Ask 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.
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.