Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The alternative MBA reading list ?

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So you are thinking about an MBA ?  Great.

Or you are feeling that you would benefit from an MBA education, but are looking to do it fast and/or cheap ?  Ok - at least you are honest.

Perhaps you are just plain curious -FANTASTIC !

If you struggled to make out the pyramid above - perhaps it is time to visit an opticians ?



If you are looking for a quick fix - why not try one of the 30 day MBAs ?  

Barrow, C. (2013) The 30 Day MBA: Your Fast Track Guide to Business Success might be the perfect solution ?  Bye.


In discussion over the years with many Royal Holloway MBA candidates, from all over the world, I noticed that the decision to undertake a challenging, quite long and often reasonably expensive MBA programme is not something people tend to rush into.  Therefore looking to try-before-you-buy seems to be an entirely sensible approach.  Why not pick up a book or two and see if you really have the focus and motivation to study again ?  

When applicants visit my office I often lend them one of my books to encourage the early adoption of good habits perhaps ?, but also to offer a free test their motivation, if they do not pick up the book and engage with it, paying the chunky deposit for a demanding learning programme is not looking like a great idea.   

You READ for a degree after all. 

MBA texts:  Pile 'em high !
Business education has changed significantly over the last decade or so, since Enron and the sub-prime crisis, there is a much greater emphasis now put on business ethics and responsible management.  If you work in industry and graduated a while back, these significant changes may have passed you by.  Would you fit in ?

So whilst conservative business schools continue to perhaps peddle a strongly pro-business mantra that is embedded in their DNA, I work in a School of Management that proudly takes a more critical, societal view of commerce.  It is likely that the conventional programmes utilise marketing by Kotler, strategy from Johnson and Scholes, Slack for operations management and accounting for non-finance types by Atril, as I did back in the day during my turn of the century MBA.  

If you search 'marketing' in Amazon (which uses sales to rank) you'll find Baines & Fill and Jobber ahead of Kotler, but this might be a reasonable approach to identify the most popular texts in each field, provided you can filter out managerialistic 'airport books' like marketing for dummies.  

The popularity of my blog entry titled  'MBA pre-reading list' suggests there is quite some unsatisfied demand for text recommendations (and little search competition in this space). I suspect the number of requests I have had for me to 'email over' the MBA reading list were not always from bona fide applicants looking to prepare ahead of their studies.  We take the view that module reading lists are part of our intellectual property that students benefit from during their education experience, thus what you find  discussed here below does not draw on the Royal Holloway MBA programme, but my experience as a business school educator.  Some are quirky and unlikely to be on any MBA reading list.  Do not be surprised if a number of the authors mentioned below are colleagues of mine.  There you have it, full ethical disclosure, up front.  


If you find that you have been sufficiently excited to have got hold of and read one or two of the titles listed below and want more - please feel free to contact me to discuss further:  

justin.obrien@royalholloway.ac.uk   

I won't bite - promise !  


So what might a more critical or alternative MBA reading list look like ?



Devinney, T. Auger, P. & Eckhardt, G. (2010) The Myth of the Ethical Consumer 

Ciravegna, L. & Fitzgerald, R. (2013) Operating in Emerging Markets: A Guide to Management and Strategy in the New International Economy

Olivier, R. (2013) Inspirational Leadership: Timeless Lessons for Leaders from Shakespeare's Henry V

Dubner, S. & Levitt, S. (2007) Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Hackley, C. (2009) Marketing: A Critical Introduction

Griseri, P. (2013) An Introduction to the Philosophy of Management

Monk, N. & Neelands, J. (2015) Open-Space Learning: A Study in Transdisciplinary Pedagogy (The Wish List)


Alexander, D. & Nobes, C. (2013) Financial Accounting: An International Introduction


Lowe, S & McArthur, A. (2008) The Best Of: Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit ? 

Awad, S. (2014) A Critical History of Social Media: The Culture of Connectivity

Chomsky, N. & Barrett, C. (2003) The Corporation (film)

Brooke, C (2009) Critical Management Perspectives on Information Systems

Maclaran, P. & Saren, M (2007) Critical Marketing: Defining the Field

Smith, C. & McSweeney, B. (2011) Management: Between Global and Local

Hackley, C. & Hackley, R.A (2014) Advertising and Promotion