8 Books I wish I read before MBA

So you decided to take your MBA and now you’re maybe wondering (or getting anxious, perhaps?) what your new life will be like. Once you enter b-school, you’ll be overwhelmed with new concepts like Balancing Loops, Capitalism 3.0, Monte Carlo Simulation, and many more, which hopefully won’t keep you up at night (but to be honest, there is a high probability of that happening!).

To prepare you for the upcoming 16 months in AIM, here are eight books you could read (operative word being COULD).

1. Buy•ology

Truth and Lies About Why We Buy


Author: Martin Lindstrom

Claim to fame: Martin Lindstrom is “one of the world’s most respected marketing gurus.” He is on the road 300 days a year to do consulting work for some of the biggest companies in the world.

What about this book: It’s a presentation of a 3-year, $7 million neuromarketing study about how people buy. With so many information being presented to consumers today, Lindstrom uncovers the journey of people’s buying decisions through the marriage of science and marketing.

Why this book: It will be helpful for Marketing class – you may find yourself in a discussion of how marketers influence customers by Prof. Cruz’s magic three words: cognitive, affective, behavioral. If you are aspiring to be in a marketing career track, this book might give you a new way of understanding what consumers want or save you a portion of that marketing budget you would allocate on TV product placement in the future.

2. Zero to One

Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Zero to One

Author: Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Claim to fame: He co-founded PayPal in 1998 and led it as CEO, taking it public in 2002. He has provided early funding for Facebook, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of successful technology startups.

What about this book: Thiel talks about his observed patterns of successful entrepreneurship. The book is all about building companies that create new things. It also contains revised class notes that Blake Masters, a student in Standford Law School back in 2012, taken from Thiel’s class “Computer Science 183: Startup.” (Apparently, an internet sensation.)

Why this book: If you are thinking of building a startup business, then it might be worth your time. It was a recommended read by two of the most popular startup builders we know today: Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Although it does not offer a formula for success, it does point out principles entrepreneurs must think about. At AIM, this may complement well with the subject Development of Enterprise.

3. The Outsiders

Eight Unconventional CEOs and their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

The Outsiders

Author: William N. Thorndike, Jr.

Claim to fame: He is the founder of Boston-based private equity firm Housatonic Partners, which manages $1 billion.

What about this book: After 8 years of research and interviews, Thorndike presents 8 CEOs who were not the charismatic visionary types but were very pragmatic when it comes to capital allocation.

Why this book: If you didn’t understand what capital allocation meant, then this is a book made for you! Finance is 4 units for MBA students in AIM which means familiarizing yourself with terms such as hurdle rate, stock buyback, and returns and risks will get you in and ahead of the game. Thorndike offers a checklist in making effective resource allocation at the book’s epilogue. (My advise: Don’t skip ahead when you know nothing about Finance, Jon Snow.)

4. Good to Great

Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t 

Good to Great

Author: Jim Collins

Claim to fame: He has authored or coauthored six books that have sold in total more than 10 million copies worldwide and he is a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1992 when he was still a faculty member.

What about this book: Collins and his 20-member research team analyzed the histories of 28 companies and discovered the key to become a great company. The book was inspired by a conversation with Bill Meehan, then managing director of McKinsey & Company who told him his previous book Built to Last was useless.

Why this book: It will be useful for your Strategy Class. It details the distinguishing factors of companies who made the leap compared to those who failed to leap or sustain their greatness. This book will present the timeless principles that can be applied to any organization. You can thank me when you start discussing concepts of “hardware, software, liveware” and “robustness” in class.

5. The Checklist Manifesto

How to Get Things Right

The Checklist Manifesto

Author: Atul Gawande

Claim to fame: He’s a general and endocrine surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, and leads the World Health Organization’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives program. (Woah, that’s a lot!)

What about this book: Gawande tells stories of how checklists have made possible some of the most difficult things people do, such as reducing deaths and complications by more than a third in 8 hospitals at no cost.

Why this book: It’s an Operations book that doesn’t sound too technical like the others. Although you should brace yourself for some graphic descriptions of surgical operations and terms like “strangulating groin hernia” and “rectal abscess.” I suggest to not read this while eating, unless “leaking bile” doesn’t disgust you. Also, it’s a chance to build up knowledge and score CP points with Prof Domingo, an expert and leading consultant in hospital care.

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

7 Habits

Author: Stephen Covey

Claim to fame: He was recognized as one of Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Americans and has received seven honorary doctorate degrees. (How to be you po?)

What about this book: Covey will take you on a journey of self-awareness and self-mastery. “The Seven Habits provide an incremental, sequential, highly integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness….The material is designed to be a companion in the continual process of change and growth.”

Why this book: It was named the #1 most influential business book of the twentieth century, sold more than 15 million copies in 38 languages worldwide. It will help build your foundation for 2 terms of Human Behavior in Organizations. A spoonful of emotional intelligence!

7. The Power of Habit

Why we do what we do in Life and Business

Power of Habit

Author: Charles Duhigg

Claim to fame: He is a winner of the National Academies of Sciences, National Journalism, and George Polk, and Pulitzer Prize awards! He has been an investigative reporter for The New York Times since 2006.

What about this book: Duhigg tells several scientific discoveries about the existence of habits and how they can be changed. It will explain how habits emerge, how to build new habits and change old ones, and how the power of these habits made companies successful and societies change for the better.

Why this book: A very interesting read that encompasses topics that you may encounter in Systems Thinking (Think: Habit Loop) and Managerial Analytics. If in case you are planning to quit smoking or start exercising, it’s a good guide! Tip: If you don’t like to read the whole book, the Appendix provides an application guide. But, where’s the fun in that?

8. The Ten-Day MBA

A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering the Skills Taught in America’s Top Business Schools

The Ten Day MBA

Author: Steven Silbiger

Claim to fame: He was a top-ten graduate of the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia.

What about this book: Silbiger summarizes the essentials of an MBA education: Marketing, Ethics, Accounting, Organizational Behavior, Quantitative Analysis, Finance, Operations, Economics, and Strategy.

Why this book: This introduction alone hooks you in – “Written for the impatient student, The Ten- Day MBA allows readers to really grasp the fundamentals of an MBA without losing two years’ wages and incurring a $100,000 debt for tuition and expenses.” (Kinda too late now that you’re on your way to AIM right? Well, for sure you’re not entering the MBA program only to gain new knowledge because…there is that thing called Google. This book will be useful for a general understanding of what you’ll learn in b-school and will be good as a review material for concepts you always need to go back to.)

I hope you found this list quite interesting and helpful for your preparation. If you generally don’t like reading books, watch out for our next article on movies you could watch instead. But you should keep in mind that in AIM, we read over 800 cases and readings for 16 months… better start practicing!

P.S. All books are available at AIM’s Knowledge Resource Center (that’s the fancy name for library).

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