Modern Book Reviews Need No Words

Screenshot 2019-07-09 at 23.00.33“The Visual MBA”…

…What a promise! Here is a book that takes the achingly time-consuming and hideously expensive business of studying a two year MBA and  condenses the whole thing into a picture book.

If it works then you save time and money.  What a deal!
“More exciting than that, Tim”, I said to the editor, “If you can replace an MBA with pictures then I can do a review with emojis.”

Here it is.

“No” said Tim, I mean, Mr. Hulse, sir.
He had a point. For one thing, I get paid by the word and emojis are a highly unstable unit of currency.
And yet I feel the simplified approach is very timely. I don’t mean that it is right. But it is au courant. Public discourse has collapsed to the level of football chants.  My side is correct and the other side are nazis. Thus Brexiteers are fascists and remainers are traitors; Men are bad and women are good. Half the country is set against the other half. The abandonment of detail and nuance and the dumbing down of debate and discussion leads inexorably to book reviews in emoji form…..
“Yeah, but no”, said the guvnor. “Nice try”.
So I read the book.
And now I am non-plussed. Some of the most average business people I know returned from their MBAs with new haircuts, wardrobes and Elon Musk levels of bravado. For every question they could suddenly halt the conversation and choose an analytical decision-making tool from a mental filing cabinet fit to burst. “I’ll give you another two minutes”, the barmen would say. And whenever the pressure was on they dropped abbreviations like an F-111 drops chaff.  What had they learned? That’s what I wanted to know.
Well, now I know: Theory, not magic. The question that matters then is how useful it is and in this respect I am reminded of the brilliant book, Thinking Fast and Slow. This best-seller told us how we dumb people fool ourselves in a myriad ways all day long because we can’t think clearly or objectively. In exposing how we get things wrong it taught us how to make much better decisions. In theory. But how many individuals are making better decisions because they read half the book. Or all of it? I suspect it is the same with MBAs. The only way is in the heat of battle. That is why Forbes magazine said, a few years ago, that the new MBA is the 3 month accelerator program for startups run by organisations like Techstars.

This is not to say that all this theory is not useful because that is not my argument at all. In fact if I may be slightly nuanced about things, I think it is invaluable but it is not the whole story and for many a shortcut to the rudiments of MBA content may be all that’s necessary. And for that task then the book you need is this one. The author skilfully steers a path between baffling the reader by assuming too much prior knowledge of MBA abbreviations and being patronising by treating the reader like a dummy. Much of its charm and the effectiveness derive from the sketches and indeed I already find that as I seek to recall ideas from the book it is these that my memory calls on. This is not surprising since, as the blurb tells us, brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than text….👍

I read: The Visual MBA
By: Jason Barron