The 80 Minute MBA: Everything You’ll Never Learn at Business School

December 21st, 2012
The 80 Minute MBA

Notes from The 80 Minute MBA, written by Richard Reeves and John Knell.

Short Summary

I don’t even know where to start with this one. This should have been a blog post/essay rather than being made into a book. It’s a very light read and for a book so slim, you would have thought it would be jam packed with juicy information but you would be wrong. It contains a lot of filler, mundane stats and the title is extremely misleading. The first chapter is just drivel about climate change and it doesn’t get any better to be honest.

Do not recommend.


Stuff to Forget

  • Charisma – There’s no evidence that charismatic leaders are more successful. Also, charisma cannot be taught or learned. If you’re not charismatic, you never will be.
  • Balance – Businesses often apply a ‘balanced scorecard’ approach to the capacities of their staff. Originally, this idea was a range of things which a firm should be monitoring in order to check it’s health. On an organisational level, it is a good idea, but not when applied to individuals. We will always be rubbish at certain things, thus unbalanced. So instead of trying to be better at those, you won’t get on with being the job of being a leader.
  • Authenticity – Winston Churchill’s diaries make it clear that in 1940 he didn’t think America was going to come into the war, that the Germans looked overwhelming in terms of numbers and that Britain was almost certainly going to go down. But didn’t speak his mind. He  said something inspiring like We’ll win, etc. He lied, but he lied very well. Was he an authentic leader? Perhaps not. Was he a great leader? Yes.
  • Coaching – A good coach must be neutral about the goals being pursued by an individual: their job is t help the coachee t achieve them. A leader, by contrast must be clear about what a subordinate should be trying to achieve.
  • Strategy – Reeves & Knell basically say that strategy is usually over-resourced inside organisations. Yes, strategy is important but execution is more important.

Four things great leaders know

  • Where we’re going – The first thing successful leaders know is where the organisation is going. This sounds obvious, but not always the case.
  • What’s going on – Knowledgeable leaders understand that people are not machines to be reprogrammed according the latest strategy document.
  • Who am I?–  Successful leaders, know their weaknesses just as much as their strengths. They do not presume that they are the all-conquering. They are willing to hire people as talented or more so than themselves to fill senior positions.
  • How to build a strong team – Successful leaders are motivated by what they build rather than what they get. Most importantly, great leaders build great teams. They surround themselves with talented people – people with talents that they do not possess themselves and know they do not. This is why their companies continue to be successful after they’ve gone.
    • If someone doesn’t work out, don’t dilly-dally. Once it becomes clear they do not fit the firm (rather than the specific job), they have to go.
    • Communicate. Teams work their best when their members are well-informed.
    • Energise your people. Energy is perhaps the most important ingredient of organisational success.


  • A community is built upon sociability. Small surprise, then that the most consistently powerful predictor of job satisfaction is the answer to the following question: ‘Do you have a friend at work?’ Having a pal at work is vital to a sense of sociability. The importance of relationships is clear: people stay for their mates, and leave because of their managers.
  • Social workplaces are those where gossiping by the water cooler is not seen as a semi-criminal activity.
  • The more freedom people have over where, how and when they do their work, the happier and more productive they are.
  • Does your employment contract state what hours you are to work? We all know that an arbitrary number of hours ‘worked’ and especially ‘worked’ in the office is a terrible measure of somebody’s effectiveness. People who work from home are more productive than those in the office.
  • When BT introduced home working options, output rose by 20% in the piloted departments. This might be boiled down to fewer distractions etc, but in a 2007 survey, two thirds of those who work from home said that they put in the extra effort to demonstrate that they were, in fact, working.
  • You may have a nagging feeling that solidarity and autonomy rest uneasily together. If everyone is working from home, how can they be part of a team?It’s clear that great teams do not need to be together all of the time: world class sports teams might train together two/three days a week at most. The same goes for working from home.

The Four Golden Rules of Double Entry Accounting

1.) A double entry system involves recording the effects of each transaction as debits and credits.

For example: A company pays cash to buy a photocopier for €500. The debit side in the machinery account would show €500 coming ‘IN’. Equally, the credit side would show the photocopier amount going ‘OUT’ in the cash account.

Cash €500

2.) Left-hand side of an account is the debit side, and the right is the credit side.

In it’s simplest form, an account consists of three parts:

  • The title of the account.
  • A left or debit side.
  • A right or credit side.

3.) Total debits must be equal total credits.

In the above photocopier example, the accounts are in balance because the exact amount that increases the value of our Machinery account decreases the value of our cash account.

4.) The accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Capital.

Asset = Consists of property of all kinds, such as buildings, machinery and stocks of goods. Other assets include debts owed b customers and the amount of money in the bank account.

Liabilities = These include amounts owed by the business for goods and services supplied to the business and for expenses incurred by the businesses that have not yet paid for. They also include funds borrowed by the business.

Capital = Capital is often called the owner’s equity. It is, any funds invested in the business by the owner plus any profits retained for use in the business less any share of the profits paid out of the business to the owner.


  1. Sounds like a typical “business book” to me, fluff, fluff and more fluff.

  2. I know what you mean Paul, but I do usually get some value out of these types of books. I just keep an open mind. But unfortunately with this book, this is where, Amazon reviews have let me down.

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