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Do We Have Too Many MBAs?

The focus was placed on MBAs, but the problem is one of speed. Analysis and Planning (strategizing?) are key inputs for making decisions. Unfortunately, MBAs and education, in general, are mostly based on linear thinking. This works fine as long as the pace of change is fairly consistent (velocity and volatility are somewhat predictable and uncertainty can be “managed”). But, we live in an exponential world due to all the digitalization* so the window of time for performing analysis and planning is narrowing every day.

An Illustration:

Trying driving your car down a busy street with people, cars, and buses moving about constantly. To avoid risks (accident) you would drive with caution (low speed). And you probably would be just fine. Now trying driving through the same street while accelerating (by the time you get to the end of the street you may be doing well over 100 mph). What is the likelihood of making the right decisions and being able to adjust the vehicle to avoid risks?

Right….that is what it “feels” like to make decisions in our world today.

Imagine trying to make hundreds of decisions every day in a complex business (say…making rockets and trying to scale operations for interplanetary travel and overcome challenges of propulsion science that is still rooted in chemical fuels). It’s not that MBAs are not valuable, it’s the challenge of our human inability to overcome the accelerating pace of change to manage uncertainty, risk, and make decisions that may have unknown impacts as the future catches us.

The remarks Musk made about MBAs also serves as a canary for many other roles and positions whose value is being downgraded due to the disruption from digitization. Many companies are trying to react and play catch up using DX (digital transformation), but this is only a brief stopgap measure. The transformation is already upon us as is climate change.

The challenge is what we do about it.

Perhaps we can use Musk’s comments and apply first principles to how we approach education and skill enhancement for our kids in school and adults who are becoming displaced by technology. We need to address this as one of the Grand Challenges facing humanity and we don’t have time for linear thinking.

The social unrest in this country can be directly tied to the abandoned car lot of lives and families that have been discarded by industry in favor of technology and workers that can now be sourced anywhere on the planet. This is dividing our country and is another White Rhino that is being ignored just like climate change and many other disruptions in our lives. Musk’s message serves as a warning to create a sense of urgency since we don’t have a lot of time to spend analyzing and planning new strategies.


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