Saturday, October 13, 2012

MBA destroys the engineer in you

When one is an engineer, there is usually only one correct answer. The best answer. And it can be proven that that answer is correct, and the best. An engineer usually emphatically and vigorously puts forward his answer, his solution. Not so when you do MBA.

MBA teaches, rather forces, you to use vague, uncertain words and phrases such as "might be", "could be", "it is possible", "perhaps better", "likely to be", "uncertain business environment", "perhaps more important", "it depends", and other useless bullshit. Not only that, MBA forces you to use fancy concepts [the sandwich approach, for example] to put forward your thoughts or criticism or feedback. It also forces doublespeak and euphemisms deep down your throats ["your stupid mistakes" turns into "areas of improvement for you"] ["reduced profits" becomes "compressed profits"]. Finally, it makes you use crappy jargon such as "kickoff meeting", "leverage", "basis points", "opportunities", "synergies", "deep dive", and so on.

Frankly, MBA destroys the engineer in you. Or at least it tries. It's up to you to make sure that you only let in good stuff, and keep the bad stuff away from you.

That being said, and to be fair, it's important to remember that all of these fake words, fake tones, doublespeak, etc., that I've mentioned above are not only useful in the real world, but also necessary. It's important in real life, for example, to "manage all your stakeholders" and "to set expectations", so to say.

I have always been clear in my mind that I will not let my MBA make my language vague. I have always believed in and exercised straight talk and clear thoughts, and I will continue to do so [unless, of course, MBA-like language is absolutely necessary to get a particular work done]. I have used direct, un-MBA-like language in this post too :)

I am Rishabh Singla and I approve this message.

Rishabh Singla
MBA: National University of Singapore
MBA: Korea University Business School
B.E.: Delhi College of Engineering [University of Delhi]

Update [Nov'12]: I laughed when I read the press release of Monitor Group, clearly written by MBAs, stating that Monitor had "agreed to join forces with Deloitte". Wow. MBAs painted a fatal bankruptcy as joining forces.


  1. engineer deals with objects. there is a defined product at the end and input variables and process are very much controlled to arrive at the defined output. Hence definitive language should be used in the design.
    In business, we deal with probabilities, possibilities, complex and infinitely changing variables across a business infinite life time. Hence it is better to leave an open mind, ready to accept new information, make changes, coordinate new resources, incorporate different new factors. hence there is a reason not to use definitive language in discussion and be accepting to opinions from multiple parties to arrive progressively at clearer picture towards the end instead of prematurely proposing a solution only to find out it does'nt work when the date draws near and thing changes. Business people know we are not god to determine the future but we can manage changes and buffer its impact and help business evolve and adapt.
    Hence these are different disciplines. As you learn more disciplines, even arts like cooking, dancing, you will find that each has its parameters to make that particular art work, there's no need to reconcile and stick to one rigid thinking system, just switch between them, use different thinking when you need to accomplish different things.

  2. Hi genie10001

    While I agree with your points, I think you missed noticing that a disproportionate amount of focus of my post was on the vague 'language' that MBAs use, even when it is possible to avoid this. "Basis points" is a great example. It cannot be argued that MBAs overuse words such as "synergies", "leverage", etc., even in situations where these are not applicable at all.

    Again, I agree that business situations in the real world are full of uncertainties, but having said that, I also believe that most MBAs needlessly misuse certain phrases or words just to sound like an MBA or because they are not clear about what exactly is supposed to be done.

    Finally, as you said too, for engineers, there is a defined product "in the end". The process and period of coming up with this product, however, has a near-perfect correlation with the uncertainties in the business world. As business situation changes, this "product" keeps evolving too, just like an MBAs strategy keeps evolving.

    Having said that, I also do not agree with you that only MBAs have an "open mind". You do not explicitly say this, but you do imply this when you say "it is better to leave an open mind, ready to accept new information, make changes". Engineers have as open a mind as any MBA. As new information comes in, good engineers adequately modify their products, just like good MBAs modify their calculations/models.

    Overall, thank you for your comment. Appreciated.