In this article, I shall be discussing a somewhat controversial issue but an important one. There is a recurring theme I have often heard most global moguls reiterating. They emphasise that the secret to business success is something quite simple – improve your product. That sounds so simple but it really is the secret; the product is what people buy so it is the hotspot. Elon Musk, the richest man on the planet right now, holds the same assertion. He even goes further to indicate that one of the things that stifle product improvement are MBAs.

What Does This Mean?

So the common trend is that for one to hold executive or managerial positions in a company or business they ought to have an MBA – Masters in Business Administration. In fact, so much of a societal norm has it become over the years that most people pursue it after their undergraduate degree. Elon Musk says too many MBAs are running down companies. He says so based on the common scenario that MBAs focus more on meetings, presentations and the like, rather than innovation and product improvement. I actually concur with his thought process because it makes sense. Why am I saying so?

Typically MBAs tend to focus more on issues to do with finance and returns on investments. Those areas deserve focus; I am not saying they are not important. However, they should not eclipse product development because that is at the heart of a business. Business in its basic definition is all about selling something (i.e. product) to get profit. That shows us that profit (financial and ROIs aspects) are a result of product dynamics. If you improve your product those aspects fall into place automatically.

Now I know some of you might want to downplay what Elon Musk thinks or says. After all, he is entitled to his opinion just like you and I are. However, I like to think that his thought processes are worth embracing given how successful he is in business. Being at the helm of SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, and The Boring Company; all successful companies is a testament to that.

What Some Actual MBAs Say

To explore further I thought to see what some people who actually hold MBAs say. I will quote some of their remarks here so that we see the picture:

I am an MBA alumnus, 10 years now and sadly it is true in the corporate world. There is so much time problem reporting in meetings and very little time spent on innovating and improving the core business.”

I have an MBA from a fancy school and this is so true. In my business, our wealthiest clients never saw a day of college.”

Having an MBA myself I can tell you they will not teach innovation in MBA programs. It is mostly useless quantitative information.”

I am an MBA student and it is honestly scary how we are taught to be ‘better’ at our careers. Our education teaches us more about how to make it appear as if we are better at our jobs through networking and PowerPoint, rather than actually being better through understanding how to deliver better products, services, and business processes.”

I only pursued an MBA to increase my chances of getting a bigger salary.”

What Some Of Those Who Have Been (Or Not Been) Under MBAs Say

I worked at SpaceX as an Electrical Engineer for over 5 years before retiring. Best job I ever had in 45 years of being an engineer in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles. At SpaceX, there was no accountant or MBA nonsense. We got stuff done without management getting in the way. Every engineer could go out and buy stuff they needed up to US$1000 with no approvals needed.”

MBA and Accountant-led management teams put all these controls in place that make it very hard to get stuff done. They make it so hard to get stuff done; one just gives up and just collects their salary by pretending to go to work.”

MBAs are taught to appear better rather than being better and understanding it.”

I feel like we spend more time counting and recording what we do at work to please the MBA.”

Get this right, there is nothing wrong with getting an MBA. There is nothing wrong with putting MBAs in executive or managerial positions. The problem comes when these MBAs become too focused on other issues or bureaucratic stuff that stifles product improvement. I have worked in two organizations before and MBAs, Drs, Professors, and the like occupying management or board positions tend to stifle innovation and product improvement. I even have a personal account of when I came up with a software app idea that could streamline operations in one of those organizations and it never saw the light of day due to bureaucratic excuses. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to spend more time working on getting the product better and spending more time with customers.