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Musk Decries 'MBA-ization' of Corporate America

SpaceX and Tesla CEO says today's leaders are too focused on numbers, not innovation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2020 2:20 PM CST

(Newser) – Academia is often accused of being plagued by professors in ivory towers. In corporate America, according to Elon Musk, the problem may be too many MBAs. That was his take at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council summit on Tuesday, where he railed against business school grads running things in the outside world. He says their hyperfocus on the numbers could keep them from being creative and seeing the bigger picture when it comes to innovation, per CNBC. "I think there might be too many MBAs running companies," the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said during his appearance. "There's the MBA-ization of America, which I think is maybe not that great. There should be more focus on the product or service itself, less time on board meetings, less time on financials." Musk says he's made that mistake himself at his two firms.

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"When I go to spend time on the factory floor or really using the cars [or] thinking about the rockets ... that's where things have gone better," he says. Musk has criticized MBAs before—in 2013 he said, "I hire people in spite of an MBA, not because of one," per the Wall Street Journal—and other tech bigwigs, like Amazon's Jeff Bezos and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, have concurred. But business school leaders are saying Musk's assertion is "off-base," noting that an MBA can give leaders a "holistic" overview of every aspect of the company. "Do firms with fewer MBAs on their boards and senior teams have shorter meetings? I'm skeptical," an ex-dean of UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business says. Still, the man known for being impervious to criticism isn't backing down from this push, advising CEOs at the summit: "Get out there on the god---- front line and show them that you care." (Read more Elon Musk stories.)

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