What’s Your MBA IQ?

What’s Your MBA IQ? Is a $45 workbook overflowing with the foundational knowledge of an MBA curriculum.

Written by Devi Vallabhaneni, who graduated from Harvard Business School in 1997, the book is a serious, deep dive into the core concepts, ideas and lexicon of an MBA program. Don’t expect a light or fluffy Dummies book because you’ll be disappointed.

A top-ranked MBA program isn’t a vacation and neither is this book. But it’s a superb way to familiarize an incoming student with the basics before attending a business school program so make sure you’re not completely lost in class.

The book, like MBA IQ’s online program, deals not only with the quant materials—such as accounting and finance—but also with the nuts-and-bolts of leadership thinking, team dynamics, strategy, and marketing.

An excerpt from the section on understanding the importance of conflict management skills in the module on general management, leadership and strategy:

Conflict is normal between people due to different perspectives and perceptions. Conflict has two sides: benefits and drawbacks. Tools for managing conflict are discussed.

Conflict Defined

Social scientists say that conflict is inevitable between people, and without conflict there is no major personal change or social progress. Conflict management involves accepting or even encouraging constructive conflict as necessary. The key point is to minimize the destructive form of conflict.

Conflict is the medium by which problems are recognized and solved. Conflict is closely related to change and interpersonal dealings. It refers to all kinds of opposition or antagonistic interaction. Not all conflict is bad.

Conflict is based on scarcity of power, availability of resources, social position, and difference in value structure between individuals or groups involved in the situation.

To be human is to experience conflict. This conflict arises due to differences in personal values, opinions, desires, habits, and needs of people. It is impossible for people to rise completely above selfishness, betrayals, misrepresentations, anger, and strain.

Conflict at best is disruptive and at worst is destructive. Once it erupts, conflict is difficult to control. Destructive conflict has a tendency to expand until it consumes all the things and people it touches.

Social scientists make an important distinction between two types of conflict: realistic conflict and non-realistic conflict.

In realistic conflict, which is based on rationality, there are opposing needs, goals, means, values, or interests. Realistic conflict can be resolved by focusing on the emotions first followed by substantive issues and using collaborative problem-solving methods.

Nonrealistic conflict, which is based on irrationality, arises from ignorance, error, tradition, prejudice, win-lose types of competition, hostility, or the need for tension release. Unrealistic conflict creates unwarranted tension between people and can cause unnecessary destruction; it should be handled very carefully as it can be prevented to some extent.

Conflict Resolution Techniques

Managers have two choices in resolving conflict: do nothing, which is not a good strategy, or try one or more of the following five conflict resolution techniques:

1. Problem solving. Problem solving encourages managers to focus their attention on root causes, factual information, and promising alternatives rather than on personalities or scapegoats. It is a time-consuming process, but it is worth it.

2. Superordinate goals. Superordinate goals are highly valued, unattainable by any one group or individual alone, and commonly sought. The manager brings the conflicting parties together and tries to resolve the dysfunctional conflict.

3. Compromise. Everybody wins and loses because compromise requires negotiation, or give and take. Compromise is based on the idea that “something must be given up if anything is to be gained.” It is a time-consuming process, and the problem is worked around rather than solved.

4. Forcing. Management steps into a conflict and orders the affected parties to handle the situation in a certain manner. It is based on the formal authority and power of superior position. Forcing does not resolve the personal conflict, and in fact it could compound the situation by hurting feelings, fostering resentment, and creating mistrust.

5. Smoothing. Smoothing is a temporary short-term action, which does not solve the underlying problem. It can be useful when management is attempting to hold things together until a critical project is completed, there is no time for problem solving or compromise, or forcing is deemed inappropriate. Smoothing is appropriate in some situations but not all.