Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality.

Who'd like to start?

At this point in your MBA, you've probably assimilated plenty of ideas already. You know, a bit of Michael Porter, some Peter Drucker, a touch of Just In Time…and the rest. That would be OK but — and it's a big but — how do you actually apply this stuff in the real business world, especially when some of the key ideas appear to oppose each other? Perhaps I can pull it together in this tutorial, using tips from other successful students.

Tip 1: It's not as easy as it looks, is it?

The challenge with so many management books is that everything looks so easy and straightforward. In fact, applying the ideas is often tough; very tough. Here's how to do it.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. As you read, make notes or highlight (or both) practical application statements. Most current authors do create more practical sections in their books — they'd not have much credibility if they didn't. Distil the book from management text into field guide.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Really understand that field guide, and apply it.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Notice if/how it works and be willing to review the ideas.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Then write to the authors via their blogs seeking clarification of any points.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Pay for an hour of a professor's time at your local university, and ask specifically for a 'theory into action' conversation.

Tip 2: Opposites attract…

Dealing with ideas that are simply opposing — when what one author says is the opposite of what another says — can mean you feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. It's a tricky one, this, so let's think it through.

Often what appear to be opposing ideas are simply the respective authors addressing different aspects of the same continuum of thinking. A good example is 'big is powerful' versus 'small is beautiful'. Are these opposing ideas? No; they are both true. If an organisation becomes large it has all the benefits of market presence, buying power, lower costs of sale, etc.; if an organisation deliberately stays small it has the benefits of attractiveness in its niche, being nimble, etc.

The reality is that often the author is saying 'give attention to my idea'. And when you give attention to something, it tends to work (remember the Hawthorne effect?). So the best strategy is to find the methodology which best fits with your experience and plans and follow it fully: give it massive attention. It will then work for you. Just bear in mind — a little cynically, perhaps — that any guru/author/thought leader knows that one way to get a bit of publicity for their ideas is to be controversial. Hence they love disagreeing with an apparently well-established or 'given' idea.

Tip 3: One formula for success?

You'd think it was possible to find a summarised formula for business success — it surely ought to exist, with everything which has been written on the subject. How many business books are generated each week? How many strategy books? How many leadership books? How many gurus are 'launched' every year? We should all have learned something about business by now, so let me try and summarise:

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. A strategy is good. Too many organisations — let's be honest — do not actually know what they are doing nor why they are doing it. So, get a strategy. Is there a perfect, definitive one? No, just get one.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. The strategy should be based on the best current thinking for your business, the market you are in and current political and economic factors.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Turn that strategy into a plan with actions, milestones and full accountabilities.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Execute that plan.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Learn from the execution; review and improve.

Time for another tutorial (think I'd leave out one of the best aspects of the course?)…It's on a tricky topic — application and relevance to reality. Repeat that cycle at regular intervals.

In the development of intelligence nothing can be more 'basic' than learning how to ask productive questions.

Neil Postman, academic, critic and author of Amusing Ourselves to Death

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