SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: SIGIA-L: MBAs?
Re: SIGIA-L: MBAs?
From: George Olsen (george.olsen_at_pobox.com)
Date: Sat Sep 08 2001 - 13:29:18 EDT
At 12:13 PM -0400 9/8/01, James Melzer wrote:
>I would also suggest that, in lieu of an MBA, degrees in business history,
>anthropology, or organizational sociology might all be at least as useful
>for understanding a client's business. The humanities and social sciences
>are not without merit when it comes to analyzing people and their behavior.
Actually there's an important difference.
As you've noted, these social sciences degrees teach you how to learn
about business. However, they don't directly teach about business
itself the way an MBA does -- you have to use the social science
skills to do the learning after you're in a business environment. So
while certainly social sciences skills are important, it's important
to realize you're going to need to go through a second learning curve
to understand business. And while an MBA tends to give you more "book
knowledge" than "real-life" knowledge, it also (hopefully) give you
the framework to help better understand the real-life learning --
which is an understanding that's harder to get when you're doing this
learning out in the field. Sort of like when MBA grads try to do
social science work (mainly marketing research) without the
background knowledge you get from studying social sciences.
There's not a right or wrong answer to which degree is better, it's
just a matter of being clear about what value a particular degree is
likely to give and whether that suits one's needs. I think many of
the people on the list who are thinking about MBAs have the analysis
skills (whether from social sciences degrees or experience) and
consequently are looking more at getting the domain specific
knowledge that an MBA might bring.
And certainly you can always use self-study -- for example, picking
up some college textbooks -- to get the sort of "higher-level"
background knowledge that you might get from classes. For me, I've
probably decided against an MBA because of the cost and the time
commitment requires versus the value I think I'd get from it --
unfortunately, only about a third to half of most schools' curriculum
looks interesting to me.
But part of that decision is because UCLA offers an Extension program
(don't know if that's a California-specific thing, but worth checking
to see if there's an equivalent program in your area) that offers
business courses, so I can choose the ones I want and skip the ones
that I don't think are as relevant. Is it as thorough as an MBA
program? Nope. But it's a way to force myself to study some of the
less-interesting-but-necessary subjects and a way to be able to
reality check some of the self-studying I've been doing by talking
At 9:17 AM -0700 9/8/01, Chris Chandler wrote:
>and, as unique as each business is, there is significant
>overlap between the three situations: at the high level
>(balance sheets, income statements etc); at a more fine
>grained level (unit costs, transaction costs); as well as
>the basic web metrics of conversion ratios and the like.
A friend of mine who's got an MBA commented that one of the values of
doing the case studies on a variety of businesses is that you learn
that there's a lot of commonalities that cut across different types
of businesses. Obviously there *are* specific knowledge that's
important to each business -- but the processes and techniques needed
to run a business is often similar. Which goes along with the comment
from another friend who's been doing consulting work for four decades
that most business' processes aren't nearly as unique as they think
George Olsen george @ interactionbydesign.com
User Experience Architect 310-993-0467
UX weblog & essays http://www.interactionbydesign.com/thoughts/
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