5 Important Books for MBA Students

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Earning an MBA is just part of what helps you succeed in the business world. Of course, on-hand experience is invaluable. However, in addition to that, consider reading some of the most brilliant pieces of writing out there, books that will help you understand how business – and how life – works and how to succeed in both. Mark Suster, a successful venture capitalist, is one who understands this as he places reading just past experiencing the world first-hand in importance.

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Reasons for Reading Beyond the Required MBA Textbooks

The works of notable authors like Philip Kotler, Stephen P. Robbins, and Clayton M. Christensen are recommended readings. Their works cover the wide range of business concepts that MBA students must master, from accounting and finance to organizational behavior, strategic management, and disruptive innovation. Indeed, reading the recommended textbooks is a must because of their crucial importance in technical skills development!

But MBA students must also look beyond technical skills if they want to become the best possible business leaders they can be. This is where the five featured books come into the picture! By reading these non-textbooks, your learning experiences in the MBA program you’re in will be better for many reasons.

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Gain real-world insights. 

Top rated MBA programs online and on-campus are a knowledge minefield. Pair those up with the right reading materials and you gain real-world insights into the business world! The case studies, contemporary examples, and personal anecdotes offer practical knowledge that aren’t found in business textbooks. They are applicable to diverse business situations. They help you build more personal relationships instead of being limited by the professional aspects of networking.

Appreciate diverse perspectives.

With our interconnected world, particularly with the Internet and international business, the ability to appreciate the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives in real-world situations is an advantage. Your multicultural awareness means the ability to work with diverse teams, even work abroad. By reading these books written by thought leaders in their fields, your business education will be informed by psychology, economics and humanities, too.

Develop your soft skills.

As a student, you’ll find that accelerated MBA programs online will require you to manage your time effectively. The coursework may take too much of your time. The projects can be exceptionally hard. Non-textbooks help you develop effective communication, collaboration, time management and other soft skills!

Books for MBA students also feature plenty of stories about entrepreneurs and business leaders. The stories highlight how they developed their soft skills and inspire you!

Find inspiration and motivation.

The featured books here contain stories of success and failure, of resilience and resourcefulness, and of traditions and innovations that can become your motivation for success. By finding parallels between your journey and theirs, your sense of determination can be strengthened – and in tough MBA programs, determination is a virtue! 

While the required textbooks in your MBA program are a must-read, you should look beyond them for insights and inspiration that can influence your career path. You will also agree that reading non-textbooks will contribute to a well-rounded business education that can better prepare you for the competitive marketplace.

Recommended Readings for MBA Students

“Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes”

This classic analyzes why groups oftentimes focus more on creating harmony and agreement than on engaging in a rational discussion of what may be best for the organization and what should be avoided. Some major examples of groupthink analyzed in this book are related to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the escalation of the Korean War in 1950 and the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. In each of these cases, leaders tended to reinforce their original beliefs and ignore dissenting voices. Conversely, a couple of situations talked about when groupthink was avoided include the development of the Marshall Plan in 1948 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

These examples of the success and failures that come with groupthink emphasize the crucial importance of understanding the psychology behind the decision-making processes among groups. By understanding the dynamics of groupthink, you can be more effective in leadership roles where decision-making is an integral part. 

Business leaders must be competent in risk management and analysis – and knowledge of the psychology behind groupthink can reduce the risk of flawed decision-making. This is knowledge that students of regular MBA programs and EMBA programs online must be familiar with, alongside knowledge of group dynamics, organizational culture, and organizational behavior. These concepts are discussed in detail – and with concrete examples.

“Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else”

Innate talent obviously does help, this book argues that it is overrated in today’s society and that greater focus needs to be placed on the ability to deliberately practice one’s craft. This is what truly differentiates the mediocre from the great. Regardless of how much innate talent you may have, if you do not cultivate it in this way, it will go to waste. This book also touches upon the fact that overnight sensations are not truly overnight and that they are almost always the result of hard work done over several years.

We recommend it, too, for its emphasis on adopting a growth mindset instead of being stuck in a fixed mindset. You, an MBA student, will appreciate the insights into enduring success being a long-term endeavor, not a meteoric rise to fame and fortune. With a growth mindset, you will be more open to lifelong learning opportunities and more equipped to deal with the ever-changing aspect of the business world. 

There are several case studies and examples that demonstrate the crucial importance of deliberate practice in achieving success. You will not only be inspired by these real-world examples but also draw insights with real-world applications in your own career and life.

“Outliers: The Story of Success”

Throughout your life, you were likely told to improve your weaknesses. However, this book argues that your focus needs to instead be on improving your strengths as doing so is what will be most apt to create success in your life. It also touches on how important it is to be ready for when opportunities hit and to be prepared to step through that door before it closes. These things are done by analyzing how several individuals achieved success in their lives.

Gladwell emphasizes the 10,000-hour rule where he asserts that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice for an individual to become a master in a specific field. While it may or may not be true for everybody, it emphasizes that success is the product of dedication, determination and desire combined with hard work and lifelong learning. You will also find insights about the influence of your culture, background and upbringing, and opportunities coming your way and your related actions in your life success.

Indeed, while “Outliers” doesn’t tackle business concepts, the in-depth discussions on the wide range of factors that affect success can be applied in your MBA journey and career development.

“The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers”

Earning an MBA can sometimes lead you to focus more on the theory of business than on what the actual experiences will be like. Ben Horowiz, an author and success entrepreneur, talks about the most challenging moments of his career such as doing things like hiring, retaining and letting people go and doing his best to balance the interests of people such as co-founders, executives, investors and managers.

You, an MBA student and future business leader and innovator, will find the real-world leadership lessons in Horowitz’s book inspiring. From the start of your MBA journey, you must make wise decisions to make it in the program! If you’re uncertain about your standardized test scores, find programs where no GMAT is required for an online MBA. Choosing the right program, MBA school, and specialization all require excellent decision-making skills.

Throughout your MBA journey, you’ll have to make tough decisions. Upon graduation, you’ll find that as a budding professional or entrepreneur, you must master crisis management. Horowitz’s journey will help you look for practical solutions beyond what MBA textbooks can provide.

“Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time”

Surely, you understand the value of networking in the business world. Well, this book takes it another step, describing in more detail how being social can improve that aspect of your life and how to make that happen. However, the author also speaks about how your focus needs to not be on what you may be looking to get out of a lunch with a client or a relationship with somebody and that having a more selfless outlook on the relationships in your life pays greater dividends.

For students in accelerated MBA programs online, networking opportunities can be limited. Aside from the shorter time-to-completion, the fast-paced, rigorous coursework can leave little to no time for networking events, much less for meaningful connections. By reading Ferrazzi’s book, you will get practical advice on effective networking even on a limited time.  

You will also love the tips on building your personal brand and on optimizing your positive relationships with people in achieving it. The book also encourages a growth mindset where every personal and professional interaction is an excellent opportunity for learning.

Of course, this is just a short list of helpful books for MBA students. Also consider the many lists of useful books that have been created by organizations and people such as BusinessInsider.com and talented business bloggers.