Articles from HBR Blog

Should You Get an MBA?

At least once a month an ambitious and hard-working person in their 20s asks me, “Should I get an MBA?” I earned my MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 2000, and since 2007 I’ve been an Instructor and an internal coach back at the GSB, helping hundreds of students develop their leadership and interpersonal skills. Here’s how I respond to those inquiries. First, it’s critical to determine whether your expectations for an MBA are aligned with what the degree will likely do for you. MBA programs offer three different types of benefits, all of which vary tremendously from one school to another. 1. Practical leadership and management skills. Management education has changed significantly over the last few decades. Previously it focused on quantitative analysis in areas such as finance and operations, with little emphasis on other aspects of organizational life. As a result MBAs were often seen as bean-counters myopically focused on data and out of touch with the challenges managers face in the real world. MBA programs responded by expanding their offerings in areas such as strategy, organizational behavior and leadership. B-school curricula are still intensely quantitative, but as Stanford Dean Garth Saloner told McKinsey, “The [quantitative] skills of finance and supply chain management and accounting and so on, I think those have become more standardized in management education, have become kind of what you think of as a hygiene factor: Everybody ought to know this.” Business schools have realized that it’s not sufficient to provide quantitative and analytical training, because within a few years of leaving school (or even immediately upon graduation) their alumni will add value more through their ability to lead and manage others than through their talents as individual contributors. And effectiveness...