Lessons from a Masters In Business Administration: An MBA Is About Taking Control

MBA = Taking Control: Business school is about gaining control of your financial future. HBS believes that their experience training can also be applied to other spheres- politics, education, health care, the arts. Business culture is pervasive so learn it from within.

Case Studies Are A Learning Device: The entire HBS curriculum is built on the law school model of case studies. The question you will be asked each time is: What would you do? How do you think about solving a given problem? There is a difference between people who are tough-minded, and people who are tender-minded according to Malcolm McNair. Toughness refers to the intellectual apparatus, and toughness of spirit. It is the attitude and training that allow us to seize facts, and make courageous decisions. They know the answer is not in a book, but in real life cases. Grading will be for your benefit as a student, but will not be used by recruiters.

The Baron & The Two Peasants: learning accounting: Imagine a Baron in a small patch of present day Bavaria. The baron is responsible for the well-being of many peasants who occupy the lands around his stately castle. The baron has two peasants whom he asks to farm two different hectares of land. He supplies them equally with seed, fertilized, oxen, and allows them both to lease a plough. The two peasants Sam and Jesop return a year later with different amounts of wheat with the conditions of other resources having deteriorated over the year.

Q: Who was more successful?

This is an accounting case as you are now expected to determine which peasant was more successful. An MBA should be expected to generate an income statement and balance sheet for the two farmers. So, you might need to depreciate the oxen, and you might put the full value of Sam’s plow under ‘costs of goods sold.’ As you begin to play with the empirical figures, you’ll see that the answer of who was more successful shifts according to your metrics. There is no right answer. So the lesson in accounting is actually to use common sense rather than cling to rules.

[This is a synopsis of several books on the MBA experience including What They Teach You At Harvard Business School by P.D. Broughton]