There is an old saying, “If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail!” The graveyards of business are filled by organizations that were run by specialists with the inability to ask the provocative and even naïve questions that well-developed generalists bring to the discussion. Even specialist professional services firms such as large auditing and legal enterprises find that as partners grow to the most senior levels they have to develop the general business and management competencies that their valuable areas of specialization did not prepare them for.
My bias towards a generalist program is rooted in the realities of business, and what an MBA is designed to prepare people for. It is safe to assume that the vast majority of MBA students have both the potential and intent to advance their careers and aspire to more senior roles. This is evident in the fact that most of the respected b-schools place much focus on career and salary growth. Likewise, those with entrepreneurial interests aspire to grow companies that will, in time, grow to become medium or large enterprises. This lies at the crux of my argument: the vast majority of people who embark upon a MBA do so because they want to advance their careers and grow beyond the scope and focus of a specialist role.
Whether specialist or generalist, neither professional is more important to a sustainable business than the other. A business may flounder without superior specialists in various ‘mission critical’ roles but it is the well-developed generalist who is able to weave the capabilities of these various specializations together in a dynamic, successful organization.
Whichever way we look at it, MBA students aspire to the levels beyond specialization. It must be designed so that it provides a solid grounding in business, and prepares graduates to fulfill the dual and often competing demands of having both a helicopter view of the task at hand, while also determining whether specialists are proposing defendable strategies.
By definition, an MBA cannot claim to offer true specialization.
If you want to be an Artificial intelligence specialist? Then in my opinion you should go for a MS in Artificial intelligence. Aspire to a role in controlling and finance? Do a master’s in finance and controlling. Marketing? Have a passion for HR? Supply chain optimization? The answer remains the same; find the appropriate specialist degree and, then, when you want to develop a better understanding of how business runs, do your MBA.
The task faced by those people at the more senior levels of decision making are seldom (if ever!) confronted by a problem or opportunity that can be resolved from the perspective of one area of specialization. Every business challenge at the general managerial and strategic level contains elements that cross the boundaries of various specialist fields. Organisations have started using the term Cross functional teams for a while now, not without good reason. A core competence that is required of individuals by employers is the capability to apply an integrative, generalist, approach to view an issue from various perspectives. At such times, even the most ardent specialist needs to put aside their narrower, although deeper, comprehension and embrace the ambiguity and fluidity of thinking that embraces the entire scope of the issue.
A good MBA program should have the following characteristics :
1) It should expose participants to a generalist, understanding of the entire scope of competencies that are typically represented by the roles that make up a CEO team.
2) It should shift the focus from a largely academic treatment of subjects and instead uses problem and work-based learning processes which encourage and enable participants to apply knowledge to real-life situations.
It all supposes a generalist rather than specialist approach to doing an MBA.
Having said that, there are a few colleges that give you the opportunity to decide your specialization from the very beginning (read SPJIMR). In most colleges you have the option to choose your specialization in the second year. Get into your b-school, experience your first year, learn from a plethora of subjects. Go through your summer internship and figure out what might suit you best as a manager. If you are dead set on some one specialization from day 1, usually the importance you give to other stream subjects in the first year of your MBA grows smaller by the day, and that is not going to be the best one can get out of an MBA.
Some wise man once said
Internship is like dating, and a Job is like marriage.
Let’s look at some of the specializations which are considered to be in demand
An MBA in Marketing Management consists of an advanced study of market research and analysis, pricing, promotion, selling, distribution, advertising, product design, and other marketing concepts.
An MBA in Financial Management comprises subjects that help students to understand the key financial business functions, like data frameworks, operations management and accounting rules and regulations. Students are trained to develop and execute techniques and strategic tools that will help them recognize, comprehend and analyze distinct dimensions of a financial business environment.
Human Resource Management
MBA in Human Resource Management focuses on imparting knowledge and training professionals to manage the workforce of an organization. Every company has an HR to develop & manage corporate cultures by hiring the best talent. They are the ones to supervise the workforce to accomplish the organization’s success by following the set of values, visions, ideals, norms, systems, and methodologies.
An MBA in International Business is one of the most trending specializations in today’s times as corporates are hiring potential professionals to represent their company at an international level. The primary aim of this specialization is to assist students to understand the operational process and obligations of foreign trade and learn the best methods to increase imports and exports by generating, scrutinizing and conducting research. Aspirants are taught to tackle challenges that arise with international business, including trading restrictions, economic and demographic constraints.
A specialized MBA in Operations Management focuses on planning, organizing, and managing production to maximize efficiency. If you’re interested in supply chain management or logistics, consider this specialty.
Due to advancement in technology, an MBA in Artificial Intelligence is expected to grow at a tremendous rate in the upcoming years. Therefore, this specialization is predicted to an extreme desire of multiple young aspirants who wish to build a career in the AI industry. The course will deal in both technical and quantitative concepts along with strategic mindset development to support data-driven decision-making.
Business Analytics and Big Data
Businesses are constantly looking for talented managers due to the rising need for analysis of Big Data. Hence, colleges have introduced this trending subject to make students understand the importance of data and instantly analyze the information, decrypt and interpret actionable solutions to make a valuable organizational impact.
Rural and Agricultural Business Management
MBA in Rural & Agri-Business gives a comprehensive insight into core areas related to the global and Indian agriculture market. Students in this specialization will are given a piece of in-depth knowledge about subjects like farm planning, soil management, economic policies, supply chain, food processing, etc.
Disclaimer : The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the author.
Abhishek Mukherjee works for 2IIM. Apart from solving interesting math questions he likes to eat biriyani and watch movies.