Epic! It’s like a complete 1st year MBA Curriculum
Would you consider the audio edition of Critical Business Skills for Success to be better than the print version?
This is the audio version of The Great Courses series, an epic series taught by five world class professors. You get the entire series here as one audio book, which is incredible. I will be recommending this series to every manager in my organization, whether they already have an MBA or not.
While the sections on accounting and finance clearly would have benefited from the video version, I was overall enthralled and amazed by these wonderful professors and this incredibly ambitious series. It is essentially the entire core 1st year MBA curriculum, spanning 60 lectures, with 5 professors taking on the core requirements of the typical MBA curriculum: Management strategy, Operations Management, Accounting, Finance, Organization Behavior, and Marketing.
What did you like best about this story?
I have an MBA from a top business school, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom, and any good business manager knows that you can never stop learning and reviewing the fundamentals. So my perspective listening to this series was that most of the concepts were not new, but all of it was valuable, and every section offered helpful new frameworks for me to use in thinking about my organization, my management style, and the business issues we all face in the 21st century.
Which scene was your favorite?
It should not come as a surprise that the sections on management strategy, organizational behavior, and marketing were the most entertaining (and most suited for audio), while the sections on accounting and operations had their dry moments. From my perspective, this is the nature of the beast and not a reflection on the professors.
Any additional comments?
The Great Courses is known for finding the world’s greatest professors, and this series is no exception. More on each:
Management Strategy is taught by Professor Michael Roberto, who has taught at NYU, Harvard, and Bryant. If you have watched or listened to The Great Courses titles on Transformational Leadership or Critical Decision Making (both excellent), then you already know how great Professor Roberto is. You’ll be happy to know that his lectures n this series are not redundant at all with those titles. You also will not be surprised to know they are highly organized and entertaining at the same time. He offers a fresh framework for thinking about business strategy that should be relevant to anybody from entrepreneurs to middle managers to Fortune 500 executives. Every one of Professor Roberto’s lectures offers the winning formula of a logical framework for the principles at hand plus real world stories that you can repeat to help remember and spread the wisdom in your organization. The lecture on The Danger of Straddling may be my favorite.
Operations Management is taught by Professor Thomas Goldsby from Ohio State. Goldsby spends a lot of time at the beginning of this section defining operations and describing the critical role it plays in business success. He does a great job, and for the inexperienced manager, this is critical. For me, this part was a little too much review; but once we got into the details of things like inventory management, business process reengineering, and performance measurement, I was hooked and learned a lot about how operations managers approach these topics, and some of the common pitfalls encountered. Most of what I remember from my Operations classes is learning linear programming models. This series, for what it’s worth, offers a higher-level strategic view of operations management. There is math in some lectures, but it’s more about the types of metrics one would use to measure operational effectiveness.
The subjects of Accounting and Finance are taught in tandem by Professor Eric Sussman from UCLA. I never would have believed that you could cover these topics effectively in an audio series, and no doubt this is the one section where you might wish you’d spent your money on the video version, but still, Sussman amazingly pulls it off. All of the examples used are actual financial reports from companies like Apple, Intel, and Walmart. Accounting and Finance are of course important both for the business manager and the personal investor. Professor Sussman provides both perspectives, making this section different from the rest of the course. For my purposes, there was a little too much emphasis on the investor point of view, though all of it was relevant. To be clear, if you’ve never seen an income statement or balance sheet or cash flow statement, then you will no doubt start to get lost with the audio version. You would definitely want to have examples of these financial statements in front of you, or get the guidebook or the video version from The Great Courses. If you are familiar with what these types of statements look like and can follow simple math in your head, you’ll be OK.
Organizational Behavior is taught by Professor Clinton Longenecker at the University of Toledo. Wow. What a find he is. I’m not surprised that he has won over 40 teaching awards. The field of organizational behavior can be tackled from a variety of angles. For these 12 lectures, Professor Longenecker switches the tone of the course towards a very direct advice mode, much in the same vein as the outstanding Great Courses titles “The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal” and “Art of Conflict Management.” If you haven’t enjoyed those series, trust me; this is high praise. Any one of these 12 lectures is worth the price of admission, whether you are just entering the workforce or leading a staff of hundreds or thousands. It is a switch in tone from the rest of the series, and honestly not what I expected, but as somebody who has both studied organization behavior and worked in a variety of management roles, I found the content to be outstanding, and words to live by.
Marketing is taught by another brilliant find – Professor Ryan Hamilton, a Northwestern/Kellogg School PhD now teaching at Emory University. This is a field I know well, so I was prepared to be critical, but Professor Hamilton knocked it out of the park with this highly-organized and entertaining set of lectures on the fundamentals of marketing. He presents a highly thoughtful, highly organized framework that should be taught in every business school. While most introductory marketing courses start with the “Four Ps” framework (product, price, promotion, and place), Professor Hamilton starts instead with marketing strategy – how to segment a market, target a segment, position your offering, and create value for your chosen segment. This section addresses nabt misconceptions about what marketing is, and is an outstanding bookend to Professor Roberto’s strategy lectures that opened the course. Professor Hamilton then turns to tactics, pointing out that the four Ps – and even branding itself – are simply tactics. There is much to learn about these tactics, but they are meaningless in the absence of a strategy based on segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Like Professor Roberto earlier, Professor Hamilton peppers his lectures with real world case studies and cautionary tales that help make things entertaining and memorable.
All in, an epic series that I will recommend to others and certainly return to in years to come.
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