Review of The Real-Life MBA

by Hans-Jürgen John

The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career by Jack & Suzy Welch

The Authors:

Suzy Welch is a best-selling author, television host, and business journalist at Harward Business Review. Through her work at the Jack Welch Management Institute, she is predestined to co-author this book.

In his 20 years at the helm of General Electric, Jack Welch played a key role in shaping the company. Thomas Edison founded Edison General Electric in 1889 – and the company has been reinventing itself ever since.


I read this book in German – the quotes refer to the German version.

A book review can only address a few points.

In the acknowledgements, the authors’ enthusiasm for “the best game in the world” is palpable. “Business is a team sport – like writing this book.”

Business as a Game. That says a lot. You improve with each new game. Emotions are allowed, indeed required, to win. Losing is just learning. The end of a game means only new game.

The book ends with the confession: “Because work is great. It is life. It is what we do. Better every day.” This reminds me of an interview I had the privilege of holding with HR professional Regula Zellweger (german): “Work is also life“.

What does successful business start with? The company has a mission. If the mission is clearly formulated, every employee knows what he or she is doing.

Chapter 3 – “Growth is Life” is interesting. Growth – it can be a new product, a new customer service or a great new customer.

The authors quote Joe DeAngelo, the CEO who led HD Supply out of the crisis: “Every individual needs to come to work every day knowing that they are a growth company … If you don’t think growth every day and if you don’t say growth every day, it doesn’t happen.”

New leaders look at a company from a new perspectivewhat it is and what it can become. That’s why don’t be afraid of new hires. The authors’ advice: “If you want growth, don’t hesitate to bring in a new perspective (or perspectives).”

More ideas: Growth initiatives are funded by (weak) leaders – by the watering can principle. Everyone gets the same amount of money. This is wrong because it accomplishes nothing.

If there is no money, use creativity.

When I think of the keyword “creativity” I am reminded of the new book “Skip The Line” by James Altucher. He considers innovation and creativity to be a muscle. A muscle that, like any other muscle, can be purposefully built through exercise.

James Altucher recommends writing down 10 (business) ideas every day. As with a workout, success soon sets in. We become an idea and innovation machine. But this is only a supplement and a preview to one of the next book reviews.

Motivation at work is good and positive, and enthusiasm infects employees.

According to David Wee and Handi Kurniawan in their book Great Advice, it is more important when commitment is added, which triggers improvement, change and thus growth.

Jack & Suzy Welch consider innovation “an internal mindset that every employee at every hierarchical level of the organization has every morning when they walk into the building.” Achievable only through a “recognition culture where leaders truly celebrate incremental improvements.”

This includes reviewing the compensation system, swearing in brakemen within the company to the growth path.

In fact, the whole book, “The Real-Life MBA,” is about growth.
“Good leadership leads to growth. Good strategies lead to growth. Good data analysis leads to growth. Good renewed compensation systems lead to growth.”

But is growth really that important?
“Growth electrifies everyone who comes in contact with it. It’s just totally exciting. Exciting and necessary. In nature, everything that doesn’t grow dies. The same is true in business.”

No business without finance.
David Wee and Handi Kurniavan emphasize in “Great Advice” , that finance is, well, the language of business – learn it!

So do the authors of “The Real-Life MBA”.

“You don’t have to be fluent in French to have a great time in Paris. You just need to know the terms that are basic …. .” The same is true for finance. There’s the varinaceous analysis – comparing key metrics from one month to the next – and reconciling them against budgeted figures.

All in all, numbers are just “tools to make better business decisions.”

Jack & Suzy Welch underscore each point with real-life (business) examples.

More keywords in this book:

  • Marketing
  • Crisis Management
  • Team
  • Leadership 2.0 : Most successful leaders radiate energy, are able to motivate others (energize), transform ideas to reality (execute) own the necessary ability to be desicive (edge) and all this with a huge amount of passion.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what people think and plan who have led great companies to success and continue to do so today as mentors. Read this book! Business is indeed the most exciting game.

Even if you’re not pursuing the highest degree in business that exists – the Master of Business Administration (MBA).