Book review: BRICS and beyond, executive lessons on emerging markets

A few months ago I was surprised and pleased at the same time to receive a complimentary book from Wiley in my mailbox. I was wondering why – maybe because this blog is meant for MBA students (something mentioned on the back cover) and I wrote many posts about BRICS countries? Well actually it was the result of a participation to a monthly competition at Business Because – so you too you can participate and win! And thanks, Business Because, for the very interesting book!

130224-BRICS-bookHere are the technical details about the book: “BRICS and BEYOND” by Stephanie Jones, Wiley 2012, ISBN 978-1-119-96269-4 (also available as e-book). Dr Stephanie Jones is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Maastricht School of Management. She lived and worked around the world (Hong Kong, China, India, Australia, Dubai and Kuwait according to her bio) and has therefore a good background to write this book. The first thing that strikes with this book is its cover: it basically states that every step of a product life cycle is now happening outside the US or the EU (except consumption perhaps).

The Vlerick Business School curriculum is not really focused on BRICS (nor emerging markets). However the full-time MBA has lots of participants coming from these countries. And even in the executive MBA (with mainly Belgians), there is (in my opinion) a certain interest in these countries (it is sufficient to mention that the study trip to China is fully booked in a few minutes …). And Western MBA students are clearly the target population of this book.

The structure of the book is somewhat classical. There are tree main parts: risks, opportunities and practise. You will be able to make links with – or more appropriately: make extensions of – several classes taught at Vlerick (and in all MBAs): CSR, marketing, entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy, operations, etc. But don’t expect to find any 2-by-2 matrices: this book is more about learning from experience than applying glossy frameworks.

This brings me to what I liked in this book: you have many ways to read it …

  • You can read the second cover and you will have very quickly 8 “must-know” sentences.
  • You can read “Executive Lessons” at the end of each chapter and you know a bit more.
  • Or you can just read one chapter you fancy at a time, on a specific topic – and there you go.
  • (and of course you can take some time and read it from the first page to the last one).

Something I also appreciated in the book is to have many practical “mini cases” (called “brief worked examples”). They illustrate each of the lessons detailes in the previous chapter. Very often MBA textbooks explain theory and concepts in great details but fail to deliver very practical examples you can relate to in your everyday life. Not here. This is again another illustration of the power of storytelling.

Some regrets? Although corruption and bribery is covered, there is nothing about regular finance and accounting. The topic is obviously very technical and vary in each emerging market. But you better know it before. And the author may have struggled to give a balance in the different countries to discuss. China and India indeed occupy the majority of examples. This is obviously normal as they enjoy great economic powers and a large part of the world population. However BRICS and emerging markets deal with other countries too. Most of these other countries are cited in one or several examples here and there – but at the end of the book the reader should expect to know more on India and China than Congo or Brazil for instance.

In a nutshell? “BRICS and Beyond” is a book you will enjoy reading if you are interested in emerging markets. It will give you an interesting introduction as well as key points to focus on when doing business there. And it will be complemented by more specialised reading (e.g. targeting a country or a topic specifically) but more importantly by your own experience!

Summer reading: Let’s connect!

You may not have notice but summer is here! Well in Belgium, summer was here, between June 27th and June 28th. After the closing seminar I had a look at the list of interesting books mentionned during the different classes and told myself that I will read them all during this summer! So let’s start with the first one: Let’s Connect!: A Practical Guide for Highly Effective Professional Networking from Jan Vermeiren.

Jan Vermeiren is a networking coach. He wrote several books on networking. He was also invited by Vlerick to talk at the closing seminar mentioned above. I am not sure we (MBA students) were the right audience for him, mainly because we already all have a LinkedIn account (and approximately know how to use it) and we already know how to party and network (that was also how Vlerick was selling this Part-Time MBA). However if you listened carefully to his talk, you aleady know more or less the content of this book.

The book is divided in 7 chapters, going from the basics of networking (say hello, thank you and bye – I exagerate a little bit, sorry) to how to network during events and online. I found the beginning of the book very slow, with long explanations about SMART objectives, the 6 degrees of separation (cleverly renamed “proximity”), the taker/giver mentality, the Golden Triangle of Networking, etc. Then the book brings you through your networking profile, the networking mindset to have at events, the point-and-click details of Plaxo/LinkedIn toolbars in Outlook and ends with how to stay in touch with you network.

Stated like that it seems I didn’t like the book. In fact I realized that I had wrong expectations. I though I would learn how to leverage the network and connections I already have. I read some interesting tips and tricks about this. But the book mainly goes about actually how to make these connections and how to build your network – making the assumption networking is completely new to you.

Don’t get me wrong: this book has some value and give some valuable advices (even if they seem obvious to some/many of us). If you are an introvert you’ll find potentially interesting advices on how to “break the ice” at meetings for instance. If you are an extrovert you’ll learn how not to “hard sell” everything and anything.

Just don’t read this book from beginning to the end: read random parts of it when you have 5-10 minutes to kill and you’ll remember (and maybe learn) some advices on networking.

Jan Vermeiren’s website also offers a free e-book in PDF on “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” (there is a registration form but you are allowed to fill in anything as long as the last string looks like an e-mail address). Many elements from the book are also in this e-book (or vice-versa). This e-book is a bit like a user manual for LinkedIn for power users mixed with some Q&A. Again I think LinkedIn users will benefit from the book by reading random parts from time to time and not necessarily from page 1 to 233.

In conclusion, this is a good book if you start networking (and still a interesting reminder if you are already networking).

The farmer’s donkey and the well

It’s midnight, you can’t sleep. You again think of this damn presentation for Leadership and Organisational Behaviour you accepted to make tomorrow evening. You turn one more time in your bed, close your eyes and start again counting sheep. But you know it won’t work …

Worry no more! Here are some tales you will find entertaining. Maybe you’ll want to watch the whole batch. In that case, you can forget about sleeping tonight. But at least you will have nice stories in your head. Maybe tomorrow morning you’ll be able to sleep … Sorry, boss, I was watching Beyonders ;-)


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