A topic that comes up when I attend the information sessions for the EMBA, so much so, that I would wager a real-£ bet that this would come up as early as the first 15 minutes into the Q&A session. I almost feel like a machine replaying the same answer that I’ve heard myself say every time – and I’m sure if you, the reader, who have been to these sessions, will have heard that before too. And because these aren’t really new questions, why would you expect new answers?
Unsurprisingly, the “Return on Investment” term is borrowed from the finance discipline. One can look at this figure to compare similar investments to make the best use of your money. The thing is: the MBA is not all about the money – there is more to it. So your real question should be: “Do I want to go to a business school?”. More often than not, that is a question with an answer of many parts: obviously, one is financial, another is more individual and the last is more about opportunities. So, in true postgraduate form, the real answer is: “it depends”. Yes, you could say that it’s a “cop out”, but there are just so many individual situational factors that it seems completely random to each person. In fact, it is almost dangerous, because there is a significant number of people that go in to the programme “with one mindset and come out with completely different” results.
My view is not to get caught up with the money you’ll get back. The sum of money is just part of what you are going to invest. Do not completely discount other things like: time, relationships, absorbing all-nighter discussions and potential personal heart-aches. How do you measure those? Moreover, the return is highly dependent on what you are prepared to invest in yourself: Yes, yes: “The more you put in, the more you’ll get out”. In the end, the answer is “something that only you can answer yourself”. I’m sure you’ve heard that those before too.
So, here it is: to be brutally blunt, if you are looking into an MBA to further yourself, the ROI question is relevant, but it should not be all that you get out of it. It should not even answer 20% of that. And if your answer has a ROI part that is going to be more than 50% of the overall motivation, then maybe you are missing something.
I’m betting you haven’t heard that one before.
I signed up for the Silicon Valley Trek back in February thinking that I’m potentially one of the few Executive MBAs on any LBS trek and it was a potentially daunting activity. However it presented a great opportunity to connect to other entrepreneurs, VCs, managers and alumni that would never be otherwise possible – at least not in this timeframe. I thundered on and the application was done in good time. By March, it was a Go – and the next I knew, I was already on the plane across the calm pond.
At the Bay, the weather was not accommodating: the previous day was coloured with torrential rain and a tornado warning. I had brought the weather with me to sunny California. Inside, I stared at the busy schedule. It revealed much about the types of companies and what the week has in store: entrepreneurship, hard choices, big exciting ventures and stories of the Valley’s history of successes. But what I did not realise, was that I learned more about the nature of opportunities, waves of unpredictable milestones and cycle of failures and successes.
The trek group and I were inspired by stories and insights of the way business is done in Bay Area. It is very robust and positive. One serial entrepreneur loves there, because “the culture has had a 70 year head start and it embraces learning from failure”. A striking contrast to the unbelievable strength of active-inertia preventing incumbent media companies embracing the new Internet economy. No matter what the adversities were, entrepreneurs with determination and great people will get somewhere. Even if they fail, they try again – it’s the only way.
After a hectic and rewarding week, the clouds parted over the San Francisco Airport and the sun came out. I looked forward to coming back to London, but I can’t help forecasting that Europe’s culture had a different air to entrepreneurship – it does not interpret past failures as a sign of potential success: “if you sunk the boat before mate, you’ll potentially sink it again”. So, am I heading into another storm? Is it worthwhile to subscribe to the way it’s done in the Valley? If so, how does one go about changing the European mindset? Comments please.