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MBA Summer Reading: A Serial Entrepreneur Suggests Business History Classics

MBA Summer Reading: A Serial Entrepreneur Suggests Business History Classics

Photograph by Victoria J Baxter/Getty Images

(Updates with additional information about Steve Blank.)

Summer is upon us, and you’re searching for a few book recommendations that are both entertaining and useful. Look no further. We’ve asked deans, professors, recruiters, and executives to recommend a few titles that every MBA—or MBA wannabe—should read. Over the coming weeks, we’ll present those lists, as well as some feedback from the individuals who recommended them on why the books get their seal of approval.

Today’s list comes from Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur turned business school professor. He’s the creator of Lean LaunchPad, a course that has students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Columbia Business School, and Stanford’s engineering school discovering their customers and testing their hypotheses to become successful entrepreneurs. Blank is also the co-author, with Bob Dorf, of The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company.

“Two books from Alfred D. Chandler Jr. should be on the must-read list for anyone interested in the history of the modern corporation,” Blank says.

The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1993) “[The book] describes how the modern form of the corporation emerged in the U.S. in the mid 19th century—railroads, steel, and oil companies grew large enough that ownership no longer equaled hands-on management,” Blank says. “Professional managers were hired to run companies, and functional departments (sales, manufacturing, finance, etc.) emerged.”

Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise (MIT Press, reprint edition 1969) “[This book] describes how a new form of corporate organization emerged in the 1920′s—divisionalization—in response to multiple product lines and large geographic distances in the U.S. First practiced by Dupont (DD), then adopted by General Motors (GM), Sears (SHLD), and Standard Oil (BP), companies with multiple operating divisions became the norm in the decades that followed,” Blank says.

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