Innovation Blog

Reinventing the MBA:

MBA Without Professors

By Shlomo Maital

  MBA programs worldwide teach innovation, enterprise and entrepreneurship.  But do they practice it?  Very little has changed since Harvard Business School opened its doors, copied the case-method approach of Harvard Law School, and began producing professional managers.  McGill’s Henry Mintzberg invented an executive MBA held in five different global venues, each venue focusing on a different topic.    That model has now been widely copied. 

    Here is an idea for an innovative MBA program.  I wish someone would try it.  The idea was sparked by a report from Moscow, where last year, an old idea was revived, to have an orchestra play without a conductor.  The idea originated in the 1920’s under Soviet Russia, when it was felt a conductor-less orchestra was somehow more proletarian, more democratic.  From time to time, orchestras that lost their conductors carried on anyway, with the concertmaster giving barely perceptible signals to begin movements.

    It is called The MBA Without Professors.  An announcement is made that at a certain time and date, those interested in a unique MBA program should log on to a website.  Those who do are offered the following:  A powerful unique MBA program, with no professors, with zero tuition.  Enrollment is limited to 25 students, and those enrolled are carefully selected by the enrollees themselves, to span a broad range of experience and expertise.   The group (under a self-appointed facilitator) divides up the range of MBA topics (not functional silos, but issue-oriented or problem-oriented areas – launching a startup, scaling it up, building talent, strategic renewal.  A volunteer helps train each participant in the basic principles of effective teaching and presentation (much as the TED people train their speakers to do effective 18-minute presentations).    The program ends when participants decide they have acquired knowledge, tools and expertise equivalent to that they would have gained at an expensive name-brand bizschool.

      The disadvantage? Obviously – you do not get that Harvard Business School certificate.  The advantage?  You get an equivalent body of knowledge, at zero cost, and can use the money you save to start a business. 

       And by the way, I am a professor, I do teach MBA students, I have run an MBA program – and I truly believe this idea can be no worse than what we professors offer, and could potentially be far better, and more responsive to participants’ needs.