Putting the CE in CEO: The new circular MBA

For well over 50 years, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has been the go-to educational degree for aspiring business leaders. The typical MBA program provides an overview in most of the key functions found in business: business strategy, marketing strategy, human resource management, organizational development, operations management, finance and budgeting, and accounting. It is the equivalent of a business education hors d’oeuvre: you get a little of everything but never enough to full satiate.

If the MBA were a food…

In a conference of business leaders, if you throw a whiteboard pen, you are likely to strike an MBA holder – it is ubiquitous, found in every industry and every nation. Herein, lies the competitive rub, when business leaders are guided by the same theories espoused in MBA programs around the world, there is no real competitive advantage because everyone is employing the same strategies. In short, applying lessons from an MBA education will not deliver competitive advantage because to gain an advantage you actually have to do something differently!

So, what type of learning can help businesses gain competitive advantage? Enter the Masters of Circular Economy.

The circular economy has taken the economic development and business worlds by storm over the past 5 years. It is new form of economic development that focuses on resource optimisation. The logic is, if a business can enhance the efficiency with which it uses resources, it can produce more output (revenues) at lower cost. This then allows the firm to utilise added profits to invest in further resource efficiency initiatives creating a virtuous circle of value. As a collective, when all businesses are optimising resource efficiency, national competitive advantage is possible and that means more successful businesses, higher tax revenues, more jobs, more resilient industry, and local innovation.

Doesn’t this sound like the type of strategic lens that leaders of companies ought to be embracing? Rather than learning about the four Ps of marketing, corporate leaders need to learn how to optimise resources, processes and behaviour to deliver enhanced cost-side efficiencies. They also need to know how to align their organisation processes to produce innovation that delivers sustainable value-added performance. The future of management education lies not with the tired old MBA programs, it lies in inculcating strategies necessary to enable success in the circular economy.

Five years from now, we just might find that the industry norm for CEO education is the Master of Circular Economy, not the MBA because the CEO of the future needs to be an expert at spotting new innovations to enhance profitability.

Remarkably, there are only a handful of Circular Economy Graduate degrees at the present time. The best known program is the 2-year Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree Programme in Circular Economy that is shared by a number of universities including University of Graz, Chalmers University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, Leiden University, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Curtin University, Tsinghua University, and Waseda University. Aside from this and a degree at Bradford University it is a barren wasteland for CE education.

One could say that given all this, Australian Universities are missing a wonderful market opportunity. Will the government funded programs around CE initiatives, enhanced corporate uptake and ever progressive CE development support policy catalyse action? Stay tuned Australia.

In the meantime, KPMG offers CE strategy training through its Circular Advantage program to provide a head start to those who wish to lead the pack.

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2 thoughts on “Putting the CE in CEO: The new circular MBA

  1. An interesting post. As a Chartered Accountant with an MBA, this resonated – in part. When I did my MBA, it was unfortunately clear that there were 2 distinct camps: those that wanted to learn & those that wanted 3 letters after their name! (Happy to say I was in the first camp). Where I disagree with what you have said is in “no real competitive advantage”. With any education, I’d argue even the Master of Circular Economy, the learning is not the important piece – it is the application. Education is a guideline & anything that expands your educational horizon potentially delivers a competitive advantage: but only if you can apply what you have learned. Often, I would argue, this comes from the marriage of education with practical experience.

    1. Dr. Scott Valentine

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      I agree Robert, learning is the objective – but learning what? Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the article, what is taught in MBA programs is too general to be of much value in leading organizations. What companies need are people with strategic thinking skills not people with rudimentary business knowledge. Skills not content. Over the course of acquiring two doctorates and four masters degrees (including an MBA), I harbor pretty strong feelings on the failings of graduate education. After all, when you think about it, the pedagogic models’ that we see today are not much different from those that existed 100 years ago. If there is an industry ripe for disruption, it is the education industry.

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