It’s the new buzzword on b-school campuses these days. For decades, many schools treated entrepreneurs as oddballs… as if high-paying corporate jobs somehow metastasized out of thin air. With financial jobs nosediving – and players like Facebook and Warby Parker emerging – students now view starting their own company as the fastest way to make a buck. Sure, they understand the cost, risks, and hours involved, but what can be more appealing than being your own boss? You finally have a voice and a real stake. And you have a shot to make a difference – and a name for yourself (in theory, at least).
Question is, are business schools the right environment to teach entrepreneurship? For one answer, check out a New York Times column written by Cliff Oxford, an Emory MBA and successful entrepreneur. And his answer: Enroll in Stanford or Harvard. Otherwise, only attend if the program gets you out in the field to learn first-hand from successful entrepreneurs.
So how did Oxford come to this conclusion? From experience, of course. And his critique of business school educators and curriculum are certain to elicit some strong reactions. Here are some reasons why Oxford feels entrepreneurship programs are “window dressing” and business schools “haven’t been relevant since the 90s” (in his words):
Classroom Environment: According to Oxford, “…traditional M.B.A. programs are classroom-centric. They give students little real access to business leaders or to the places where business is done…Entrepreneurs generally don’t do well outside their preferred environment (the real world), and the students don’t get any real sense of how fast the business world moves…Go sit in a classroom, then go work in a fast-growth company. Talk about the difference between night and day! You will see why the classroom is a dangerous place from which to view the business world.”
Lack of Context: Oxford cited the example of a young entrepreneur running a profitable online apparel company. She recently asked him if it made sense for her to start an MBA at this time. His response: “Does she really have the time to drive across town to sit in a class or to spend hours with an online program that doesn’t give her real-world business experience?…What she needs…is exposure and access to business leaders and partners that can help her now…[She] students could use some accounting and finance, but why not take them online?” In other words, Oxford believes up-and-coming entrepreneurs would be better served by finding a mentor and to learn by doing.
Academic Environment: Oxford is especially critical of weak deans and entrenched faculty: “Most business schools have labor unions, known as tenured faculty, that keep the curriculum the way they want to teach it, when they want to teach it and how they want to teach it… In every case where business schools have changed their M.B.A. programs to reflect the real world, you will find a strong dean whose vision and conviction have triumphed over academic entitlements.”
Believing he could create an MBA program that reflected entrepreneurial realities, Oxford donated money to his alma mater to establish an entrepreneurial MBA program. The result? Emory gladly took the money, but made little effort to get students out of the classroom. Learning from his mistakes, Oxford formed a different entrepreneurial MBA program at Georgia’s Brenau University. And the results have been much different:
“We put all of the academics online and worked tirelessly to integrate students into the local business community. Students attend board meetings, commerce dinners and C.E.O. round tables to get to know business leaders and their businesses. M.B.A. apprentices spend three months working side by side with a chief executive, reporting only to them.”
Back to Stanford and Harvard. Why does Oxford recommend them? Networking, of course. He cites Stanford’s proximity to Silicon Valley and a curriculum that satisfies the 3 R’s: ”Rigorous, relevant, and real-world.” And Harvard? It’s all about the alumni network: “The contacts you make during and after the program are worth the price of admission.”
Source: New York Times
Blast from the Past:
What Surprises Harvard Business School Students About Harvard?
They couldn’t wait to step foot onto campus. For years, they dreamed in crimson. They read everything they could find, talked to anyone who’d ever walked across the square. They imagined themselves as Elle Woods or Frasier Crane, surrounded by classmates with familiar last names and instructors who moonlight for CNN. Sure, the work load would be ridiculous, but the social life would make up for those proms they missed. “I’m really going to be part of this,” they think as they exit off I-93. “My whole life has been leading up to this. I can’t wait to begin!”
Of course, branding and reality don’t always mesh. Even when the experience surpasses the expectations, there are always surprises. That’s what some Harvard business school students learned in the first year. Some carried stereotypes that were quickly debunked. Others discovered that the pace and expectations were even more intense than they imagined from the outside. What else did these students discover about Harvard? Click on the link below to find out.
Source: Poets and Quants