Before explaining why I think business school is wrong for todays entrepreneurs, I must start with a confession: I almost went to business school.
It was 1997 and I had left a job in strategy consulting because I wanted to start my own business. I knew I needed more experience and would benefit from meeting mentors, potential business partners and like-minded peers. But the world was changing fast and the internet was taking off. In the event, I decided I did not have the time and opted instead for intensive on-the-job learning. Within 10 months, I was ready to co-found my first internet business, the travel booking website lastminute.com.
If I had studied for an MBA, I would have had to spend two years in the classroom while I felt an urgency to get started. With hindsight, the naivety, optimism and ignorance about the challenges ahead may have served me well.
Traditional business school education teaches students how to manage big companies not how to found start-ups. Some programmes do now try to teach entrepreneurial skills but most are struggling to adapt fast enough to meet changing circumstances and demand. Even devising an academic programme to produce entrepreneurs would be virtually impossible. Some of the most important qualities in an entrepreneur are tenacity, determination and an ability to embrace uncertainty and risk. Business schools cant teach that.
Then there is the time and expense. Two years is a long time to spend in full-time education when you are young, full of ideas and already have a degree. Entrepreneurs must have an appetite for risk, but debt-laden students may understandably find theirs is diminished. Many will be inclined to seek corporate jobs where their ability to repay debt is more certain...