The higher education and the increased potential for success that comes with it are deeply rooted in the collective culture. Although it is not a viable option for everyone in every country, pursuing a collegiate degree is considered the logical, mature, and guaranteed step towards a successful future. After completing an undergraduate degree, which traditionally takes three or four years, another decision must be made. Those same students must choose whether to go out in the world with a degree in hand and try to find success, or they can apply for graduate school, business school, medical school, or some other institution to obtain an advanced degree.
Now, for some particularly challenging professional paths, like dentistry and medicine, additional education and training is a mandate before a student can practice their craft as a dentist or a doctor, respectively. There is, however, no ethical or logical mandate that requires a person to attend business school before entering and participating in the corporate world. Many “Old Guard” members of the business sphere might like to enforce that type of exclusionary requirement, but formal business education can no longer be a realistic benchmark by which to measure people’s qualifications.
The Dot-com boom and bust of the late 1990’s is the most obvious point where old philosophies of business education began to shift, but a fundamental change in thinking takes years to fully develop. The Internet Bubble showed the world that creativity, risk, and ambition could not only result in wildly successful and profitable companies, but that that success could be achieved by people who had never stepped foot in a business class. An idea, a computer, and a dash of tech-wizardry to design the website were the only requirements to become an overnight celebrity, and to have your business model analyzed by strategists and economists the world over. That was only the beginning stage of Internet business, which has become a defining advancement of our society and our generation. As the Internet continues to evolve and become more complex, a deeper understanding of the Internet’s functions seems to be intrinsic to success, not attending business school. What can be learned in an online tutorial, a “webinar” or by reading reputable blogs might teach young professionals more relevant material than a three-hour lecture about economies of scale or profit-loss margins.
To be clear, there are some benefits to attending business school, because there are certain fundamentals still valuable and beneficent to success that some people don’t learn through undergraduate courses or life experience. For certain people, formal education settings are also more effective places to learn, in which case, business school is an attractive path to ease into the corporate world. Business schools are very good at teaching the basics of business, particularly ways to manage effectively. They focus on different organizational techniques, training in business administration, and lessons in delegation, along with many other skills. Each year, prestigious schools end up producing thousands of business professionals prepared to run an office of eager employees. Instead of a yearly injection of alternative thinkers and innovative creators, the business world is constantly being re-filled with “management material”. And that is precisely the problem.
The characteristics of a successful businessman have been redefined. In the past, the ability to manage and run a company was hailed as the hallmark of success, but the world has changed, and creativity is king. Managing and creating are drastically different skills, and they are developed in completely different ways.
From the traditional, academic direction, young business professionals enter the corporate world armed with textbooks, strategies, and ideas from their business courses. The books they’ve recently read are often a mixture of those written by their own professors and the hottest new publications by burgeoning corporate kings. Their teachers over the past few years have been tenured professors who are likely distanced from relevant business practices of the present by both time and space. The dogmatic lessons of business education could often be called “The World According to Professor ___”, because their content is the unchanging business world seen through the analytic and disconnected eyes of the academic community. Therefore, when those students graduate, they are full of ideas and concepts about what “should work”, because it worked in the past, with little tangible experience of what “does work” in the present. Perhaps they had a handful of exciting guest lecturers who had a genuine connection with the business world as it currently is, but those lecturers came and went, leaving the students to be educated and indoctrinated by outdated academics and staunch believers in traditional business practice.
From the more modern, alternative direction, hotshot Internet sensations and “idea men” are coming up with unique products, marketing techniques, and revolutionary ideas by thinking outside the box. They might have little to no formal business education, and have instead relied on their life experience, ambition, and personality to reach their position. They learn about new techniques moments after they are released on the Internet, they share knowledge and concepts with their co-workers, and they have a youthful vigor and an unadulterated way of approaching business. They were never taught the “fundamental rules of business”, so breaking them in order to innovate and rejuvenate operating practices is never a problem. These people also tend to write books, explaining their unusual path to success by outlining their vision and approach to modern business. These books are very popular, and are quickly consumed by other young professionals, but they often act as motivational stories, intensely personal and persuasive, yet lacking any firm guidelines for readers to follow.
Between these two philosophies of business, there is an unavoidable gap. The traditional business education tends to create managers that are able to run a business, rather than creators that are able to innovate one. Formal business education often overlooks the role of spontaneity, versatility, and openness to learning in alternative ways that have come to define modern business. On the other hand, the generation of self-taught business pioneers constantly focused on creation might not be able to organize, manage, or implement their industry-shaking ideas without someone to facilitate and guide them in the process.
A balance must be struck to close the gap between the traditional and modern approaches to business education. They both have valuable components to offer, but neither can be successful without the other, so a flexible balance of power must be reached. Without the unified strength of administration, innovation, and cooperation, business education will become completely obsolete, the practical aspect of operating businesses will disappear, and the vehicle for innovation and societal advancement through industry will cease to function.