The top-10 MBA cult is awful. These are usually those people you knew in high school/college who were excellent at studying for and passing tests. Excellent at getting great grades on projects. Excellent at everything except building ANYTHING.
I think that the people who are best at building things that people want don't want to get an MBA. They instead choose to spend their time building a business, a piece of software, a piece of hardware, whatever. People are good at what they love to do. MBA people love to go to school and get pieces of paper that say "pay me I'm smart."
As a data guy, I have to go in and deal with these assholes all the time. I have hard numbers, they have hand-wavey MBA speak bullshit. It is probably the hardest thing we data people have to deal with: criticism from the "trusted advisors" who, due to the cognitive dissonance suffered by the executives who pay them loads of cash, are deemed to be intelligent when they really aren't. After all, what executive wants to admit that the man or woman he has been paying high 6 figures to advise him for months is actually a talented actor/mimic at best and an idiot at worst??
I don't think it's the MBA degree itself that causes this. Most MBA programs go very heavily into the idea of culture and competitive advantage - and obviously stopping a core part of your culture like the 20% time would be against what most MBAs are taught.
This problem has nothing to do with education and everything to do with short term professional management that is compensated based on short term results. If you want to blame anyone, you need to blame current financial thinking by most board of directors.
Of course, most of those guys are just in it for the short term too. So ultimately you need to blame the guys with money who give it to people who don't know how to invest. I'm sure most of us, including me, are guilty of this as well.
Not at all - MBAs teach company management and company finance. There really isn't anything in an MBA that would have anything to do with the job of corporate oversight that a board of directors handles.
The board of directors are simply large shareholders who are put there to make sure management does what is in the best interests of share holders. In most large companies, these people are mostly made up of employees of pension funds and similar institutions. Their job is to try their best to make sure the company is committed to giving their investors a return of x% and are usually there because it is conventional thinking that having control of a company is in your best interests.
Now obviously these guys have no idea what should be going on in a technology (or just about any other) company. They aren't really concerned with employees or anything like that - only with a few accounting and market figures such as return on equity, share price, potential acquisitions of other companies they have invested in, and whether or not to sell the company to others. Actually running the company or how the company works is the furthest thing from their minds.
Now, as I said above, these guys are not actually to blame. They are just doing their jobs - giving returns to the guys who have dumped money into their funds. The people ultimately to blame are you and me. We put our money in these massive pension funds and similar. We don't even care where the money goes. Each year we check our statements and say 'oh, 13% returns only, maybe I should switch pension funds?'.
As always, the problem is apathy, entitlement and 'well these guys are a big company, they must know what they are doing'.
"MBAs teach company management and company finance."
This is inherently what the board of directors does. Furthermore, you characterization of the make-up of a board of directors is not necessarily correct. Many (if not most) boards also have independent directors, who many not own a single share.
"There really isn't anything in an MBA that would have anything to do with the job of corporate oversight that a board of directors handles."
This left me scratching my head, my experience was the polar opposite of this comment. In my MBA program the topic of the board came up a number of times in finance and management classes. The board & corporate oversight were very much top of mind issues.
"This is inherently what the board of directors does."
That would be what the board of directors is theoretically meant to do. In practice it's extremely far from the truth, with board meetings being very infrequent and focused primarily on share price and dividends.
This discussion is not really about Google though: Google does actually have a very relevant board of directors with most of them being founders or directly involved in starting large tech firms. Many other companies (Nokia? Microsoft?) are not so lucky.
Interestingly enough on Google's board only Paul S. Otellini (previous CEO of Intel) and L. John Doerr (early Intel engineer and VC) have an MBA. 
I agree with your point about theoretical vs the reality of a Boards function. I should have been more explicit, I am disagreeing that Board of Directors are overlooked in MBA education. At least in my experience, the Board was discussed often.
I really don't see the need to stereotype, and even less to call names.
Personally, I have worked as a software developer, and I do also have an MBA, and I strongly believe that my broad/diverse education allows me to better interface with people from different backgrounds within a work environment.
Are there ways to obtain broad skills (technical, management, etc.) which are more time effective, cost effective, etc.? Maybe, maybe not. Each person is free to make their own choice.
However, back to the article's point, if Google's 20% is dying down it is ultimately due to Larry Page, who is clearly a technical guy, doesn't have an MBA (1) and most likely is seen as a "doer".
(1) According to wikipedia, he actually received an honorary MBA for his entrepreneurial spirit.
I don't really believe there is such a great divide. In a greater probability most of those who are "genius" in childhood will continuously perform better when they become adults, in all fields including "doing" things. Sure there are some prodigies who turn out to be quite useless in real-world scenarios, but those are really few, IMO.
That's probably too far-stretched. In fact I believe conventional wisdom states the opposite, that those who get high scores in tests will likely be technical geniuses who understand how things work and do the hands-on stuffs, while those who manage are likely those who know how to talk but don't know how to study. MBA is more of a place to socialize, not to "study" things, right?
"MBA is more of a place to socialize, not to 'study' things, right?"
What? Go take a financial statements analysis class and then tell me how MBAs don't "study" things. There are certainly ways to coast through an MBA program, as there are ways to coast through many things. Simply because MBAs don't have to go through the mathematical rigor that an engineer or physicist does does not mean there is NO rigor or requirements necessary to attain an MBA. There are many vacuous, over-confident, arrogant MBAs out there, but that is part of the human condition not simply inherent in those who go earn MBAs.
This broad (and widely inaccurate) characterization of hundreds of thousands of people is mind-boggling.
Not to sound arrogant, but I took a few MBA courses which included Enterprise Finance and Operations Management. There is some rigor to the courses, and I found the finance class in particular interesting and applicable. However, the level of difficulty was at least one order of magnitude below the engineering courses I had taken, when compared EE & Physics courses. Aside from some term memorization the math was really easy and "coasting through" was definitely possible if you're used to stuff like semiconductor physics.
I agree - an MBA is not engineering, and many in my class would have been unable at that stage to finishing 3rd year engineering mathematics. A few of us had engineering backgrounds though, and some very deep at that.
However there is (usually) a deliberate effort to overload students with volumes of work, so that they can figure out how the real world works and work in teams.
Also in my MBA course students had a minimum of quantitative work they had to do, and if they wanted they could dive deeply into the more serious mathematics in certain courses. It was part of the expectations that people who were more technical or more experienced in one area would help out those who had less experience, and vice versa.
Engineering mathematics is not for everyone, and indeed not required for every MBA graduate, but it certainly helps for the more quantitative courses. And finance at one school can differ wildly from finance at other schools. Look for the professors. Look at the courses people take.
But also look at the culture. Some universities are focussed on the money, others, like Yale, on much wider impact in business and public service.
There's a cohort of people who do particularly bad in academic measures (especially the standardized testing sort that is in such fashion now), that are exceptionally good at what they do. I haven't seen a statistical study, but there are many, many anecdotal accounts of scientists, inventors, and businessmen who did poorly in academic settings but were brilliant.
SV technorati pretentiousness is indeed awful sometimes, and stereotypical MBAs do not have a monopoly on brain-dead business ideas.
But last I checked SV and California in general pumped out more innovation than the rest of the country combined, and is preparing to colonize another planet and electrify transport.
There is obviously something fundamental in the "California mindset" that differs starkly from the majority of the rest of the world, and that ought to be understood. I think it has something to do with reasoning from first principles, and with an expansive risk-tolerant business culture.
That risk tolerance and general liberal thinking is going to generate a fair amount of silly stuff, but it's also going to permit genius.
I forget who said this, but I recall reading it somewhere: "the further West you go, the further into the future you go." I'd say it's not true literally but certainly philosophically.
Reality distortion fields don't emit actual products that work.
It's a field alright, and it does have some reality-distorting side effects, but there is actually a "there" there.
If I had to boil it down I'd say it's this:
(1) California believes in the future. People in California (stereotypically) think about what they can do tomorrow, building on what they have today. Everyone else thinks about what they already have today and fears losing it tomorrow.
(2) California reasons from first principles more than elsewhere. Everyone else looks at what everyone else is doing and tries to superficially copy what looks like it works, or looks to the past. Ideas from the past will only get you what was done in the past, and other peoples' ideas will not make you competitive since they're everyone else's advantages. (Assuming you succeed in copying them at all, and don't just end up cargo-culting them.)
I quoted this elsewhere in the thread. It bears repetition.
"For the engine which drives Enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit." - John Maynard Keynes
Reality distortion fields don't emit actual products that work.
I'm not saying that a lot of great stuff doesn't come out of California/SV (just like Apple, for whom the 'reality distortion field' thing was first coined, also produces great products). The casualness with which you suppose that California alone is producing more innovation the entire rest of the country suggests that you're overwhelmingly focused on a very, very specific definition of 'innovation'.
I was talking about an idea more than a place, and should have made that clear.
The places where innovation comes from are going to be places that believe in the future, are open to experimentation and risk, and reason from first principles instead of cargo-cultism. It just seems like California (and SV in particular) has an above-average amount of these things.
Have you actually been to and/or lived in California?
[A little background about me: I was born in Cali, left when I was 6 months old, returned when I was in my late 20s, and stayed there for 5 years (San Diego).]
The reason I ask you this is that your viewpoint is why I went to Cali. But when I got there I found that the idea of Cali is very different from the reality of Cali. I have lived in a variety of places around the world, and I must honestly say that California was one of the worst...
Re your first point: (1) California believes in the future.
I would say NO, California believes in itself. They think (sometimes)that they are the future, but most often they build on what they have today because they fear about losing it. Not about what they can do tomorrow. A lot of what they do is about preserving the image of what they are, not about progress or the future. And as for the people (stereotypically)... Rednecks, gangbangers, surfer-dudes... There are a lot of them.
Your second quote: (2) California reasons from first principles more than elsewhere. Everyone else looks at what everyone else is doing and tries to superficially copy what looks like it works...
I think here you have it 50-50. Yes, some new things come out of Cali, but on the whole, they copy, (it's just that sometimes the copy is way better than the original)Except the idea of copy is a little changed, they don't copy exactly, they take an idea and 'shift' it. First is was a shift from real world to online. At the moment it's a shift from many to individual (online).
And your quote does need repeating, as is sums up Cali well, from gold rush to dotcom boom -
"For the engine which drives Enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit." - John Maynard Keynes
San Diego is something of a Silicon Valley for genetics and other life sciences, LA is/was something of a hub for aerospace and arguably movie technology (it's more diversified now, but does have a Silicon Beach movement).
I'm not sure what objective measurement one could use to really determine "innovation", maybe economic activity from industries or products established within the last x years?
You've been in "this community" for less than 3 months according to your username. I'm not SV technorati, and I've run a business, as well as been a founder in a non-tech business that grew to 150 employees. I know business, and I know what I said is correct.
Yep, absolutely correct. Well, save for Nike, which was founded by an MBA. Oh yeah, and Apple, whose CEO has an MBA and was personally selected by Steve Jobs. Well, now that I think about it, Meg Whitman, the current CEO of HP and former CEO of eBay has an MBA. And wasn't Bonobos founded by a Stanford MBA? I think Birchbox was born by a group of MBA's as well.
Except for those and probably thousands of other exceptions, your logic is water-tight and well-reasoned. Kudos, sir.
Either it is a meritocracy for them, in which case we can draw some really nasty conclusions using people like Sculley, or they aren't operating in a meritocracy, which jives with the other accusations leveled at them....
Yeah, we're in the middle of a massive bull run which has swelled every company in my portfolio like a balloon. And the correlation between stock price and awesome company in the short run is really really tenuous. Many of the less savory leaders out there have a penchant for making short term profits look awesome by killing off investment in long term prospects, and the market eats it up.
It doesn't matter how long he's been here. His statement about the community may have been hyperbolic; do you have a real rebuttal against the content? Or will you nitpick one sentence you can attack?
SV Tehnorati is a stereotype because he's drawing comparisons, he wouldn't normally make a steretype argument unless you had already. The point was to demonstrate a different perspective, and this entire thread is just demonstrating a disgusting level of stereotyping for a category of people - MBAs.
The bottom line is that there is nothing inherently evil or pejorative about an MBA. Judge human beings on individual merit, not on a piece of paper.
The root cause of this is company ownership. Even if Page wants to follow an innovative approach, he might not be able to convince the board and the big shareholders to invest long term because they want to see their shares "appreciated".
If you want to keep innovating, the company need to stay nimble, with the owner(s) only interested in innovation. I don't know, maybe that's why the startup eco system works.
Another model that seems to work as well is the "duel roles". For example, Jeff Bezos lets the MBA optimize the hell out of Amazon, while he can play with Blue Origin in his spare time and focuses on more innovative technology ideas. Again, this is possible because Bezos probably has far more influence at Amazon than Page at Google.
Unless something has changed that I'm not aware of, Google has a share structure that gives Brin and Page effectively full control through shares in a separate class that has 10 times the voting power of the A shares that were offered in the IPO.
So if Page can't convince "the board and the big shareholders" I believe it means he can't convince Brin, not some horde of faceless MBA's or institutional investors.
Your assumption about Bezos relative influence over Amazon seems unlikely, as Bezos Amazon holdings and the lack of a similar share structure means Bezos has far less voting power at Amazon than Page has at Google. Last I heard, Bezos held less than 20% of the voting power at Amazon.
Incredible. Truly. I would have never guessed somebody with an MBA might start a company or work in management. Somebody with an MBA who also is capable of technical things? Stunning. You have opened my eyes; clearly getting an MBA allows one to create incredible things. These are incredible.
Which one of us is wearing the SV blinders again? What have MBAs done, in the capacity of MBAs, that is incredible? Founding or working at some tech startup is not incredible.
Your best defense of MBAs is that some are capable of doing other things as well. You may as well tell me that dogfood is a perfectly reasonable meal for humans because sometimes you feed your dog your leftovers: "Dogfood makes great people food. See, here is some dogfood that also happens to be people food""MBAs can create just as well as technical people. See, here are some MBAs who are technical people as well""Chiropractors aren't all quacks. See, here is a chiropractor who is also a licensed physical therapist."
I can only conclude that it is as I suspected; you are full of hot air.