To Elon Musk, MBA might as well stand for “misguided bum academic.”
The billionaire Tesla chief thinks too many American companies are run by business-school graduates who care more about numbers than delivering for their customers.
“I think there might be too many MBAs running companies,” Musk said during a Wall Street Journal CEO summit this week, referring to master of business administration degrees. “There’s the MBA-ization of America, which I think is maybe not that great.”
“There should be more focus on the product itself, less time on board meetings, less time on financials,” he added.
Musk argued that companies perform well financially when they have a strong product or service that they work to improve. But some business leaders “have it backwards” because they get preoccupied with numbers and lose sight of the product’s importance, he said..
The world’s second-richest man said it’s key for bosses to spend time on the front lines of their businesses instead of getting stuck in conference rooms — a mistake he said he’s made as the head of Tesla and rocket firm SpaceX.
“When I have spent too much time in a conference room, that’s when things have gone awry, and when I go spend time on the factory floor or really using the cars, thinking about the rockets, that’s where things have gone better,” Musk said.
Musk, 49, has bachelor’s degrees in economics and physics from the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania but doesn’t have a graduate degree to his name. He’s said that he dropped out of a Ph.D program at Stanford University where he planned to research energy storage technology for electric vehicles.
This isn’t the first time Musk has poo-poohed academic credentials — at a satellite conference in March, he said colleges are “basically for fun and to prove that you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning,” according to The Guardian.
But business school leaders reportedly fired back at Musk, telling the Journal that MBA programs actually help teach business leaders about how to develop products and engage with customers.
“He [Musk] is a visionary, but many CEOs do well at vision and execution with the benefit of an MBA, or with a strong team of MBAs,” Glenn Hubbard, a former dean of Columbia Business School, told the paper.