Everything I Need to Know I Learned (or Didn’t Learn) in Business School
Why I Didn’t Go to Business School
I left a promising fast-track career at Procter & Gamble in 1986 to go to graduate school. After researching MBA programs and considering offers from several prestigious universities, I chose an educational track that surprised many of my P&G colleagues. I elected not to seek an MBA, but instead got an MA in organizational communication from the University of Minnesota, where I could study under the famed Dr. William Howell and other communication-rhetoric experts. My interest in creativity and innovation training also led me to earn an additional MA in training and development at Minnesota at the same time.
Once I overcame the culture shock of moving from P&G boardrooms to uncomfortable, un-air-conditioned classrooms with small student desks, I became engrossed in gaining knowledge that would provide the foundation for my current entrepreneurial venture: SolutionPeople (formerly Creative Solutions), a consulting firm that provides creativity and innovation training.
I thought that MBAs learned how to manage businesses and that I had already learned to do that at P&G. I also knew dozens of people who were getting MBAs and reasoned that I could easily hire them when needed. I wanted something I couldn’t get in an MBA program: the knowledge I needed to form the content for SolutionPeople.
What I’ve Learned From People Who Did Go to Business School
Although I never earned an MBA, I have enjoyed working with hundreds of MBAs since I got my alternative graduate degrees in communications and training. After graduation, Arthur Andersen hired me to develop a training program for the Professional Education Center that would help MBAs be better consultants. I left Andersen in 1989 to start SolutionPeople, which has allowed me to work with hundreds of MBAs from most of the leading schools.
I’ve gained an appreciation for what business schools teach. The MBAs I’ve worked with have had a solid understanding of the financial and marketing areas of business. I am now seeking to hire an MBA to lead my firm into the next growth phase.
What I Learned From Other Sources
While business schools teach students how businesses work, I’ve had to learn how the brain’s creative process works — a process few business schools teach. Each year, I’m invited to lecture to MBA students at several Chicago-area universities, and I am surprised at the number of students who say they want to know more about creativity and innovation, and how ideas flow and evolve through an organization. For five years, I’ve searched the leading business schools for a model that fosters continuous innovation in a business. The search has not been fruitful. I’d hoped some business-school professor had already done the work, but if someone has, I’ve yet to find it. Now I’m fine-tuning my own model.
Everyone needs an MIA, not an MBA
In retrospect, I made the right personal decision by not following the traditional path. However, I think an ideal option would be for current MBA programs to evolve a new degree called the “MIA” (Masters of Innovation Administration). Recently, Kellogg, Harvard, and the University of Chicago added more courses on creativity and innovation. Perhaps there is a new degree on the horizon.
Gerald Haman is the founding partner of SolutionPeople and the THINKubator in Chicago. Before founding SolutionPeople in 1989, Haman was a Procter & Gamble sales manager, Arthur Andersen training researcher, and concert producer for Grammy Award winners.
He is the award-winning inventor of the KnowBrainer®, Pocket Innovator®, and the Pocket Persuader® planning tools. Haman coauthored the New Product Development Handbook, and has written articles for the Journal of Innovative Management and Training Today magazines. His Continuous Innovation(TM) and Diamond Solution Process(TM) models have gained acclaim around the world.
Haman has an MA in organizational communication and an MA in training and development, and he has been a university lecturer at Northwestern, Loyola, DePaul, and Wayne State Universities. He has served on the faculty of Innovation University, the Creative Problem Solving Institute, the American Society for Quality, and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Haman grew up in a cattle ranch and farm in North Dakota, where he rode in his first rodeo at age six. He lives in Chicago with his wife Jillian and three children, Olivia, Jake, and Felicia.
Haman is currently learning how to license his KnowBrainer Accelerated Innovation Training and THINKubator Centers around the world, how to develop creativity software for the PalmPilot, and how to be the best dad he can be.
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