The Personal MBA Experiment

MBA topics

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Incredulous. Dismissive. Or worse. How else can someone with a hard-earned MBA degree feel about the concept behind “The Personal MBA” experiment? For those who are not familiar with “The Personal MBA,” it is the brainchild of Josh Kaufman. Mr. Kaufman earned his MBA from the University of Cincinnati. After graduation, Josh apparently decided that MBA programs might just be a waste of time and money. Josh therefore started www.personalmba.com. There , Josh listed 99 business-related books–and inferred that anyone who read all 99 of these books would have core business knowledge similar to that of someone who actually earned his or her MBA.

Personal MBA Experiment

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Chris Thomas and I am a new staff writer here at “Experiments in Finance.” I am the former creator/owner of Broke Professionals and now own and run FreelancePF–a freelance writing business. Now that we are properly acquainted, I must first confess something: unlike many of our audience and the owners of this site, I do not have a MBA. I do however have a J.D., and I know reading a bunch of “the right books” could never fully assimilate the experience of law school. If I had a MBA and someone who had simply read 99 books told me they had a MBA equivalent–well, I probably would not take that too well. Nor do I believe an employer would give a raise or make a hiring decision based on a”Personal MBA.” From what I have read about MBA programs, there is a major emphasis on leadership and teamwork. MBA Students generally already possess core business knowledge, and many even work full-time–so the emphasis of the program is more on doing as opposed to passively reading. No matter how many books you read, in my opinion, that will never replicate the process of actually doing. Too much of our education takes place in the theoretical already.

My Personal MBA Confession

I have another confession to make. If, dear reader, we are going to be collaborating together over the coming weeks and months, then I want us to start out our relationship honestly. I must confess that I am partaking in the “Personal MBA” challenge. Before you rush to judgment, first hear me out. I will never say that I have a MBA. I know I will never possess the business acumen of those that have completed a legitimate MBA program. At this point in my life, however, I simply have too many student loans from my law degree to enroll in a MBA program. I would love to be able to, but it’s not practical at this time. So, for someone like me, I do believe the reading list in the “Personal MBA” program provides a good introduction to basic communication, finance, marketing, and various other business-related skills.

Can the “Personal MBA” Rival a Traditional MBA Program?

The idea that the “Personal MBA” can rival the education taught in a traditional MBA program is, however, starting to gain some traction. None other than entrepreneurship guru Seth Godin appears to embrace the “Personal MBA” program. Seth Godin, in an interview at the “Personal MBA” website states: “I think instead, getting the network and the education (without the very expensive diploma) frees you up to accomplish some amazing things, to work your way through Dips that MBAs are too busy to get to.” Perhaps more troubling, Mr. Godin goes on to state: “I think what’s missing from the Personal MBA is easy transferability. In other words, it’s not trusted yet. Safety-seeking managers don’t trust themselves to hire people with a PersonalMBA. The good news is that every day, more people with a Personal MBA end up in hiring positions, or end up doing great things… so it is spreading, and it’s getting more powerful every day.”

Where’s The Opposition to the Personal MBA?

There appears to be very little formal opposition to the concept of the “Personal MBA.” Even New York Times best-selling entrepreneur writer (and big fan of quality education) Ramit Sethi (of I Will Teach You to Be Rich Fame) says on his site that he considers Mr. Kaufman a friend (and has had Mr. Kaufman as a guest-poster on I Will Teach You to Be Rich)–even though Mr. Sethi does not agree entirely with the idea of a “Personal MBA”. I am sure most people would agree that credentials don’t really matter as much as whether someone can competently perform their job. At the same time, however, I do not believe I will be listing my “Personal MBA” on my resume anytime soon. (besides, I have not yet “graduated.”) Conclusion I look forward to writing for you and reading your comments in the coming weeks and months. Let’s get the conversation started out with these two questions: 1) What are your thoughts on the idea of a “Personal MBA”? 2) What % of a MBA program is immune to a purely reading-based curriculum. I will be sure to respond to your comments– in between reading a “Personal MBA” reading-list book on negotiation that is. I’m starting to feel like a “master of the universe” already.

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