16 Oct 2020 19:33 IST

Five books to read along with an MBA

Wide reading is essential for young managers. Here’s what you should be reading during your course

The MBA is a coveted degree. Apart from class room learning, I recommend that you read the following five books along with your MBA.

The Golden Passport by Duff McDonald

This book traces the history of the MBA degree, and the pre-eminent business school — the Harvard Business School - that started in 1908. An MBA at Harvard was seen as the golden passport to life. Harvard started with the mission of educating the next generation of managers to run a business, a business defined as an activity to make and sell things at a profit, decently. The book details the development of the executive education course, the roots of the case study, the reasons for the MBA degree’s success and the famous and infamous MBAs, especially in America. The book argues why the MBA is a width degree and not a depth degree, why elite institutes wanted people with experience to join the course. It tells how the practising managers would come and pose their problems to the students, which later became case studies. Harvard alumni are about 80,000 strong and is one of the most influential networks in the world.

The book argues that Harvard was mass producing graduates for Wall Street and some of them turned felons in their greed for more money. This book argues that the Harvard MBA is worth it when looked at from the perspective of a bank balance. The author, however, argues that the MBA should not sell his/her soul.

As an MBA, this book will make you think about your choices and the friends you keep from business school.

Inclusify: The power of Uniqueness and belonging to build Innovative teams by Stefanie K Johnson

Stefanie uses her considerable experience to describe what successful leaders do. They embrace different backgrounds, fit all the unique pieces together and build a cohesive team. She labels this ‘Inclusify.’ This is about driving engagement in diverse teams.

I picked this book for you because you will lead teams at work. Some teams will report to you and some will not. Teams are all about culture. The secret in a team is to make the team perform at a higher level than the sum of their individual talents. Most HR courses in school teach you the conceptual models but never tell you the response of people to the models. Most MBAs approach teams and work with a theoretical mindset that fails them in an emotional context.

I have seen that the best leaders motivate by setting a high standard, by including everyone irrespective of level and by sharing things liberally with their teams. This unites the team despite its diversity. Every team can buy capability but they can never buy culture at any price. So, think about culture and what it means to you and how you are shaping it as a professional manager.

The Age of Influence by Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a prominent voice on social media. Your world will be full of social media and its implications. The social media world has an enormous hard disk that cannot be erased, so be careful of how you pontificate on social media. Social media will play an increasing role in brand building and we will see the rise of the influencer community. You will be an influencer, either for your institute or for your company or for a cause you believe in. Learning about influencers in social media will help you be better at marketing in a digital first world.

How India Works by Aarti Kelshikar

I have heard many young graduates tell me that they have been surprised by the culture and how work is done in companies when they join the workforce. A degree doesn’t prepare you for the cultural aspects at work.

Aarti Kelshikar, an intercultural coach and a keen observer of Indian culture, has written an excellent narrative about how Indian companies work and how Indian bosses are at work, be it a multinational or an Indian company. She interviewed a number of people expats in India and Indians themselves to build this narrative. The episodes and anecdotes around time management, respect for authority are excellent. Her observations of how Indians defer to hierarchy, how they respond to performance appraisals and how a ‘yes’ can be a ‘no’ in the Indian culture is fascinating.

I believe this is one of the most balanced books on organisational culture in India. This book will prepare you better as you start work.

Business Model Book by Adam J Bock and Gerard George.

The world has moved from the product era to the positioning era to the marketing era. Today value is created or lost in business models. At its simplest a business model is a way to capture the value in all the activities in the value chain for a company or brand. The reason why business models have caught on as a concept is because of the digital wave and the ability for buyers and sellers to talk on a common platform without any intermediaries if they so wish. This will help you think about how you can transform your business whether B2C or B2B or B2G or B2B2C.




(The writer is Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla group)