“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”

  • Abraham Lincoln

This folksy quotation from the 16th President of the U.S. merits reflection by all who are weighing the pros and cons of going back to school for an MBA or for non-degree executive education programs. I have argued that a career in business is nicely remunerative, socially redeeming, and fun—and that now is an excellent time to enter the ranks of management. Lincoln’s quotation suggests an profound addition to the argument: a solid education simply prepares you to be more effective in your pursuit, whatever it may be. Mastery of the best business tools and concepts can help you seize opportunities, and just as important, avoid pitfalls that can snare the unwary. One CEO told me that two years of case studies (~600 of them) equates to about 10 years of learning in the “school of hard knocks.” I can’t vouch for the precision of the 2:10 exchange ratio, but I am persuaded that a great business school education adds serious value, that its return on investment is quite high. Ironically, investment in learning is the first to be cut, and the last to be restored, when a company or individual encounters turbulence in the environment—this just results in dull tools and wasted effort at a time when acute thinking and economy of effort are needed most.

How long has it been since you took the time to put a keen edge on your thinking? Do you have high ambitions or face tall challenges for which a keen edge would make a decisive difference? What are you waiting for?

Posted by Robert Bruner at 08/01/2007 06:56:37 PM