Student start-ups create an innovators dilemma for MBA programs
Don’t plan, do!
MBA programs have fallen behind when it comes to preparing talent for success in the start-up industry.
There are notable exceptions (some in Dorm Room Fund cities), but the institutions delivering the MBA degree face an innovators dilemma…The traditional MBA curriculum was built to help students “learn to plan” and “plan to do” instead of “do to learn.”
Students who want to pursue entrepreneurship are driven to learn by doing — they want to build the pegs to hang their knowledge on — rather than learning first and doing second. MBA programs could be left struggling to justify their relevance to the talent most likely to change the world — unless they innovate to serve the entrepreneurial student.
Student entrepreneurship represents a very different disruptive force for MBA programs than it does for other schools like engineering, computer science, biology or medicine. MBA programs have the most to gain by finding ways to support the efforts of entrepreneurial students but seem to be holding on the tightest to the current product. They also seem the most reluctant to collaborate with other programs — wanting to control how entrepreneurship is taught.
When your mandate is to teach someone about the administration of business and your students want to learn by doing, I can see why you might be defensive. In a world where the best students want to pursue a career in the start-up industry, the current MBA educational product starts to look similar to the over-built, incumbent technologies in Christensen’s book.
This is different for other areas of study (that are shaping entrepreneurs at amazing rates). When your mission is to teach science for example, it is easier to support student entrepreneurial efforts without worrying about justifying your place in the world. The businesses started by your students are a great vehicle that take what is learned in the classroom and unleash it to shape the world. The success of these businesses supports the value of the academic program or at least compliments it nicely.
The best MBA programs are evolving quickly, open to partnering with other disciplines, other schools and other organizations to support students’ entrepreneurial efforts. The others are busy assigning the reading for entrepreneurship 101 and making sure to include Clay Christensen’s book…