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A New Type Of MBA

The people at LIFT Economy offer a new type of MBA. (Lift Economy includes Ryan Honeyman who co-wrote the B Corp handbook, see here). This Next Economy MBA aims to provide a different/better type of business education.

MBA Advice

The team covers some standard issues like pricing. The book rightly points out the problem that sustainable business should be accessible to all. Yet, it is generally much easier to make high-quality, i.e., read expensive, products more sustainable. I don’t see that as a damning argument against sustainable business. It is hard to offer better and cheaper, so that isn’t what we see as much of. Currently, if only rich people are purchasing sustainable products that, to my mind, is better than no one doing so. Despite something being better than nothing, their point remains a good one. We should all work to develop more products that are sustainable and accessible to all budgets. Everyone having access to sustainable products is better than merely some people doing so.

The book is strongest on entrepreneurialism. There are numerous details for small businesses to create more purposeful firms with ideas to leverage for success. This is indeed helpful. The discussion of legal structures was also interesting and useful. A small entrepreneur could learn from this book.

A Broad Church

Where I was less impressed comes from the fact that I am a big fan of trying to create broad churches — i.e., movements that bring people together. I’m not sure the writers of this book share my philosophy. There were many examples where the assumption is made that you will agree with them. This means little evidence is provided to demonstrate that their idea is a good one. Some of the arguments made total sense to me. Some arguments will be familiar if controversial. Other assertions were simply less familiar. They argue that a movement could be built to: “Institute a Land Value Tax”. I’m not commenting on the idea (there are potential benefits) but they just assumed everyone was already with them. As such, they didn’t really make a proper case for this proposal and why we all needed to support it. Their ideas, including many good ones, could have done with a bit more explanation of some of the ‘whys’ behind the advice, which would likely help rally people behind the idea.

The Next Economy MBA is explicitly political. You can decide for yourself whether that is a good thing. (It will likely depend on whether you agree with them). Some points I did agree on, some points I didn’t. That said, the explicit politics does mean the Next Economy MBA couldn’t really be offered by a public university. In general, I do worry that the good ideas will not get the attention that they might whenever there are political loyalty tests demanded. As I said, I’m more of a broad church person (but I’m not saying that must always be the correct answer in every case).

Which Is Most Powerful: Small And Cohesive Or Large But Divergent?

A New Type Of MBA

Where I was most disappointed was the idea that the Next Economy will not, apparently, have any numbers. Detail on finance, operations, and numbers-based marketing was largely missing. This is a shame. We really need people who can run large firms who also care about sustainability. If you aren’t doing the numbers it is very hard to get near positions of power, and hold onto them, in a large organization. How also do you know you are doing a good job? I think they are somewhat undermining their own goals to influence the world by avoiding the numbers.

Open Book Management

To finish I’d like to echo an idea that has been around for a while that they wholeheartedly endorse. They suggest we all adopt Open Book Management (OBM). Everyone working at a firm should know how the firm is making its money and what level of performance it is achieving at the very least. I’m a big fan. I think you should know how your firm is doing. It seems a useful way to motivate employees if nothing else.

What then do they suggest we need to do to get to OBM?

Prerequisites for OBM are buy-in from leadership, financial literacy training, transparency, making sure the numbers are available in a systematized way (so it is easy to produce reports), and accountability.

LIFT Economy, 20203, page 163

Given this, I think it is possible that we may need more people to do traditional MBAs (those which contain numbers) for sufficient people to understand the numbers enough to allow OBM to work.

Read: LIFT Economy (Erin Axelrod, Kevin Bayuk, Shawn Berry, Ryan Honeyman, and Phoenix Soleil (2023) The Next Economy MBA: Redesigning Business for the Benefit of All Life, Berrett-Koehler Publishers

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