How much is your MBA worth? Reflections on Mariana Mazzucato’s book, The Value of Everything

March 8, 2021
How much is your MBA worth? Reflections on Mariana Mazzucato's book, The Value of Everything

What do you value? And how do you realise the value of anything?

These are questions we’ve been wrestling with while running A Lunchtime MBA, in which students can attend our daily sessions at Treasury 1860, grab a lunch and a drink, and leave with an MBA Degree for the princely sum of $50.

Is our speed undermining our students’ perception of value?

I know my good lady wife places more value upon things that take a while to finish, but then sometimes is quite happy for some things to be finished quickly so she can get back to her books.

So, how do we determine the value of things?

That brings us to Mariana Mazzucato’s book The Value of Everything: Makers and Takers in the Global Economy, which was discussed recently on the Blind Insights podcast by David Olney and Steven Hail.

What do you value?

Mazzucato argues that capitalism has morphed into a system that rewards Value Extractors more than Value Creators. One might picture mafia boss Tony Soprano, juxtaposed against a hapless restaurant owner, Artie Bucco; Tony extracted protection money and dined in comfort, whereas Artie had to manage inventory and staff and serve food while balancing his gambling habit.

Mazzucato argues that those companies that simply “take” valuable resources from the earth, or who play in stock markets to simply extract earnings from paper shuffling, bring home bigger rewards than those of us who actually create products and services in the first place.

In their discussion of her book, Olney and Hail ask, does price determine value or does value determine price?

Let’s think about this for a moment.

When selecting a wine from a wine list (perhaps to prepare for one of our Wine and Book Pairing events), do you let the price signal to you the value of the wine? Or do you ask your sommelier to let you try a little taste of all the wines on offer so that you can buy the wine whose flavour you value most? As an aside, this latter approach is a very good way of lowering the cost of wine for a meal because after tasting 20-30 samples, you only need to buy one glass of wine to see you through!

Many people let the price signal quality to them. But who set this price? It was most certainly someone with an MBA.

And, hence, we start to understand the value of an MBA Degree.

If we can embody the genius of Steve Jobs we can dodge Mazzucato’s tough questions and keep our customer based hypnotised under our spell of “must have” value. Such consumers peer through the guard rails of their habitual upgrading corrals, and shudder at the thought of being on the outer. In this moment, the fear of not being “in” outweighs the pain of being fleeced for many many dollars when they discover that their new Apple device needs a bespoke attachment which only cost the company cents to make but without which their new purchase is useless.

As MBAs working under Jobs’ spell must surely repeat in mantra-like style: An Apple attachment a day keeps our creditors away.

Thus, we see that the discussion about “value” is not black or white, but more like graphite or Pacific blue.

Therefore, next year, our plan is to run A Lunchtime MBA at its fully-realised value of $1,000,000,000,000,066,600,000,000,000,001 per ticket. But you’ll be pleased to know this not only includes lunch but also a bottle of Belphegor’s Prime Shiraz.

Perhaps the 2021 Fringe Semester is looking more affordable and valuable to you right now. You know what to do: book your place now before they’re gone.

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