The question has long been asked: is an MBA a "waste of time?" I'd like to attempt to sort out this matter. To begin: I don't think that an MBA education is a panacea, and, of course, no MBA program is flawless. It's only natural for there to be criticisms of MBA programs—and misunderstandings exist as well. It'd be outright strange if they didn't! Given the aforementioned objections, if we take a modest view of an MBA education, we find that critical or negative opinions seem to fall largely into five categories. Let's take a look at them one by one.
Type 1: The MBA title is meaningless
An MBA program is a place to learn how to adopt the attitude of a leader. It does not offer a miracle cure for business challenges or a formula for instant success. On the other hand, there are parties at businesses that hire MBA holders (HR departments, executives) who (currently) have still not discovered how to make appropriate use of this talent. One does not, however, enter an MBA program to be valued highly by another party. It is instead a place to develop oneself as a leader, capable of spearheading teams and organizations and for participants to help each other transcend their current limitations by engaging in high-quality discussions and debates. It is a place to learn significantly from failure and to consider how to tap into an organization's power and transform society. Those who demand instant recognition and value from the title of "MBA degree holder" are advised to look elsewhere.
Type II: There’s no place you can put an MBA to real use
Knowledge and skills you can use instantly will soon be obsolete. It's not knowledge or skills that you should spend your time learning during your MBA education; it's attitude—the will to transform your organization and society. An MBA program is a place to gain the education necessary to become a truly transformative leader. It's therefore important to understand that an MBA education does not act instantly, like cold medicine. On the contrary: isn't it healthier to believe that leaders capable of learning from failure must first experience failure themselves? A person free from failure is a person who has taken no risks that might possibly position them for that experience—who has opted only for safe, undistinguished action. I believe that it is outright dangerous for an elite employee who has never experienced failure to be handed a managerial post. That is another characteristic quality of MBA holders: the ability to learn from failure.
Type III: The content of an MBA program has no value
The first generation of MBA holders—still active in the workplace today, 20 years after MBA education was established in Japan—obtained their degrees almost exclusively at Western business schools instead of schools in Japan. The MBA educational experience was reserved for elite employees sent to these schools by their companies. In the interest of providing historical background, at the time, in order to be recognized by the AACSB (the international certification agency for MBA programs), MBA programs emphasized management approaches such as maximizing business valuations and shareholder value rather than discussions of corporate ethics and sustainability, and the argument was advanced that such an education was difficult to put to use in Japanese society. In response to this criticism, and upon reflection prompted by the subprime mortgage crisis, MBA program curricula have, in the past 10 years, undergone sweeping changes. The first generation of Japanese MBA holders would probably find these programs significantly different from those they attended.
Type IV: Management ability can’t be taught
According to the claims of Henry Mintzberg, management needs more than science in learning; it also needs art (intuition) and craft (skill). According to Mintzberg, no firm methodology for accomplishing this goal exists. In his book Strategic Safari, Mintzberg is focused on making an argument for his methodology to management science (the "Configuration School")...but the flaws he points out are extremely spot-on and highlight the shortcomings of traditional business schools. If research and instruction do not work in tandem, Mintzberg asserts, then the business school is little more than a training school. Mintzberg sounded the alarm that if a program fails to engage both the left and right brain—to utilize both the classroom and the real world—then the leadership education it provides is lopsided.
Type V: I just hate MBAs
Simply criticizing the concept of an MBA program when you're not familiar with it is the same as saying that you hate it for no reason. If you criticize something, I think you should at least have some degree of personal experience with it, even if it's only from one single experience. If the MBA concept were hopelessly flawed, then it would make no sense for MBA programs to have spread throughout the world as they have. Returning to the topic at hand, however: no form of education is flawless. Certainly, MBA programs have their shortcomings and criticisms, and attempts should be made to identify and address these. It's no different from quality improvement or process improvement—areas in which the people of Japan are second-to-none! If management education institutions were incapable of conducting those processes, then they would be flatly unqualified to teach their subject.