The MBA Buzzwords Compressed

My favorite lesson about buzzwords was one I learned in my mid-twenties, years before I even started the MBA degree. While I was a foreign correspondent in Mexico City I had the opportunity to take an around-the-world trip as a tour guide, twice, in two successive years. The first time around I worried about every church or monument from the airport to the hotel because my tourists, who had been told I’d been there before, expected me to know. And as you’ve already guessed, I hadn’t been there before, so I didn’t know. The second time around, having seen the main places on the tour, I had the confidence to say “oh that’s just some neighborhood church, it’s not one of the main ones” without the fear of it ending up being the holy of holies or something.

Which is a lot of what happens with the MBA buzzwords; gaining the confidence to know what isn’t important. It’s about the confidence to be able to ask what a buzzword means without thinking it’s something they teach the MBAs in the second day of class.

So I’m chuckling with Guy Kawasaki’s MBA in a page post. Guy links to an amazing collection of very small print buzzwords and such, with a dig on the MBA world that generates them. “And I mean that in a pejorative way,” he adds.

Somewhere there’s a collection of MBA jokes. They’re actually recycled lawyer jokes, because MBAs as a group don’t generate the charisma that lawyers do. How do you create a new small business? Take a medium-sized business and put an MBA in charge of it.  The best investment strategy? Buy MBAs for what they’re worth and sell them for what they think they’re worth.

In hiring through the years at Palo Alto Software, I’ve become especially wary of the MBA in the first job after getting the degree. We’ve hired different variations on that person several times, and none of them are still with the company. A few years later, however, people with the MBA degree from 10-15 years back who have had some seasoning, tell a different story. Like Guy Kawasaki (a UCLA MBA) they can look back and take it with more perspective. And I confess, I too made a terrible mess of my first job as an MBA: that story is posted in this blog as A Stupid Mistake. A True Story.”

My mother-in-law used to say “there are so many idiots with papers.” She had learned that one from experience.   She was a very wise woman.

— Tim

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