Enter any bookstore and library and the business section is filled with books promising to teach you everything you need to know about business. Many MBA applicants, keen to get a head start on what they will have to learn in their core courses, students grab a copy of the 10-day MBA, the 80-minute MBA and the wide range of books with similar titles. Although they do give you a good general overview of everything you will also you will be learning all of this, and much more in your classes in a more interactive way. The advice from current students and graduates is to spend your time reading something that will prepare you for your studies to give you a wider set of skills and abilities. There are many books to choose from and here are just four.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
The MBA will be a busy time. So much happens in the one or two years, especially if you are starting a part time or executive MBA program while still working the whole time. One book that can help you to start thinking about how you can organize all your work and projects is Getting Things Done by David Allen.
The idea of the book is that every task has a place and a time. Rather than worry about the things you need to do, write them all down and organize them into a system. It starts by presenting the system, then it explains how to use the system before finishing off with an overview of the benefits that incorporating these core principles into your work and your life can have.
The five stages for dealing with workflow presented in the book include collecting the information, process each piece of information, organize it, review the information on a daily/weekly basis and do the tasks. He presents the two-minute rule, if it takes two minutes or less to do a task, do it now, if not delegate it or defer it to another time.
No expensive computer or filing systems are needed, just a piece of paper and a pen to start with. Even if you are a person who thinks they are getting things done, this book will still give you some good ideas on how to better use your time. The book is an international best seller many times over.
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury and Bruce M. Patton
Whether you are in a business situation negotiating a new contract or trying to decide whom in your study group is going to do what on the next couple of assignments, Getting to Yes provides a good introduction to negotiations. As the authors put it in the first few sentences of the book Like it or not, you are a negotiator. Negotiation is a fact of life. You discuss a raise with your boss. You try to agree with a stranger on a price for his house...All of these are negotiations.
Of interest and accessible to both beginners and veterans, the book explores how to find out what other people want, what you want and then to devise better ways to create a 'win' for all parties. It explores concepts such as determining what your BATNA or best alternative to a negotiated agreement is, how to separate the people from the problem, how to focus on interests not positions, how to invent options for mutual gain and how to insist on using objective criteria.
The book was first published 15 years ago by members of the Harvard Negotiation Project but its lessons are no less relevant today than they were when it first came out.
The Sustainable MBA: The Manager's Guide to Green Business by Giselle Weybrecht
Everyone is talking about sustainability these days, and there are many books out there claiming to tell you what it is all about. This one really does do it. The Sustainable MBA provides a good overview of what business can and is doing in the area with lots of tips on how to get involved and how to bring these ideas into your own job or career path, whatever job that may be.
It is conveniently organized like a business school course - allowing easy access to information on sustainability and how it relates to accounting, economics, entrepreneurship, ethics, finance, marketing, organizational behaviour, operations and strategy. It is filled with lots of advice on how to implement sustainability and sell these ideas to your team as well as a range of practical examples, trends from around the world and a lot of resources and links for more information.
This book brings together all the pieces of the business and sustainability puzzle in a format that's easy to understand and use. It does not overcomplicate the issues and is accessible to a general audience. Endorsed by some high level organizations such as Unilever and the UN Environment Program the book is aimed at young managers but is now being used by faculty, universities, career services and businesses around the world.
Leading Change by John P. Kotter
A text used in most managing change MBA courses, Leading Change by John P. Kotter is a good overview of how to bring about changes, big or small. One of the key skills of any manager or leader is to be able to bring about the desired changes in their team or organization. This book provides a framework and lessons on how to go about doing this.
The book begins with an introduction to what change is, and the problems most commonly encountered in bringing about change. It then goes on to present an eight stage process to help guide you through the change process. This includes establishing a sense of urgency, forming powerful guiding coalitions that will lead the change efforts, the importance of creating a vision, communicating that vision and empowering others to act on the vision, planning for and creating short-term wins, consolidating improvements and finally institutionalizing new approaches.
This book is not a textbook, it is easy to read and use framework that can be used to guide change.