Chapter 5 – The MBA Myth – Welcome to Wizard School

The current crisis in strategy is most heart-felt in the business schools – strategy teachers are more than a little anxious that no-one uses their ideas and that their courses are less and less popular. But the situation is worse than that. Because strategy has so little underlying rigour, the Professors in strategy departments have to pursue their academic accolades in other fields – economics or behavioural science. Unfortunately, this means that most of them have no practical experience, or even academic training, in the discipline.

Courses teach what emerges from research, which as we have seen does not, and cannot be useful. So students get away with arm-waving and journalism instead of doing the hard graft to figure out what strategy a business should pursue and how to make it happen. The case studies used are superficial, and no strategy course in the world requires of students a full-blown strategy analysis on a whole organisation, in the context of its entire competitive situation, with comprehensive findings, recommendations and implementation. (Strategy has almost nothing to say about implementation in any case).

So it is hardly surprising that students and executives alike leave their business school strategy classes with little idea how to do the job properly.

References (links to be added)

Not all references may be available freely to all readers or in all regions.
Cartoon: Welcome to Wizard School

  1. Charles Cragg, 1940, “Because Wisdom Can’t Be Told”, Harvard Alumni Bulletin, 19th October.
  2. Michael C. Jensen, 1999, “The Case Method and Science”, Social Science Research Network. Retrieved 28-3-2012.
  3. An example of a serious case-study, with enough information to enable students to carry out a series of strategy analysis tasks as part of several classes, concerns the European low-fare airline industry. This case is built entirely from public information – a focused case on a specific company could go into much greater depth.
  4. Links for these organisations are
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Cartoon by “Higgins