How to reinvent the MBA for the 21st century

How to reinvent the MBA for the 21st century

According to a recent LeadingCompany survey, just one in five of the heads of our largest ASX-listed companies holds a Masters of Business Administration degree – the world’s premier business qualification. In America, this figure is a good deal higher: 35% of Fortune 500 companies are headed by the holder of an MBA.

This is indeed an interesting finding but I think we are asking the wrong question. A more insightful question might be: why would anyone do an MBA in the first place?

Think about the name, for a start. A Masters in Business Administration is grounded in a ‘command and control’-type mindset. It harks back to an older era when managers planned and controlled their budgets and people, and when there was very little change or uncertainty.

Now have a look at the subjects that are offered at a typical MBA school. Here are four subjects offered at one university, for example:

Strategic frameworks

Accounting for management

Marketing management

Organisational behaviour

Do these subjects inspire? Are they still relevant in a fast-moving, time-poor, collaborative environment? Have these core subjects changed all that much since I did an MBA some 15 years ago?

My issue is this: the world has changed and MBA schools have not.

Why would any potential leader spend their hard-earned cash in learning about what worked yesterday?

We need to reinvent and reimagine the MBA. This is an opportunity for Australian academics and practitioners to lead the world.

Let’s start with the name. Here is my suggestion: Master of Business Growth (MBG).

With this name I am suggesting that the aim of the course is to develop leaders who are interested in growth for themselves, their people and their organisation.

Here is my new course outline (assume a standard 15 subjects):

Creative problem-solving (managers and leaders need to be able to think differently).

Engaging and leading groups and teams (most work is done in groups and teams so let’s teach people how to do this).

Driving productivity (according to many analysts it’s the number one issue facing Australia so let’s teach leaders how to improve it).

Social media that works (how can we not talk about this?)

>Ethical leadership (a must for every leader)

Raising organisational performance while reducing costs (this gives the MBG a real-life edge).

Innovating for growth (innovation and growing revenue are among the top three priorities for CEOs but most don’t know how to do it).

Starting a business (every students needs to develop a business plan to launch a new product or service).

Designing the future (a leader needs to be able to articulate a vision and direction for their organisation, so let’s show them how).

Creating, stimulating and keeping customers

Doing business in X (the students select a region or country to study and develop and produce a plan).

What would I do (a series of scenarios both internal and external of pressing issues and challenges).

Leading a balanced life (let’s teach leaders how to strive for a better work-life balance).

A group project on a real-life project for a non-profit organisation.


Welcome to the world of the MBG:  a vibrant, contemporary and world-leading degree for future business managers, leaders and owners. If only the business professors shared my vision.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.