Last week I attended my Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduation ceremony and other than feeling grateful and a real sense of achievement, it made me reflect on what I had learned through the course as well as the repeated discussions I have seen on various forums or groups about the value (or lack of) higher education.
I read questions like “Is it worth doing an MBA?”, “Should I get a degree?” and “Do you need an MBA to succeed in business?” and I see responses that range from “worth every cent” (usually graduates) to “what a waste of money!”.
Other than the vagueness of such questions in relation to individual situations, I feel that a lot of people get confused about the difference between “education” and “learning”.
Does everybody need an MBA? No
Could everybody gain knowledge and/or skills from an MBA? Absolutely!
You see, good leaders, great CEOs and world-class innovators display some common personality traits, one that always stands out to me is a desire or even a personal need to continually learn.
The below is a summary of some of the types of learning that you should be considering for your personal and professional development.
Academic Education / Higher Learning
Education is (rightly or wrongly) associated with universities and professional qualifications (PMI, CPA, CA etc), and provide a means of learning a solid baseline, sometimes very theoretical or academic, set of knowledge and skills. For me, my MBA not only taught me many new things in relation to leadership, business strategies, marketing, financial management and much much more. Further, it validated much of my existing approaches and ideas about business, strategy and team building, even if I didn’t know the name of the principle or theory I was applying.
In the end though, academic education is just one type of tool to learn. Without an ability to apply this knowledge it is not going to help your organisation or you develop as a professional.
Reading is one of the most common ways for people to learn; reading about other peoples successes and failures, reading about new approaches to business and personal problems, and reading about the everyday lives of those that may be your current or future customers and reflect on how this new insight or knowledge could be applied to improve your own organisation or job.
The insights you gain through reading can truly help you to challenge yourself about your approaches and mindset and leads to better decisions in your own business and personal life.
Tutorials, YouTube and Online Training
The web has a vast source of information available of course, many of these can be found via a simple google search, and even better, you should be able to get the basics of a new set of knowledge for free on sites like YouTube. Even advanced courses are usually available but there are resources available through paid online training services like TED & Udemy. There are also free online training packages via Alison where you get a certificate and all.
Personal & Organisational Reflection
Personal and organisational reflection is another tool that great leaders use to learn from a situation and make corrective actions or improvements each time they cycle through a process.
Is there a single type of “learning” that will make you a great business person or leader? Of course not!
The real question that people should be asking is “what combination of learning tools should I use to grow?”
Coming back to the question about the value of an MBA, it does not automatically make you an exceptional leader or great team member. It does not automatically increase your value to an organisation. It does however provide you with knowledge, tools and methods, that if executed effectively, will help you to become a better leader, a better team member and lead to more organisational success. I do however firmly believe that what will get you over the line professionally, is going to be applying a combitation of the methods discussed here.
I’ve met people with 3-4 degrees, who couldn’t run a project or execute on a strategy to save their lives. Conversely, I’ve met people who (like me prior to my MBA) had no degree or formal qualifications, but got things done, and got things done well.
For me, my MBA studies was an amazing experience and I have learned so much from not only the course material but those amazing people that I work with throughout my 18 months of study.
So do not get yourself confused between the need for formal education and the need for continuous learning. Since my MBA I have read countless articles, methodologies, books and engaged with many leaders at various organisations and communities that I engage with, and importantly I’ve learned from each and every one.