Henry Mintzberg’s Truly Innovative MBA: Worth a Try!

By Shlomo Maital  



Henry Mintzberg

The May 21 Global New York Times (p. 13) has a lovely article about “seeking success with the anti-MBA”.   It’s about a truly innovative MBA program (all MBA programs teach innovation, but almost none of them practice it – they’re all cookie-cutter versions of the same stuff).  The inventor is famed management educator Henry Mintzberg, McGill Univ., and after (or while) he wrote his famous article, “The Five Mindsets of the Manager”, (HBR), he invented an MBA program tailored to it.  In five 10-day modules, participants visit five different venues, in Brazil, Britain, India, China and Canada. Each venue features a different managerial mindset:  Reflective; Analytical; Worldly (not global – Mintzberg wants to stress differences in global markets, not sameness); Cooperative/Collaborative; and Action.

  In each module, participants work together on projects that are highly unconventional. For example, they study a long poem by Wordsworth, “Prelude”, as part of the reflection mindset module.  This 13,000 line poem is, the students are told, a management handbook. Now – figure out how and why. 

   Mintzberg is highly critical of standard MBA case study methods. “The philosophy of the case study method is that you simulate management practice on the basis of reading a 20-page study.  George W. Bush went to HBS and I don’t think he even read 20 pages. But he’s a good example of how disastrous that approach can be”, he says.

   If you’re looking for an MBA program, consider this one.  If you want to become more innovative, it’s not a bad idea to study in a program that is itself innovative.  It’s pretty hard to become creative in sliced-white-bread MBA programs that teach the same case studies in the same way.  Mintzberg says, “we have three centuries of management experience right in this room” – and that’s not counting the faculty!  He leverages the wisdom of the participants, to create a unique learning experience.