Are you an Iconoclast or an MBA? (Part 1)

Richard Branson photo w text (young)

In my June 18th, 2012 post “To be effective PR has to be selfless as opposed to self-serving,” I had made reference to an article by Daniel Gulati (Be Proud of Your Accomplishments, Not Your Affiliations).

At the heart of his text (and disdain) was what he called “resume gardening.”

For those who might be unfamiliar with its meaning, when someone resume gardens they place greater emphasis on their affiliations such as attending a prestigious college as opposed to actual accomplishments in terms of their current position.

While a degree from a prominent school can open doors of opportunity when first entering the job market, as one’s career progresses the shine of academic accomplishment dims when it isn’t supported by tangible results.  Or to borrow an axiom from the Toronto police department “Deeds Speak!”

History of course speaks to the veracity of my words as demonstrated by what I call the Six Sigma Myth.

In 2008 when the economy went south, I was surprised to discover that amongst the first people within the business world to lose their jobs en mass were those who had achieved a Six Sigma Black Belt.

For those unfamiliar with Six Sigma, it is a business management strategy that was developed by Motorola in 1986.  The Six Sigma strategy took off after General Electric’s Jack Welch made it a central focus of his business strategy for the company.  Prior to 2008 it was – and to a degree still is, widely used in many sectors of industry.

However when push came to shove, it was not the conceptual or strategic employees who carried the day, but those who were capable of working through the “uncertainty and volatility” to achieve tangible results.

There is no doubt that a Black Belt status reflects a high level of expertise and professionalism that is to be both admired and recognized.  That being said the fact remains that your specialty has to be applied in a manner that your employer or customer will recognize as being essential to their achieving their objectives.

So is the pursuit of a degree or certification a baseless endeavor?

I will leave it to you to contemplate the answer relative to your own circumstances.  However, while you do, I would like to direct you to a recent article about Richard Branson in which he shares his 18 tips for success.  In particular, the fact that besides being considered one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs with an estimated worth of $4.2 billion U.S., he achieved all that he has without a degree.

In his new book, Branson even weighed the impact of his decision to forgo academic excellence when he openly mused “Had I pursued my education long enough to learn all the conventional dos and don’ts of starting a business I often wonder how different my life and career might have been.”  (Note: you can access the entire Branson article and his 18 success tips through the following link; 18 Tips For Success From Richard Branson.)

Of course Branson is not alone in terms of questioning the merits of academic pursuit.
Most of us are familiar with the story about Fred Smith, who is the founder of FedEx.

In 1962 while attending Yale University, Smith wrote a paper outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age.  While he has often said that he only received a C for his submission, it was the purported words of his professor admonishing him to present a “feasible concept” if he hoped to receive a grade that stands out.

The important point relative to Smith is that while recognizing the merits of having an education, his vision was never confined or limited to an academic perspective.  Quite simply, he also had street smarts, and FedEx was the end result.

I can vividly remember my mother cautioning my academic brothers that an education will never make them street smart.  She believed that an education gets you into the front door of corporate America.  But street smarts are needed to be able to stay.

This was a lesson that was learned the hard way by one of my clients.

Four years ago my client informed me that he was taking his Executive MBA.  I had asked if the company was supportive, at which point my client declared that he was undertaking the cost himself.  Fast forward two years and he is still hoping to get a promotion.  Disappointed, he asked his boss why, given his new status, that he wasn’t getting promoted.   His boss bluntly told him that he appreciated his desire to further his education but would have preferred that he would have invested in skillsets that would enhance his performance.

In Part 2 of today’s post, I will talk about the importance of viewing your career as if you were a start-up business, as well as talk about the importance of possessing an intrapreneurial mindset.

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About piblogger

Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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