Today I was at USC representing MBA Women International (MBAWI) at the Diversity MBA Admissions Conference (DMAC). The aim of the conference is to connect underrepresented MBA candidates with admission directors of top business schools. MBAWI was there as an sponsoring partner and to share our mission with these future MBA students.

During lunch I was seated at a table with men out numbering the women 6 to 2 – no big surprise as men still greatly out number women in business school – a trend MBAWI wouldn’t mind seeing diminished. But since I wasn’t going to recruit any of these gentlemen to our organization, the conversation shifted when George expressed some doubts about the value of earning an MBA. George is a tech professional who has seen a number of his colleagues find success in the startup world. For him it was an either or proposition – either get an MBA or become an entrepreneur who doesn’t need an MBA.

On one hand I can see where George is coming from. I ran a successful small business long before I got my MBA and I know first hand that nothing prepares you better than hands on experience.  But I have an MBA so I certainly won’t dismiss the value of it either.

I was still pondering George’s dilemma on my drive home when the TED Radio Hour began to tell the story The Hackers.

A hacker is somebody who doesn’t ask how something works
– they just see what works.
(Jay Silver)

My Mom says there are no coincidences, so when I heard the above quote, I listened attentively as it seemed this program was addressing the very questions I was contemplating.  Of particular interest was the segment with Jay Silver which included excerpts from his TED Talk, Hack a Banana, Make a Keyboard.

As Jay points out in his talk, “Sometimes what we know gets in the way of what could be”. And this was George’s dilemma. Generally speaking, business school is a very traditional environment training you to succeed in the traditional environment of the large corporation. Often it seems, the dream of an MBA candidate is to go to a top school like Harvard or The University of Pennsylvania which will then lead to a job in a Fortune 500 company. But what if that isn’t your dream? Or more profoundly, what if that path is losing its relevance? As technology is changing business models, how well are b-schools preparing their students to be flexible and adapt traditional models?

Then again, perhaps its not an either or proposition. Doesn’t real ingenuity come from combining the best of all worlds anyway?