A Real MBA

Most MBA programs aren’t worth the price; they are theoretical rather than applied; they train you to work for a big company not to start one.  Young people are better off taking a flyer and learning by doing.
I spent the day at TEDxUoU.  The University of Utah MBA program created the Foundry, a business incubator where young people can actually build companies and get lots of support doing it.  And they’ve added a strand of entrepreneurship to their curriculum.
At dinner we took the idea a few steps further.  What if there was an executive MBA program that:
1. Used the creation of a company as the MBA program, with lots of JIT learning built in (ie, you learn accounting when you need to learning accounting, etc);
2. Created a set of reflection tools (performance assessment) that documented learning along side the task of building a company;
3. Charged 50% more and put the extra in a pot that was matched 3:1 (by local business, philanthropy) and distributed to teams as convertible debt.  Signing a note with accumulating interest would make the stakes real (and maybe some/all of the debt was forgiven when companies failed);
4. Was housed at the local chamber or in space provided by the local business community;
5. Included a social entrepreneur track and required that all companies measure their social impact.
The just-in-time learning library (#1) is also an interesting way to re-think most of corporate training (and an update on what we called Knowledge Management 5 years ago).  Like school, most corporate training is quickly forgotten.  The ability to not only to find what you need, but the ability to queue a playlist of video, documents, and simulations for a team when they need it is a big idea.
That kind of program would be better than the best case study method of teaching entrepreneurship.  People learn when it counts.  They remember learning associated with success, and even more so with failure.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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