MBA: A License to Steal

Written by Tim King

What do you have to do? Go to an accredited University where they will teach you what club to use to get out of that tricky trap on twelve, which fork goes with which salad and who to know (and blow) to get you into the heady stratosphere of corporate management. Any MBA program will tell you: the prime focus of this course is to guarantee you work upon graduation. The way to get that work is to grease your way into the conjured class of business professional with high tuition fees and a willingness to place the maintenance of interpersonal relationships before any ideas of efficiency or competence. On graduation day your head will be filled with business concepts such as less equals more and the parts are worth more than the whole. The term necessary evil will be a regular part of your day to day vocabulary.

The real trick to the MBA is to convince yourself that what you are learning is the bare, honest truth. It isn't of course, but you must convince yourself of it or suffer the indignity of not being suitable as an MBA candidate. Like a contestant on Survivor, you must believe what suits your intent to such a degree that it becomes true in your own mind. This is the key to success in the world of business leaders and a vital part of the defence when you get caught. Actually believing that you require ten thousand dollar watches, six thousand dollar shower curtains and a limousine is the first step in believing that you weren't embezzling or insider trading when you used your travel allowances to top up on your stocks of your friend's business that just got that big government contract. Safety and greed fulfillment beyond your wildest wishes lie just the other side of this belief barrier.

You see, the opportunity to gain your MBA is based entirely on your ability to buy into the process. Until you do this you can't convince other people to buy into you, and that is all that you are doing because MBAs don't know anything that anyone else knows, they just believe they do. MBAs and senior execs in general are where they are because of delicate and fickle political structures that have elevated them into near earth orbit salaries and benefits. Your entry into this quagmire of back patting and self congratulation is usually done to facilitate support for an ally further up the chain who will demand your fealty in exchange for entry into the club. This political structure demands a kind of religious zeal in order to guarantee its continued existence. The new MBA has proven her ability to believe by spending tens of thousands of dollars on nothing of actual value (the MBA course). The course itself has value only in networking - which is the entire reason d'etre of the business class. In proving that they are willing to accept business logic that often flies in the face real world fact no matter how ludicrous, the new exec has taken the first step into the wonderland of the senior executive.

I should clarify value if I'm to show you the inner workings of corporate thinking. In the world of the MBA value doesn't mean what it means to everyone else. In the real world value is usually based on usefulness. When you want to go somewhere your car key has great value. When you want to eat food has great value. When you work your results guarantee you continued employment, or at least they used to. There is a direct relationship between a things' usefulness and its value in the real world. In the vaunted world of executive thinking value is all about perception and connections. If you can convince someone that something has value, then it does. Likewise, if you can develop a relationship, no matter how functionally useless you may actually be, you will be guaranteed continued employment. The business elite aim entirely for perception and connection rather than value based on usefulness of competence because it allows for more latitude in making money. If you can convince yourself of the value of a thing, you can sell it, even at a great price - even if it's actually worthless. Thanks to this kind of thinking we have everything from Furbees and Rolls Royces to cigarettes available to the general public today.

It should come as no surprise that the same people who have taken empty belief and turned it into a requirement for entry into their invented class can convince themselves of anything that suits their fancy - like embezzlement. Therein lays the bizarre kind of sense that explains Enrons and the thousands of other examples of white collar theft going on in business today. People with a sense of value completely out of whack with the rest of the human race are shocked to discover that it is inappropriate to steal - yet their entire class structure is built up around a willingness to believe anything. With no sense of value the executive can wilfully and knowingly take corporate money without feeling a moment of remorse because the executive honestly believes that they are worthy of it. Like a crooked lawyer who can rationalize a way out of anything, the executive's bent sense of value gives them a clear conscious along with their exotic company car. In the moment of theft the executive is trained to invent any of a number of plausible truths to justify the act - as much for their own benefit as for the benefit of their class structure. The only time you might see a selfless act by an executive is in order to maintain the structure that got them where they are, but in actuality this is a selfish act because the executive is doing it only to ensure their place in the corporate world. This selfless act also usually happens only because there is no other avenue of escape or blame.

One of my favourite phrases in describing a leader is saying, "I'd go to war with him." There is an absolute, life gambling element to this statement that makes it a worthwhile value indicator. In a sense you're saying that you'd trust your life to them. True leadership depends entirely on loyalty and trust, and this statement puts it in the starkest light. In creating their corporate identity (itself a vital area of study in the MBA course), the executive creates the image of a leader without any of the actual substance. They aren't looking for actual trust, loyalty or responsibility - just for the viable appearance of it. Thus a corporate leader is a papery front, a false image of confidence, integrity and competence. If you are actually endowed with integrity you are at a disadvantage in the business world. Macchiavelli would back me up in saying that someone with the capability of lying well would always be able to outmanoeuvre an opponent with one hand tied behind his back due to honesty. Likewise, a CEO not willing to lay off a thousand employees in order to bump up earnings on the next quarterly report to acceptable levels will not last long. Business often hides behind the myth that they are socially valuable because they provide income for employees. This may have once been the case, but it isn't any longer. Business now exists to feed the greed of the 1% of the population that invests heavily in it. Employees are now fodder to be thrown on the fire, not for a business's survival, but solely for their greed. Convincing yourself of the value of short term, quarterly thinking is a key aspect of today's business leader thinking. The ideal business leader is a malleable being with no substance who is willing to do anything in order to achieve their mandate. This vacuous, vicious being depends on indicators like loyalty and integrity in order to manipulate the people who work under them, but they have no real use for these concepts. In their mind they are tools to be used to manipulate others. When this unscrupulous being decides to abuse company funds in order to wallow in their own sense of righteous voracity they do so without a moment of doubt or self loathing. Even their apologies are hollow as they find themselves pardoned or virtually excused from their crimes by judges who live precariously close to the executive world of wilful avarice. It is a simple fact that someone holding up a convenience store for a couple of hundred dollars will do more time than a crooked executive who got caught embezzling a billion dollars.

The MBA is your first step on the road to riches, but be warned, should you pass within, it is a harsh, capricious place with people of questionable morality who are bent on gaining their own foothold. Membership is limited, not everyone can make millions of dollars a year and (ideally) millions of dollars for making a complete mess of things and leaving; the final proof that you've made it! Michael Eisner left Disney after causing a successful business to post its first ever loss and they paid him over half a billion dollars? to leave! In this garish, illogical place you'll find highly intelligent, savage people willing to accept and do anything in order to advance. The truth doesn't matter a whit, it's all about politics, placement and plasticity. Think you have what it takes? Go for it! The money's for the taking and it will only cost you your integrity, competence and sense of value, but what are these things when you could be living in a mansion and dictating the value of the people beneath you?