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读MBA到底有什么用?

Laura Vanderkam 2013年09月16日

60年前,MBA刚出现时,管理大师彼得•德鲁克在一期《财富》杂志中曾经质疑,商学院自己都搞不清楚自己的职责,又怎么能指望它培养的学生能够搞清楚将来要承担的责任。如今,越来越多的人认为,MBA教授的那一套技能,不去商学院也能学会,区别只在于那一纸文凭。

    

    上世纪50年代是美国经济的全盛时期。二战的阴云已经散去,不断发展壮大的公司意识到,他们需要一批新的管理者,来管理横跨多个国家和拥有几十个品牌的综合性大公司。

    不过,美国的公司并没有选择自己培养人才,而是向各大院校发展迅速的管理学课程寻求帮助——也就是授予工商管理学硕士(MBA)学位的专业。

    这一点很容易理解。既然大学已经进入这个领域,公司为什么还要去投资培养年轻的商业人士?然而,MBA的出现还是引起了许多人的担忧。管理学大师彼得•德鲁克在1950年的一期《财富》杂志(Fortune )中对此有过描述,文章的标题是《商学院》(The Graduate Business School)。

    有批评者认为:学会管理要靠实践,而不能靠课堂学习。MBA课程培养出来的是脱离实战的“皇太子”,虽然理论高深,但他们对将要经营的公司却一无所知。社会上真正需要的是靠实践成长起来的企业家,而不是靠书本理论培养出来的专业经理人。那么,MBA专业的目的到底是什么?

    这样的问题并不会让高等院校放弃商业课程——毕竟,学校可以藉此获得大笔收入,但德鲁克写道:“毫不夸张地说,商学院虽然在论战中占据了上风,但他们并不知道该如何对待所取得的胜利。商学院并不清楚他们的职责是什么,也不知道如何完成自己的职责。”

    德鲁克曾质疑,“如果专业的商学院都不明白那些商业人士在社会中的职能”,那么这些商业人士自己又怎么可能清楚呢?

    六十年后,许多事情发生了改变。首先,在德鲁克的文章中只字未提女性,而通用汽车(GE)的管理者们也只是说“来自哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)的那些聪明的小伙子们”。但如今,在哈佛商学院2015届学生中,女性比例占到41%。过去几年,宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院(University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School)的女性学生比例也一直保持在40%以上。

    此外,如今MBA学生比20世纪50年代的学生更年长。德鲁克写道,当时,“研究生通常直接来自大学。就算他们有工作经验,也只不过是在夏令营当过顾问;或者卖过订阅的《周六晚邮报》(Saturday Evening Post)。他们从未像成年人一样在成年人的世界里生活过,也从未独立过,总之他们缺乏商业经验。”德鲁克对此并不满意。

    六十年后,大多数商业课程都牢记他的观点,现在都要求学生有几年(三至五年)工作经验。福尔德基金(Forte Foundation)的执行董事爱丽莎•埃利斯-桑斯特说:“公司开始提出工作经验方面的要求。有工作经验会让他们更加成熟。”福尔德基金与各大商学院和公司合作,以提高商业职业中的女性比例。

    但其他问题仍存在争议。德鲁克对“皇太子”问题的解释是,在商学院“有一种内在的倾向,即商学院培养出的人才目的是避开竞争,直接进入大公司的高层,而不是在与公司其他人的竞争中证明自己的能力和资质。”

    这种说法很有道理。毕竟,除非你认为读商学院可以比熬资历获得更多,否则谁会愿意拿出工作时间去上学呢?而且,对于那些被打上卓越标签的人,其他同事很自然会心怀怨恨。而这种情况会大大降低士气。

    总之,埃利斯-桑斯特坚持认为,如今女性MBA学生身上并没有那种“皇太子”的光环。“她们要接受指导和建议,才能知道如何提升自己。”

    

    The 1950s were a heady time for the American economy. The grim years of World War II were fading in the rearview mirror, and growing corporations realized they needed a new breed of manager who could oversee conglomerates spanning borders and dozens of brands.

    But rather than cultivate their own talent, companies looked to the burgeoning academic programs in management -- those granting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) -- for help.

    It was a straightforward idea. Why invest in training young, budding businessmen when universities were already in that space? Still, the rise of the MBA inspired handwringing, which was chronicled in a 1950 Fortune feature by management guru Peter Drucker called "The Graduate Business School."

    Among the critiques: Management was about doing, not academic study. MBA programs created "crown princes" marked for the top who knew little about the businesses they would run. Society needed entrepreneurs, not business administrators. What was the purpose of an MBA, anyway?

    Such questions no longer made universities shy from business programs -- money poured into them after all -- but Drucker wrote that "It would be no exaggeration to say that the business schools, while they have won the war, do not know what to do with their victory. The business schools have 'arrived' without quite knowing what their job is, or how to accomplish it."

    How can the businessman know his function in society, Drucker wondered, "if their own professional schools do not know what it is?"

    Sixty-three years later, some things have changed. For starters, women -- completely absent in Drucker's piece, where GE (GE) managers talked of the "bright lads from the Harvard Business School" -- comprised 41% of HBS's class of 2015. Women have made up north of 40% of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School for the past few years.

    MBA students are also generally older than they were in 1950. Then, "The typical graduate student comes directly from college," Drucker wrote. "If he has any work experience at all it is as a counselor in a summer camp; or maybe he has sold subscriptions to the Saturday Evening Post. He has never lived as an adult in an adult world, has never been on his own, and, above all, he lacks business experience." Drucker was not pleased.

    Six decades later, most programs take his point to heart and now require a few (two-five) years of work experience. "Companies started asking for it. Companies started demanding it," says Elissa Ellis-Sangster, executive director of the Forte Foundation, which works with business schools and corporations to increase the representation of women in business careers. "Having that work experience matures them a little more."

    Other questions, though, are still being debated. Drucker explained the "crown prince" problem by noting that at business schools, "there is an inherent tendency toward the turning out of men who aim at making an end run around a large organization directly to the top, rather than proving their abilities and qualities in working their way up in competition with the rest of the organization."

    This makes sense. After all, why take time off work to go to school unless you think you'll gain more than those years of seniority? Nonetheless, other employees naturally resented these men marked for greatness. And that undermined morale.

    In general, today's female MBA students don't have a "crown princess" aura, Ellis-Sangster insists; "They have to be coached and advised on how to promote themselves." 

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