A review for Dan Herman’s Outsmart the MBA Clones: the Alternative Guide to Competitive Strategy, Marketing and Branding has been due on this blog for months. It’s taken me a while to get through it, not because there’s a single thing wrong with the writing, but because of my own time, my own ease at which I can be persuaded to buy more books from Amazon, and because of typography.
I am very sensitive to the composition in any book, probably because of my type design background, and it’s really the only thing that lets Dan down. It’s likely my copy was an advance review one and this is all a mystery to those who have bought Dan’s book since, but what I see looks like a digitally printed Sabon. Offset does make a difference, and there are some of us who can still tell.
It’s such a tiny criticism and one of the very, very few I can make. For a start, Dan begins with the idea that an MBA isn’t that great. Those that have them do tend to, unless they have or can forge a more solid background in business, engage in groupthink. The business schools don’t distinguish themselves from each other too well, so why should their teaching enable graduates to stand out?
He’s not wrong. In my own academic history, I purposely pursued a Master of Commerce and Administration rather than the MBA because I was told by my professor, Peter Thirkell, that the MCA was more academically rigorous. He was right.
I am willing to bet that any B.Com. graduate who wound up doing the ﬁrst parts of the MBA found it a walk in the park, and while the study does get more complex beyond that, it’s not really that huge an advance on what I found in my honours’ year in B-school.
One major reason you might not see Dan’s book reviewed in university publications is pretty obvious in light of the above.
But he doesn’t rubbish the universities. He proposes an alternative model and goes on to say one thing that I always have in my brand consulting work: differentiation is the number-one rule in branding.
As with most strategies, Dan spends a lot of time dealing with ﬁnding opportunities rather than executing them—but he is right to do this. This is the problem I face when doing seminars and people say I don’t give enough execution. Folks, sorry, but I don’t know what your company is like. All I can do is give you pointers on what to spot. And in this context, Dan has done things marvellously well—and in that respect I think his methodology does indeed outsmart the MBA clones.
In between there’s a slice of consumer behaviour.
It’s one of the few books I can recommend this year on branding, for companies thinking, ‘How can I differentiate my brand for greater success?’ Accidental Branding, which I am reading now, could be another—more when I ﬁnish that. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:30
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