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ID-100173631Ask any group of MBA students and they will tell you that they have too much to read. From their perspective, this may be true. However, from a faculty member’s perspective, there is always room on the syllabus for one more article or book chapter. Having too much to read may be a matter of perspective during the MBA program; however, after graduation, MBA students no longer have a faculty member selecting books and articles for them to read. Therefore, the burden of dealing with the crisis of too much to read becomes an issue for the individual MBA to address.

How much of a crisis is there?

Amazon.com provides a useful starting point for answering this question. Visit Amazon’s Business and Investing Book Department and you will see numbers similar to those presented below for a select group of categories. Amazon updates the numbers with the addition of new books to each department or category. While not an exhaustive list, the departments or categories selected are relevant to the professional development of most MBAs. For example, for the MBA who wants to maintain some degree of currency in management and leadership, there are 449,847 books available, of which Amazon added 5,627 in the last 90 days. Additionally, 978 more are in the pipeline and will be available soon.

Number of Books Available on Amazon.com as of January 28, 2014
Selected Categories Relevant to the Professional Development of MBAs
Amazon Table

Keep in mind that these are book numbers from one source. Now, add to this group the number of articles appearing annually in the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, other similar publications and additional,  popular business media, such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, and BusinessWeek and you can see why MBAs are facing a crisis of too much to read when they graduate.

How do you address the crisis of too much to read?

Think about it. Are there books and articles you have not read but should have read? These are not for pleasure and not the beach-reading type but the professional-development types that will help advance your career because of the theories, principles, and practices described therein. How do you find the time to read the unread books and articles? Alternatively, is it possible to gain some of the professional-development knowledge we need via some means other than by reading? I think that such an approach is viable and acceptable. However, there seems to be no universal framework for doing so. Perhaps we must individually develop a framework that fits our own needs.

How I address the crisis of too much to read.

With this situation in mind, let me share with you my approach for dealing with too much to read. While many options are available to me, I currently use the following, which involve less reading and more listening:

  • Curated Services – I rely on the curated services of SmartBrief for targeted business news and information within an industry, such as accounting and higher education. I receive a summary of the day’s most important headlines in the form of an email newsletter, which I scan when received and then only read or scan articles that are of interest to me. Additionally, I provide a curated newsletter service to MBA-program faculty members and administrators called the MBA News Digest. The focus is on headlines from around the world that relate to MBA-program curriculum, marketing, recruiting and enrollment topics. Subscribers can receive daily or weekly updates.
  • Podcast Book Summaries – I subscribe to AudioTech Business Book Summaries. I receive two summaries per month, which include a PDF summary and MP3 or iTunes file for downloading. I add the audio file to my iPod for playing in the car while driving or on a plane when flying. The book summaries cover a wide range of topics, such as economics, finance, leadership, personal effectiveness, sales, and marketing.
  • Subject-Matter-Focused Podcasts – I subscribe to eight subject-matter podcasts via iCatcher, an iPad app. This app automatically downloads podcast subscriptions and makes them available for playing on my iPad anytime and anywhere. Examples of my subscriptions include “HBR IdeaCast” from Harvard Business Review, “WSJ Tech News Briefing” from the Wall Street Journal, and “Inside Social Media” by Rick Mulready. The playtime for the podcast to which I subscribe ranges from three or four minutes to sixty minutes.
  • Book Group Meetings – Shortly after moving into my current residence, a neighbor invited me to join a newly formed book discussion group. The group’s membership includes seven professionals with diverse backgrounds, training and experience. We read and discuss six to eight books per year. Group members suggest books for reading; and given the diversity of the group, the books selected cover a wide range of topics.
  • Webcasts – My CPA and CITP certifications require that I complete at least 60 hours of continuing education annually. I complete these requirements by attending live webinars or webcasts offered by qualified vendors. Usually, these offerings are one to two hours in duration and are of a high quality.

I adopted this approach over the last four or five years by experimenting with various technologies and media channels. I expect to continue experimenting and changing my approach on an ongoing basis. Currently, I am meeting my professional-development needs with this strategy and find it a useful way of dealing with the crisis of having too much to read.

How are you dealing with the too-much-to-read crisis? Share your approach with the MyeEMBA readers by adding a comment below.

About the Author: Dr. Rodney Alsup is the creator of the MyeEMBA blog. His goal is to help MBA students live and work smarter while they earn their MBA.

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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5 Responses to The Next Crisis for MBAs – Too Much to Read

  1. Bill Cotton says:

    Personally, I have struggled to keep up with reading assignments for as long as I can remember, even back to middle school and perhaps even elementary school. Although not formally diagnosed with dyslexia, several friends and family members have suggested I probably have some degree of it. You can learn more about dyslexia at http://www.learningally.org/parents-students/is-it-dyslexia.

    About 10 years ago, when I was an MBA student, I was overwhelmed with amount of reading assignments we were expected to complete each week. I simply could not keep up. Out of desperation, I devised a method to convert my printed text books into MP3 audio files which I could later listen to while walking, exercising, driving to and from school or just relaxing on the couch. It involved a large miter saw, a professional grade high-speed scanner, OCR software (optical character recognition) , TTS software (text-to-speech), custom written MS Word Macros and an enormous amount of time to manually correct 1000’s of scanning errors. Overall, it worked quite well. And, if I wish, I can still go back to the recorded material and listen to them again. Although this approach allowed me to get through the MBA program with excellent grades, it was far too time consuming!

    A few years later, I decided to make a significant career change and become a doctor. Well, as you can imagine, this requires a ton of reading. Halfway into the first semester of pre-med General Chemistry I was struggling. A fellow classmate suggested I look into a company called Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, RFBD, later renamed to Learning Ally (www.learningally.org), because they carry textbooks in audio format. Back then you had to provide documentation from a healthcare professional indicating that you had a reading problem before being allowed to use RFBD’s free (government funded) services. After using their service for about a year, RFBD lost a long-term federal grant due to budget cuts. When this happened, they changed their name from RFBD to Learning Ally and opened up the service to the public. Although the service is no longer free, it may well be worth the $119 per year subscription fee (or $49 for 3 month) for those who can afford it. If you cannot afford it, you can apply for a hardship waiver on their website.

    With the aid of the audio text books I was able to get through the rigorous pre-med courses with excellent grades. The MCAT (medical college admissions test) is a different story. The MCAT has a large verbal reading section which has very little to do with science or medicine. This section is meant to test one’s ability to find facts and make logical inferences after being presented with unfamiliar material. I struggled with this section because it required a significant amount of reading in a very finite amount of time. Although my score was low in this section, my overall test score was good enough to apply to a state funded medical school. Unfortunately, our state medical schools are no where near our home and uprooting a family of five to live far from their other relatives is a tough decision, especially with three teenagers. The question for me now is, do I really want to go to medical school that badly? After two year of reflecting on this very question, I still don’t have an answer. =) We shall see. One bit of good news, in 2015 the verbal section of the MCAT will be replaced with a social sciences section.

    Happy and efficient readings to all! You can do it!

    Bill

  2. Dennis Brown says:

    The prolific explosion of information via all sources of media will only increase in the near future as technology advances, so this is a topic is timely and well addressed by Dr. Alsup.

    Various filters as set forth in the article and subsequent postings are effective. It also requires a disciplined approach for students to proactively prioritize the most important material to read. We are seeing a lot of “cut and paste” publication these days which can waste time.

    Often it’s best to stick with the peer-reviewed materials and those with proven academic rigor as opposed to opinion and politically-slanted writings.

    Thanks for this relevant and important article!

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  4. Chris wortley says:

    My MBA taught me how to disseminate lots of information and what to focus on
    Anyone why relies too heavily in what to read and reads a lot may do well at exam time but will not survive in the real world

    The MBA experience should never be about lots of books and reading as that is just satisfying the academics

  5. […] – Early on, MBA students discover how much they must read for their classes. While having too much to read may be a matter of perspective, the fact is that MBA students will have a lot to read – […]

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