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The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business Paperback – August 28, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Kaufman, a former middle manager at Proctor & Gamble and founder of personalmba.com, argues that those interested in business would be better served by skipping the M.B.A. and focusing on the critically important concepts that really make or break a business. According to the author, much of what is taught in business schools is outdated; you're better off saving the expense and finding other ways to learn about these core principles--which Kaufman synthesizes--in such areas as value creation, marketing, sales, and finance. He also explores the psychological side of business and examines how consumers take in information, make decisions, and decide what to do or not to do. Acknowledging the panoramic overview his approach necessitates, he includes a fairly lengthy list of sources to seek out if more information is needed. While Kaufman's rallying call will not eradicate the need or desire for M.B.A. degrees, he does provide a surprisingly solid alternative full of information that even those already in the workplace will respond to. (Dec.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"No matter what they tell you, an MBA is not essential. If you combine reading this book with actually trying stuff, you'll be far ahead in the business game."
- Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired and author of What Technology Wants
"File this book under NO EXCUSES. After you've read it, you won't be open to people telling you that you're not smart enough, not insightful enough, or not learned enough to do work that matters. Josh takes you on a worthwhile tour of the key ideas in business."
- Seth Godin, author of Linchpin
"I've run across few people who conceptually 'grok' how to get things done better than Josh Kaufman."
- David Allen, author of Getting Things Done
"A creative, breakthrough approach to business education. I have an MBA from a top business school, and this book helped me understand business in a whole new way."
- Ali Safavi, executive director of international sales and distribution, The Walt Disney Company
Top customer reviews
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Everything is organized into topic with detailed outlines, so that you can pick and choose as needed. So many books (see any Tim Ferriss book) throw everything and the kitchen sink with no focus or filter just to fill pages and put out another crappy round of sales; they're all fluff and the meat they contain is so basic that the author tries to pass it off as something complicated and essentially passes off mystique as value. Not the case here. I have a very sensitive BS meter and it wasn't triggered at all. Everything included is purposeful, and while there isn't much of any depth, this is more like what you'd get from an actual MBA (minus the network) - a big picture view and the memory/awareness of what to consider and whether to look it up when the time comes around. The only caveat is that this is all meat, so this is a book to study and write notes on a few times and memorize.
As a techie-turned-entrepreneur who likes clear APIs and expects good crunch-bang documentation (think C++ interface guides), this is the perfect format and just what I was looking for. If you want a lot of depth, you'll have to sacrifice scope and go for a book that covers one or two topics. For what it is, this is about as good as it gets (and I've read TONS of books on business, organization, 'self-help', marketing, negotiation, etc.).
Thanks Josh for putting this out.
In The Personal MBA Josh Kaufman makes a very compelling case (as does Will Hunting) that for people considering an MBA, the economics aren't that great. For many graduate students (not just Business majors), it feels like a Casino: everyone takes the tests, and gets primed, then takes out a huge loan from the bank (often a six-figure amount) hoping that when they come out the other side, there will be an awesome, high-paying job waiting for them. It's a financial transaction, not really an educational one. In fact, much of the education gleaned from an Master in Business Administration is theoretical and marginally updated from the projects and Case Studies done in Bachelor of Business and Economics programs; after all, how can you possibly sit in a classroom and `learn' how to be a Manager, or an Executive? Of course you can't. But the schools are more than willing to let you try, as long as the cheques clear.
Provided those cheques do clear (in many states in the US, the juice, as they say, is running the day you take your first class, not after you graduate), students can expect a marginally better income (in this economy? yuck) awaiting them on the other side; it turns out they're getting a crash course in finance after all! Ouch.
In the beginning of The Personal MBA, Kaufman reveals something striking: research shows there is little evidence that getting an MBA has any correlation with long term success in Business. Top tier Business programs make sure that they only accept brilliant students, which is why many go on to greatness. Business schools make it their business to take credit for other people's work-namely, your undergraduate degree, and your having studied for the GMAT. In a perfect world, you'd be better off, studying for the GMAT, applying to Harvard Business, getting accepted, and then refusing to attend (and pay the exorbitant tuition, and 2 years of your life), then bragging on your CV that you were accepted at Harvard, and applying for a plum job with a Fortune 500 company, ready to put you through the Management training program.
Why doesn't anybody do that? Because the MBA itself acts as a signal to help simplify the recruiter's job: he or she doesn't want to read 5,000 CVs. Reading 50 is a lot faster. It's that simple. Which 50 get the job doesn't really matter. When the eventual 20-something is hired, he or she will proceed to the actual training program, and begin to be molded into the perfect Hewlett Packard / Cisco/ Apple/ GE/ Nike/Starbucks Manager. That's right: real companies don't hire college grads and just plop them in a management or executive role. They have training programs. They have quarterly reviews. They promote you based on progress, not based on your GPA.
Where else did you think you would learn how to be a Manager?
Unfortunately there's no way around it. Since MBA students are required to pass the GMAT first, a fundamental understanding of business and finance is required before you set foot on a real campus. If the Personal MBA (book, and accompanying website) is going to attempt to replace an actual MBA, they must put the reader through the paces of very fundamental Business Concepts.
Business and Finance majors (like myself) will find much of this familiar, but that shouldn't take away from Kaufman's impressive achievement here. He's taken 2 years of Education and compressed it into a fantastic 400 page reference material. Kaufman will hold up the six-figure MBA and declare that by buying this book you're effectively saving $99,982, but of course, you're not getting a piece of paper either.
So for anyone who didn't graduate in Economics of Business,this book is a great summary of the definitions and concepts that took us about 4 years to get through. And it's pretty much the same material (minus countless case studies and Powerpoint presentations) you'd get from top-tier business programs.
So what do I suggest for young career-minded readers?
The point of an MBA, traditionally, was not for a 19 or 20 year old to `train' to be a manager (whatever that means) but for a middle-manager to train to be a leader in his current company. An ideal situation would be to get a job (any job) with a great company and work your way up, and eventually have your boss pay for your education. The company will consider the investment in human capital worth it if they see potential in you, and will also have you promise to stay with the company for at least a few years upon graduation, so they can benefit from their investment.
Education is great. If I didn't believe that, I sure wouldn't have started a blog about it. But so is avoiding foolish six-figure debt. Consult your boss, and consult this book before proceeding.
(PS. Yes, I've graduated from a post-secondary International Business program. That one came with a five-figure student loan, not six.)
More reviews like this on 21tiger
I highly recommend this book to anyone thinking about starting a business, thinking about business school, or simply wanting to be a better worker, manager, or leader.