You don’t hear complaints from the teams about the draft system in (American) football. The way that works is, the team that’s the worst in one season gets first pick in choosing college players the next year. The team’s performance from year to year determines when they get to choose from the up-and-coming crop of candidates. If the team chokes this year, then the system says hey, we think you need a chance to build things up, so we’re going to let you pick first from the next round of kids available.
OK, that analogy doesn’t really work – with sports, the teams are explicitly competing with each other.
Maybe that’s why a “ranking” of top business school programs is nonsensical.
The schools aren’t literally “competing.” It even feels a little bit distasteful to say it. Coke and Pepsi? They’re competing for market share. They have to get out there and implement strategies and tactics to get consumers to buy their product over the competition. That’s how they survive.
Chevy and Ford? Same thing. Who’s going to make “the best” truck this year? Well, we’ve got all sorts of magazines that proudly trumpet the “best car” each season, and certainly that influences buying decisions. But unless a car manufacturer produces a real dud, then when you buy your Ford – or your Chevy – you’re going to get utility out of it. They’re pretty interchangeable.
That’s kind of the case when you’re looking at good MBA programs.
Yes, sometimes there’s a BSer who comes along who’s got some nice things going in their profile, and multiple schools admit the person. But they’re still not “competing” for that candidate. Even when there are some offers of scholarship money on the table, it’s not the same thing.
This is about supply and demand. If that in-demand candidate goes elsewhere, it’s no big deal. Nobody “loses.” At least at the moment, there will always be another Brave Supplicant willing to take their place at the schools that were rejected. There will always be another buyer for the Ford.
“Ranking” schools is ridiculous when there are so many different reasons for individuals to choose the different schools.
You can’t say one school is “the best” and another is second, or another is 15th. That’s just not logical. (Especially not when a school is dinged on a list because it failed to submit proper data. Like NYU Stern was by U.S. News this past year.)
It’s also super silly when the rankings come out every single year, and all they do is reshuffle the lot. Or a different publication has a different rankings and the school that’s #1 on one list is down at #12 or whatever on another. How can one school occupy such diverse positions on the different rankings? And do you really think that a school can change so much in a single year that it’s going to be catapulted to the top spot – but only temporarily?
We hear deans and other administrators complain about the rankings all the time. It puts undue pressure on the whole ecosystem that perverts the actual mission – that the schools are supposed to be educating you. How do you evaluate an education???? Because that’s the whole premise here, right? That going to School X is going to give you a better education than going to School Y. When you’re looking at the lump of top-tier schools then truly, that sounds, well, crazy. Doesn’t it?
Ya ya ya, before we get a bunch of people calling us lame with that: We know that the MBA is the pathway to a plum new job. We know it’s not “just” about the education. We know that there are many factors at play. However when you’re looking at what’s “the best” – dunno, people seem to get a little distracted from the whole idea of what SCHOOL is supposed to be about.
Some bschool people smarter than the ‘Snark have proposed using a ratings system instead of rankings – something like bond ratings in the debt market, perhaps. You evaluate what a school has to offer, and you decide if it’s A-grade, or AAA, or B+, or whatever.
Of course, then you’re going to run into the problem of grade inflation. 😀
We frequently hear deans of top schools lamenting the state of affairs around rankings. It puts lots of pressure on the admissions people and the career services people to accept high-performing students (based on flimsy stats like GPA and GMAT – we call them “flimsy” because they do not measure the worth of a person) and then to help those students land plum, high-paying jobs at graduation. This perverts the system.
Basically the only way that’s valid to use an MBA rankings is to use it as a filtering mechanism. If you’re new to the whole idea of getting an MBA, you can figure out which schools even EXIST by looking at a list.
But you could do the same thing just by saying to your mom, “Hey, what do you think is the best bschool out there?” It’s a popularity contest. Whichever school is top-of-mind in the public consciousness, that school is likely to be on a ranking. (Or ask your dad; you’ll likely end up at Notre Dame if you do it that way.)
Or here’s what you can do: Print out the names of the schools in alphabetical order. Post it on the wall. Then put on a blindfold and throw darts at it. That might be a nice way to pick “the best” of them.
As long as you end up at any of the 30 schools in the Top 20, you should be fine. 😉