of the MBA holder, that of an academic. Meanwhile, a manager who is constantly on the shop floor interacting with workers has plenty of day-to-day knowledge but may be getting bogged down in details. In both cases, the true solution may lie in having the best blend of both academics and experience. Check out our summary of Mintzberg’s Managing to learn more!


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