If there is one attribute that demonstrates the value of experience in the ‘University of Life’ over the acknowledged value of a high class, formal business education, it is the ability to make good decisions in the context of ambiguity. And ambiguity is everywhere for those of us who run businesses.
Henry Mintzberg’s assertion that “university MBA classrooms produce hubris rather than leadership excellence” goes somewhat further than I would want, but there is more than a grain of truth in what he says.
Sure, in a classroom, students can dissect all the theory of management or leadership and write theses on communication, motivation and negotiation, which gain top marks and, in due course perhaps, a job in McKinsey, Bain or PwC.
Then, from their lofty position of knowledge and black or white solutions, these geniuses can counsel us in how to run a business – but they have never run or led anything themselves.
The wise leader certainly will take advantage of the intellectual horsepower that these clever people can deliver, but will also be very selective in the advice he/she takes.
If you are learning to ride a bicycle, you will only really trust a teacher who has actually ridden one and can demonstrate proficiency in the art. In contrast, a physics PhD can explain to you on paper the theory of balance and velocity; but will fail to teach you to deal with the counter-intuitive ambiguities that cause the inevitable crash.
Get a coach who can ride a bike!