Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why MBA's don't rule the world

Warren Buffett and Charles Munger made remarks at the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholder meeting this past weekend. Most of it is the same armchair quarterbacking everyone is doing now with the economic crisis: stocks were over-valued, houses were over-valued, newspapers are dying, etc. Their remarks on investment knowledge/training/"expertise" I would like to highlight though, since I believe it to be true in my gut:
"There is so much that's false and nutty in modern investing practice and modern investment banking, that if you just reduced the nonsense, that's a goal you should reasonably hope for," Mr. Buffett said. Regarding complex calculations used to value purchases, he said: "If you need to use a computer or a calculator to make the calculation, you shouldn't buy it."

Said Mr. Munger: "Some of the worst business decisions I've ever seen are those with future projections and discounts back. It seems like the higher mathematics with more false precision should help you, but it doesn't. They teach that in business schools because, well, they've got to do something."

Mr. Buffett said: "If you stand up in front of a business class and say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, you won't get tenure....Higher mathematics my be dangerous and lead you down pathways that are better left untrod."

I took an introductory MBA course through work years ago and my impression of the course at the time was "WTF?" similar to Buffett's sentiment above. I'd taken Macro and Micro econ courses in the past, so it's not as if the course was foreign entirely, yet I felt out of place and not understanding the point of the charts and calculus being forced on me. I remember thinking, "And how is this going to better my career and make me more savvy?" I came to the conclusion it didn't and I left the course and didn't go back. I figured me arranging for my work to pay for the course was savvy and I would better my career by actually working past 5 PM instead of skipping over to class!

NOTE: I'm not wealthy (so I would need an $85,000 loan to get an MBA) and I'm not where I want to be in my career, but I have a decent job (with some security) and I can pay my bills. Which is more than can be said by a bunch of MBA grads who got canned working for companies that caused the economic collapse! Hope calculus and graphs help them in their interviews. Or help them designing new iPhone apps, the latest entrepreneurial craze (which is more about programming than anything).

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