I made the mistake that many entrepreneurs make in their careers: I went to business school. I maintained a spirit of innovation and wanted to successfully launch my own business. Since I was like 11 years old, I believed that the path to being successful in entrepreneurship and innovation was to pursue a combined education in science and business. At least I got the first half of the equation right. When I started my MBA, I quickly realized that I was only going to be taught the traditional infrastructure of running a business and that innovation was not a topic that was going to be covered in the curriculum. Professors discussed that innovation was important in business, but in actuality this sentiment was actively discouraged.
Pursuing this curriculum was not a waste of time for me though. While I sat through many of these courses, I quickly realized that there were a number of problems with the way that business professionals went about approaching the problems they faced. Many of the solutions they sought were based on theories they obtained in business school that were based on faulty logic or antiquated practices. The biggest problem that I noticed was the linear thinking of business students (any engineer knows the hazards of the philosophy that if one variable changes another changes by a consistent and finite amount). This was the real benefit that I obtained from my MBA – learning to identify the flaws of my competitors so that they could be easily exploited. Granted, most professionals understand that what they learn in business school doesn’t hold up in the real world, but many of the principles they pick up still carry over into their work lives. A few of the habits practiced by business school graduates involve:
1. Foolish quantitative reasoning – In business classes (especially finance but marketing as well) students are taught to look for patterns where patterns often do not exist. Worse, the poor mathematical abilities of most business school students means that when they correctly observe the existence of a pattern they are not able to perceive the pattern correctly because they try to make such simple and linear connections. The practice of using regression analysis to deduce simple patterns (as variable X increases by 1 variable Y increases by 1.8 because Microsoft Excel tells me so) is essentially medieval thinking in the information age. Obviously if you can understand where to disregard patterns and how to properly interpret them when they exist, you will be shooting par among most business school graduates.
2. Strategies based off case study successes – Let’s face it. Business school students are lazy. I can’t tell you how many seem to think that when they start their own business they will be able to plagiarize someone else’s idea and be just as successful. Innovation is a practice that is completely alien to them, which is why many cannot be entrepreneurs.
3. Lack of natural networking abilities – Most people who attend Ivy League business schools do so primarily to network with other students and faculty who can help them be more successful. Innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs would be able to network naturally and would not spend two years in business school just to network.
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