12 Jul 2019 09:58am

Book reviews: business analysis

A visual MBA and a call to stop mugging your grandmother – we review two books reflecting on business and spending

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Caption: We review books discussing business and spending

The Visual MBA

Jason Barron,
Penguin Business

Jason Barron has sketched out his MBA so you don’t have to. It’s a neat idea, but it won’t get you out of doing the hard yards.

“You’re smart,” Jason Barron congratulates his reader before they’ve even reached the beginning of The Visual MBA. He spent thousands of dollars on his business degree, “and you can benefit from it all with this book at a fraction of the cost in the comfort of your own home”.

What follows is a series of witty illustrations based on those Barron sketched during his course, visualising everything from the concept of market segments to business leadership. And research shows that more than 65% of us are visual learners and that our brains process illustrations 60,000 times faster than text, so this might sink in deeper than other, more traditonal learning tomes. At its best, The Visual MBA cuts through academic jargon (not to mention dreary corporate speak) to introduce a wide range of theories and methodologies.

The principles of business are explained through a lemonade stand – the stand is a fixed cost, while the lemonade is a variable depending on how many glasses you make. Case studies from the course also get the artistic treatment, like the fast-food firm that tried to make the best possible milkshake before realising customers cared less about the ingredients and more about having a place to stop off on their way to work.

Barron’s text is often as tangible as his drawings. A balance sheet is “a snapshot in time”, and anyone considering a dodgy decision should ask themselves how they would feel “if this decision ended up on the 5:00 news?”. There are handy checklists to test any money-making schemes against, and fun facts (we negotiate 30 times a day).

For all The Visual MBA’s snappiness, though, there is a difference between skimming the pages of a book and spending late nights cramming alongside your ambitious peers for a career-defining course. It is a useful talisman for a would-be entrepreneur, or anyone who needs a crash course in corporate think. At £14.99, you wouldn’t be stupid to buy it. But it’s hard to picture universities going out of business.

Stop Mugging Grandma

Jennie Bristow,
Yale University Press

Are you a “Boomer blamer”? Or do you spend your time complaining about “Millennial snowflakes”? If so, you are the target of journalist-turnedacademic Jennie Bristow, whose new book attempts to end the “generation wars” once and for all.

Stop Mugging Grandma argues that political elites have deliberately stirred up inter-generational conflict as a distraction from bigger problems that affect people regardless of the year they were born. Pointing out that correlation does not equal causation, Bristow calls out those who caricature an entire age group. She notes that in practice pitting the younger generation against their parents and grandparents rarely works (see the 2017 general election and Theresa May’s “dementia tax”).

Given this observation, though, it’s a shame Bristow spends so much of her energy fighting a straw “generation warrior”, rather than engaging with the more challenging question of why the structural inequalities she touches on haven’t been fixed.

There is little mention of the 2010 Coalition government’s vow to protect pensions while simultaneously stripping away working-age benefits or the painfully slow reaction of MPs (average age 50) to rental conditions affecting mostly the young. There’s no need for a generation war, but the odd age-related analysis isn’t such a bad thing

Julia Rampen is a writer and editor specialising in culture, politics and finance