Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Reasons to Study Communication

When I was an undergraduate, I thought about majoring in business. It just did not seem for me. Both then and now, it seemed a little peculiar to me than most people who go into "business" actually go into a business that does something. That is, nobody that I can think of runs a business for business' sake. Instead, they operate airlines, manufacture cars, and administer hospitals.

So the thing that they do is not really business; business is how they do what they really do. As an analogy, I am a scientist. But I do not have a Ph.D. in "science." Instead, I have a Ph.D. in mass communication and cognitive science because that is what I really do. Science is just how I do it.

I mention this today because Advertising Age is reporting that "the [M.B.A.] is not only worthless, it can work against a marketer, according to a survey of marketing executives from 32 consumer-products companies by consulting firm Ken Coogan & Partners."

This is admittedly a journalist glossing over research, but the point remains: underperforming companies had more M.B.A.s on staff than outperformers.

Interestingly, only companies judged to be outperformers had executives on staff with master's degrees in something other than an M.B.A.

At Ohio State, we teach research methods and theory to our master's students. Although this may be tedious for someone straight out of industry, if done right these types of courses teach valuable critical thinking skills.

And you don't have to take my word for it, the data are in. I think the same could be said for a master's degree in cognitive science, sociology, or even anthropology.

With that varied background, you will bring something fresh to the intellectual table. Perhaps these marketing M.B.A.s are so busy trying to think "outside of the box" that they do not realize that they are all from the same box.

That said, friends of mine have M.B.A., and I do not really believe it is a bad thing. Instead, I think that anyone wanting to make a difference in the job market should make themselves as distinct as possible. I believe that graduate training in alternative fields offer that possibility.


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