In my early days as a financial journalist, I worked for the Anglo-French publisher Sir James Goldsmith. Although I cant say I knew him well, he was a presence around the building, and he went on to provide a fulsome commendation for a book I published in 1995.
One of his memorable characteristics was his scorn for MBAs, whom he viewed as at best overeducated windbags. Hardly an ivory tower theoretician, he had never been to university but nonetheless ranked as one of Europes wealthiest self-made tycoons. He had thus earned his right to an opinion.
Nothing I have learned in the interim (in a career spent mainly in the United States and Japan) has undermined my confidence in his skepticism. Quite the contrary.
Perhaps the most telling evidence against the value of a business school education is in the various attempts to rank business schools around the world. There seems to be an inverse law at work: those nations with the most lackluster economies seem to score highest in the business school rankings. Meanwhile nations with outstandingly successful economies are nowhere in the rankings.
Take the latest Financial Times list. No fewer than fifty schools in the top 100 are in the United States alone. Meanwhile the United Kingdom boasts thirteen, Canada five, Australia three, and Ireland one. Thus the total for the Anglophone bloc is 72. Not bad for nations boasting less than 7 percent of the worlds population...