The Value of a Harvard or Wharton MBA Will Slide to Zero. A New Masters of Business Design Should Replace it

The Financial Times has it’s 2009 listing of top global B-Schools and there is lots of talk about how the Great Recession has tarnished all B-Schools and their major product, the Masters of Business Administration (so many people are downloading it right now that i can’t link to it—wow). The FT argues that many of the top players in the economic debacle came out of Harvard and the top B-Schools. So something is wrong.

Well, the conclusion is right but the analysis is so tepidly wrong. Start with the degree— Masters of Business ADMINISTRATION. You administer to something in that doesn’t change very much over time. You create tools of analysis and execution that deal with making more

efficient choices of existing options. So you maximize incrementalism. You accept current culture and hierarchy as part of the given problem. And you learn from historic case studies, because they are still applicable to the current situation. That's the MBA for you.

Now join me for the 21st century where none of that exists anymore. We live in beta--life is constantly changing. FOUR GREAT FORCES are keeping us in a field of volatile and continuous change: 1- the rise of Gen Y culture; 2- the fall of the US in global power; 3- the shift to an urban planet; 4- the digitalization of society.

How do we navigate a life lived in beta? Not by administering to it, but by designing it. By creating it. By building it. The MBA should be replaced by the MBD, the Masters of Business Design. Ryan Jacoby at IDEO's New York office has just created his own MBD curriculum and it's probably worth a couple of milliions in IP. If Harvard, Wharton or INSEAD were smart enough to adopt it.

Ryan gets to the essence of what we need today--ethnographic tools to understand and empathize with the needs and wants of the various digital, village, city cultures around the world; methods of framing and creating new options to give people what they desire; ways of designing new business models to deliver new products and services; the dynamics of collaboration and teaming to produce best/fast results; branding and emotional experiences; designing for sustainability; building innovation pipelines--and more. Two B-Schools, Stanford and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto are moving toward a de facto Masters of Business Design. But the FT, as far as i can see, do not credit them in the rankings for this historic shift.

In the end, this is all about learning how to navigate uncertainty by attuning, adapting, creating. It's learning to be part of a creative process, not delivering a finished product. it's about having the skills of someone living in an unknown frontier. No Masters of Business ADMINISTRATION can do thst. Let's try a Masters of Business Design. Way to go Ryan.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.