Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Pre-MBA Summer Reading List: Royal Holloway MBA

The MBA Programme Director recommends waiting until you are on campus before looking to purchase the books needed. Several reasons;

(1) They can be heavy
(2) They are expensive 
(3) They may be available in the library or as an eBook for free 
(4) Some lecturers encourage a read widely approach, others require you to have the latest edition to use the readings and case studies intensely.

Every year we like to share with applicant MBA's some of the readings that will be covered in the programme.  Some of you will not want to fly in with ten heavy text books in your cases, but you will find it extremely advantageous to at least start to cover the listed readings, perhaps using a local library.  You might want to focus on a couple of topics that you  know you will find more challenging

For some more important is to re-engage with academic style learning after a break, perhaps to double check that the required levels of motivation are there.
Independent learning using library resources is crucial for MBA studies


Many of you will be fully committed prior to the start of term at Royal Holloway as you wind up your job and organise your personal effects ahead of moving to Royal Holloway.  Spending time preparing for MBA classes is desirable, but not essential.

We list here a number of texts that you may find useful in preparation for and during your MBA programme.  Older editions (at lower prices) are often available and their use is encouraged.

Accounting and Finance

Alexander, D. and Nobes, C. (2013) Financial Accounting: An International Introduction, Prentice Hall, 5th edition.  Author Professor Nobes is in our faculty.

Consumers and Markets

Kotler and Keller (2014) Marketing Management. 14th Ed. Pearson is the recommended text, but additionally Royal Holloway's first Professor in marketing Chris Hackley has a very interesting text that students enjoy:

Marketing: a critical introduction (2009) Hackley, C.  Sage

Information Systems

Laudon, K.P. and Laudon, J.P. (2014), Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm, 13th Global Edition, Pearson.  


Carr, N. (2003), "IT doesn't matter", Harvard Business Review, May 2003, 41-49.

Luftman, J., et al (2012), “Key information technology and management issues 2011-2012: an international study”, Journal of Information Technology, 27, pp.198-212.

Philosophy of Management

Suggested that students buy and read carefully:

Martin Hollis Invitation to Philosophy (2nd ed 1997)

This is an excellent introduction and will give a good grounding in philosophical thinking and issues which is the key preparation for the module. The application of the thinking to management is something we work on in class.

Alternative texts if the above is not available;

John Hospers An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis (4th ed 1997)

Thomas Nagel What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy

International Business Strategy 

A Very Short, Fairly Interesting, and Reasonably Cheap Introduction to Studying Strategy. (2008) London: Sage. (Chris Carter, Stewart Clegg and Martin Kornberger). 

International Human Resource Management

Harzing, A.W. and Pinnington, A. (2011) International Human Resource Management [3rd ed.],
London: Sage

Edwards, T. and Rees, C. (2011) International Human Resource Management: Globalization, National Systems and Multinational Corporations, [2nd ed.] Prentice Hall.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Building Powerful Arguments - use a Knight in Shining Armour

I know (from bitter personal experience) that at times whilst studying for an MBA qualification you would love for a knight in shining armour to come to your rescue, slay your dragons and allow the situation to move on to the happy ever after scene.  This is a rather light hearted post that uses the knight/armour/fighting metaphor

Writers block.  Stress.  Can't understand how to write a 'good' paper. 

However you describe it, I fully imagine that we all face/have faced this kind of situation at some point.  Thankfully we have fellow course mates and family members to help, but I thought the following advice might be useful ? 

I would like to put forward a visual metaphor I learnt from a fabulous ex-colleague Jo Donachie, a gifted and patient study skills specialist.  I do not claim for this idea to be an original, but with a bit of my own creative story embellishment I have found this to be a highly effective way to communicate a tricky concept that causes much frustration.

First of, and bluntly delivered the shortened version:

Step 1:


"I don't care what you think." 


Step 2:

"Imagine yourself naked."


Step 3:

"Use the published words of others as armour, and go into battle with no gaps showing"

Now that I have got your attention, I can explain each of this steps in a little more detail.  And, before you ask, there are no plans for a short TV Series titled "The Naked Academic."

Step 1: Attention grabbing head line "I don't care what you think !"

The harsh reality is little or no credit is given to the personal opinions of students.  What is expected is hard evidence in the form of data, quotes and paraphrased ideas identified using Harvard in text referencing (every idea, each one).  This rich content (gleaned from hours of careful searching in the library and using e-journal search engines) is then carefully constructed into an objective consideration of the facts.  The use of the third person clearly helps establish that this is not a personal opinion.  The choice of content, the extent to which various aspects are covered, of course, can give a piece of writing a sense of the writers own perspective.  However, the exclusion or over looking of leading ideas and concepts might be considered as either poor scholarship or deliberate bias.

Billy Buff

Step 2: Shocking comment "Imagine yourself naked"

Clearly some care is taken in delivering this line.  It can be softened, if offence might be caused, by talking about imagining someone else naked, yours truly excepted.  Then the task is to carefully identify a variety of different shaped pieces of armour to cover the naked body.  In this metaphor, each piece of armour is considered to be the words of  expert opinion, dutifully referenced. 

Stay with this - it comes good in the end !

Final Step 3: The message wrap "Use the published words of others as armour, and go into battle with no gaps showing"

Each suit of armour is different to fit its rightful owner, but shares a common pattern of construction and constituents, aping the introduction, argument threads and conclusion seen in a strong essay. 

The fit should be tight, with no gaps, lest a stray arrow defeat the brave knight.  No excess armour should be carried, as getting stuck in the mud and being picked off by nimble foot soldiers is a poor ending.  Write concisely, avoid over emphasising one area, at the cost of killer blows elsewhere. Rather, have glorious memories of thrust and counter thrust of incisive analytical blows that legends are made from.  [Don't waste words on descriptive 'mud', concentrate on the exciting fighting/analysis]

Eurovision null points for artistic capability

As the broad sword can be countered by a shield, both sides of an argument should be considered and the armour carefully fitted together as a coherent body, each individual part having its own important role to play, yet still adding to the whole.

At this point there is often lots of head nodding and the story is all but done, without the need for further explanation or clarification.  Just sufficient time to pepper our iron clad pupil with pre-battle bullets (but my brilliant history colleague Professor Justin Champion would say "Didn't they come later ?");

* Published expert opinion, not lecture notes (they aren't published).  

* Not usually web sites, unless they can be identified as authoritative. 

Sir Royal Holloway of Egham perchance ?


Go forth brave Scholarly Knight of Harvard and fight the good fight !

For further help on writing for academic purposes take a look at previous postings in the zone May-July 2012.  E.g. Lovely Literature Review

Friday, 10 May 2013

There is something about Advertising ?

"The truth isn't the truth
until people believe you

and they can't believe you
if they don't know what you are saying

and they can't know what you're saying
if they don't listen to you
Vintage Surfing VW style

and they won't listen to you
if you're not interesting

and you won't be interesting
unless you say things

Bill Bernbach, fouder of legendary advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB)

I have been reading quite a bit recently around advertising, a mould breaking, genre creating Bernbach creations for the now iconic VW Beetle keep popping up.  One site (Adrants - I'm not linking to it as there quite a lot of what I consider to be inappropriate content - don't go there) has some cracking free content and took five seminal advertising campaigns and re-interpreted how they would need to be implemented in our current world of the web and social media.  Naturally the VW Beetle was in this elite grouping, Bernbach having to stimulate US demand in post World War 2 for a small, economical, German car that seemed very far away from what domestic MotorTown players (Ford, Chrysler et al) were vying for - a truly exceptional creative approach was required. 

In another life I would have been "in advertising", part of one of those dreamy, success just comes easy on the plate & every day provides inspiring, creative fun sequences - just like an episode in the Philadelphia based TV series "30 something".   I remain inspired by Bernbach's message to find ways to deliver messages with imagination, originality and a fresh approach.  Think small, Lemon.

MBA applicant survey: Graduate Scholarships & Careers

I've just read the summary report of the 2013 GMAC survey which claims to benefit from 15,000 individual registered data responses.   The research findings included a question that identified why people undertook an MBA:

(1) planning  to change job functions (41%),
(2) considering changing industries (33%) and
(3) hoping to work internationally (27%)

These are motivations I am used to hearing from MBA applicants.  However, a couple of things jumped out at me, to the point where I feel I need to do something about communicating them a little more loudly. 

"Key factors for full time MBA programmes are quality career services and scholarships." says the report.

It has recently come to my attention that (at direct variance to my previous thinking) the College offering for post graduate scholarships is actually quite generous, and more importantly, MBA students have been pretty successful in being awarded these scholarships.  The scholarships tab (click Post Graduate) boasts a partial or complete fee waiver, in total 13 packages worth £5,000 in fee waivers, with specialist scholarships targeted at US and Latin American students in addition to music and sports offerings. 

Although the 2013 application dates appear now to have passed, I note in the small print that applications received after the deadline will be considered if funds remain available.

Additionally, we have reviewed our professional development programme with the head of careers.  This module includes input from an MBA dedicated and experienced careers officer, and each year we have sought to make it ever more relevant, after listening carefully to student feedback.  Not surprisingly the content includes  CV development, writing killer cover notes, Myers-Briggs Type Analysis (which gives personality insights & can help team building) and role playing interviewing line managers at an assessment centre.  Next year, after a successful trial last term, more emphasis will be put on the experiential ensemble team building and presentation skills content that was delivered by Dr Emma Brodzinski and Alex Turner from drama. 

Probably not coincidentally, this week I have been liaising with the MBA group (who have been very busy in the middle of their exams) to respond to a request from a long standing corporate partner who were looking to match 2/3 Royal Holloway MBAs to a six month high profile project.  All terribly exciting.  We have added additional opportunities for group consultancy interactions, which will also be more formally embedded in the professional development programme going forwards.  I am involved in a number of these kinds of external relationships, they prove to be very fruitful in terms of bringing the working world into our learning environment, but often also bring out interesting employability opportunities. 

Thus I feel I have some good news developments on both careers and scholarships is already in place and we will continue to create more such opportunities.    

The report also highlighted that websites and friends/family had the greatest impact on applicants decision making.  This week we have been discussing exactly this - what actions can we take to make our web communications more effective.  Any suggestions - please feel free to email: or post your comments on this blog forum below.

Source [accessed 8 May 2013 ]