Reading should be a daily activity for an MBA aspirant/student. It is not a tough nut to crack that an MBA student would benefit from reading books that would guide them for a better future, but apart from that, reading helps you in several other ways too, like expanding your vocabulary, improving your analytical thinking skills, providing tranquility and last but not the least, providing free entertainment! Dozens of management books are written every year, however most of the MBA aspirants/students do not have time to explore all of them due to paucity of time, hence here is a comprehensive list of books that are worthy of special attention:
1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stepen R Covey: This is one of the finest management books ever written. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People explains a useful set of guiding principles that help you change personally as well as professionally and in turn become more effective. The Seven Habits help us move through three stages of personal development. The first three take you from dependence to independence. The next three usher you through interdependence, and the seventh is needed to reinforce the others. The seven habits are: Be Proactive; Begin with the end in mind; Put first things first; Think win-win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize and “sharpen the saw”.
2. Good to Great by Jim Collins: This book involved a lot of analytics before it was printed. Jim Collins and his team analyzed how a lot of companies succeeded and what becomes abundantly clear in reading Good to Great is that there is no secret program, no “right timing” or “good luck” that was singlehandedly responsible for the success of any of the companies analyzed in this book. Instead, Collins and his team present, that the “Good to Great” companies simply, deliberately, defined their fundamental strength(s) and then systematically changed their behaviors and activities to ones that complimented those strengths. Repeated over time, these focused activities led them to great success.What makes Good to Great so powerful is that it not only provides the findings, but also gives instructions on how to recreate the same effects in your own life and/or business.
3. Snapshots from Hell: This book has been written by a very powerful man whose career depended on the words he wrote. Mr. Peter was the former speech writer for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan. His quest for understanding the business world made him land into one of the finest B – Schools of the world- Stanford. His view of how the premier B – schools actually function throughout the world is kind of frenzied! It clearly displays how an MBA is rigorous and hard as compared to any other post graduate degree in the world! For those who are currently pursuing their MBA or are done with it will easily be able to relate with the story! The book clearly distinguishes the business administration specialization with all other courses which helps in grasping quantitative disciplines, theories, practical, financial and simultaneously doing a lot of mental labor isn’t an easy task. Understanding every aspect of business and that too in detail right from marketing, operations, statistics, human resources and finance is certainly not as easy as a pie. The book is interesting and written from a student’s point of view with almost 95% accuracy! It is a must read for those who are doing an MBA and who want to pursue it!
4. Connect the Dots by Rashmi Bansal: There are very few English books written with an Indian audience in mind and Rashmi Bansal’s “Connect the Dots” is one of them. The book is a collection of 20 inspiring stories of entrepreneurs who never went to any B-school. They were driven by the desire to realize their passions. To lead interesting, passionate and meaningful lives. Their stories echo one sentiment clearly – You need dream big and make it happen. It’s all in your head, your heart and your hands. Written in the form of a conversation, the author here questions the subjects and complements their words with insightful statements.
5. Beyond the MBA Hype A Guide to Understanding and Surviving B-Schools by Sameer Kamat: Sameer Kamat’s book tries to provide direction on how to get into a B-School and understand how it functions. He lists down the essentials needed to impress the admission committee: What is it that they want? They do not want someone who knows business like the back of his hand, but the basics are needed.
6. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: This book was gifted to me by my colleagues on my last day of working with Hewitt Associates and sorry to say it, but I hated it then. I worked in Analytics and hated reading about anything remotely related to analytics outside my workplace. Then one evening when I did not have anything else to read at home, I picked this book up and surprisingly I couldn’t put it down. Malcolm Gladwell excels at pinpointing a social phenomenon, be it cultural epidemics (The Tipping Point) or snap judgments (Blink); putting forth his thesis; and illustrating his proof through a series of short, engaging, self-encapsulated histories. In Outliers, he examines the phenomenon of high achievement, fantastic stories of success often attributed to the tenacity, hard work, and innate individual talent. The author doesn’t discount the necessity of ability, and he points to hard work as a crucial factor for success in any endeavor. But he finds in these success stories that factors such as timing, circumstance and cultural heritage play an often overlooked yet critical role. Outliers is Malcolm Gladwell’s ode to these unsung heroes.
7. Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch: Jack Welch does not need an introduction. Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch embodies what many believe are the ultimate skills of the courageous corporate leader: guts, know-how and a track record that includes keeping a top company extremely profitable for 20 years. This book is basically an autobiography of Jack Welch’s GE years and does not dwell on deep management theory. It does a great job of showing the management task as an art and discipline that can be learnt, improved and mastered rather than as personal charisma or other common stereotypes of leadership.
Read these books in any order as you like, but try to read them all. Books like these leave a lasting impression on all the readers and help them navigate through the world of MBA. It is assured that they will make a positive impact on your life, both personally and professionally.
Contributed by Shilpa Verma Kansal ( Class of 2006 – 2008, IBS GURGAON )