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As One L did for Harvard Law School, Ahead of the Curve does for Harvard Business School: providing an incisive student's-eye view that pulls the veil away from this vaunted institution and probes the methods it uses to make its students into the elite of the business world. In the century since its founding, Harvard Business School has become the single most influential in As One L did for Harvard Law School, Ahead of the Curve does for Harvard Business School: providing an incisive student's-eye view that pulls the veil away from this vaunted institution and probes the methods it uses to make its students into the elite of the business world. In the century since its founding, Harvard Business School has become the single most influential institution in global business. Twenty percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are HBS graduates, as are many of our savviest entrepreneurs (e.g., Michael Bloomberg) and canniest felons (e.g., Jeffrey Skilling). The top investment banks and brokerage houses routinely send their brightest young stars to HBS to groom them for future power. To these people and many others, a Harvard MBA is a golden ticket to the Olympian heights of American business. In 2004, Philip Delves Broughton abandoned a post as Paris bureau chief of the London Daily Telegraph to join nine hundred other would-be tycoons on HBS's plush campus. Over the next two years, he and his classmates would be inundated with the best--and the rest--of American business culture that HBS epitomizes. The core of the school's curriculum is the "case": an analysis of a real business situation from which the students must, with a professor's guidance, tease lessons. Delves Broughton studied more than five hundred cases and recounts the most revelatory ones here. He also learns the surprising pleasures of accounting, the allure of beta, the ingenious chicanery of leveraging, and innumerable other hidden workings of the business world, all of which he limns with a wry clarity reminiscent of Liar's Poker. He also exposes the less savory trappings of b-school culture, from the 'booze luge' to the pandemic obsession with PowerPoint to the specter of depression that stalks too many overburdened students. With acute and often uproarious candor, he assesses the school's success at teaching the traits it extols as most important in business: leadership, decisiveness, ethical behavior, work/life balance. Published during the one hundredth anniversary of Harvard Business School, Ahead of the Curve offers a richly detailed and revealing you-are-there account of the institution that has, for good or ill, made American business what it is today.


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As One L did for Harvard Law School, Ahead of the Curve does for Harvard Business School: providing an incisive student's-eye view that pulls the veil away from this vaunted institution and probes the methods it uses to make its students into the elite of the business world. In the century since its founding, Harvard Business School has become the single most influential in As One L did for Harvard Law School, Ahead of the Curve does for Harvard Business School: providing an incisive student's-eye view that pulls the veil away from this vaunted institution and probes the methods it uses to make its students into the elite of the business world. In the century since its founding, Harvard Business School has become the single most influential institution in global business. Twenty percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are HBS graduates, as are many of our savviest entrepreneurs (e.g., Michael Bloomberg) and canniest felons (e.g., Jeffrey Skilling). The top investment banks and brokerage houses routinely send their brightest young stars to HBS to groom them for future power. To these people and many others, a Harvard MBA is a golden ticket to the Olympian heights of American business. In 2004, Philip Delves Broughton abandoned a post as Paris bureau chief of the London Daily Telegraph to join nine hundred other would-be tycoons on HBS's plush campus. Over the next two years, he and his classmates would be inundated with the best--and the rest--of American business culture that HBS epitomizes. The core of the school's curriculum is the "case": an analysis of a real business situation from which the students must, with a professor's guidance, tease lessons. Delves Broughton studied more than five hundred cases and recounts the most revelatory ones here. He also learns the surprising pleasures of accounting, the allure of beta, the ingenious chicanery of leveraging, and innumerable other hidden workings of the business world, all of which he limns with a wry clarity reminiscent of Liar's Poker. He also exposes the less savory trappings of b-school culture, from the 'booze luge' to the pandemic obsession with PowerPoint to the specter of depression that stalks too many overburdened students. With acute and often uproarious candor, he assesses the school's success at teaching the traits it extols as most important in business: leadership, decisiveness, ethical behavior, work/life balance. Published during the one hundredth anniversary of Harvard Business School, Ahead of the Curve offers a richly detailed and revealing you-are-there account of the institution that has, for good or ill, made American business what it is today.

30 review for Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Nachbar

    I have read four “insider” accounts of life at top business schools, three written by Harvard MBAs, the fourth by a Stanford graduate. I read two of these: Peter Cohen’s The Gospel According to Harvard Business School and Peter Robinson’s Snapshots from Hell about the Stanford experience prior to going to business school. I read the third: Robert Reid’s Year One: An Intimate Look Inside Harvard Business School five years after I finished my MBA. Now I’ve read Philip Delves Broughton’s Ahead of t I have read four “insider” accounts of life at top business schools, three written by Harvard MBAs, the fourth by a Stanford graduate. I read two of these: Peter Cohen’s The Gospel According to Harvard Business School and Peter Robinson’s Snapshots from Hell about the Stanford experience prior to going to business school. I read the third: Robert Reid’s Year One: An Intimate Look Inside Harvard Business School five years after I finished my MBA. Now I’ve read Philip Delves Broughton’s Ahead of the Curve, the first 21st century inside account of life in the Harvard fishbowl. These inside accounts all share these things in common: criticism of school administrations and over-extensive commentary on the rigors of a demanding full-time education at a top business school. All Harvard stories also talk about the case method, where all material is taught through applied “real world” and fictional problems. Broughton, however, takes things a little further than I expected. He spends more time talking about the quality of his classmates and a surprise networking opportunity from working among them. He gets the chance to present a business plan for an education and media podcast site to Boston and Silicon Valley venture capitalists through a classmate’s connections, though he fails to get funding. Formerly a New York and Paris bureau chief for the London Daily Telegraph, Broughton constantly reminds readers that he is not the typical Harvard Business School student. He entered Harvard with ten years experience in journalism and a young family. His only previous business experience was a short stint in telemarketing. His journalist accomplishments and a 750 GMAT get him into Harvard, but he explains that students with prior experience in consulting or investment banking have a big leg up in the job search. Broughton is the first insider to write that he fails to find a summer internship or a permanent job offer at graduation. He did not find Harvard to be a springboard to a career change, though he learns to think like an entrepreneur. However I sense that Broughton might have learned more from the experience than his classmates. He shows concern when guest speakers, successful financiers, entrepreneurs and chief executive officers, talk about work-life balance when their scales tilt too far towards work. He envisions a life where he is comfortably successful in business and as a family man. Then again, he is one of the few family men in his class. Near the end of Curve, Broughton mentions that Harvard is considering admitting fewer students over 30 and rethinking its attitude towards admitting recent college graduates. The average student is 28, and too many come from the two-year analyst programs in investment banking and consulting; so, this is hardly a diverse student body. My hunch is that Harvard will continue to take very few recent college graduates, but will listen more closely to the recruiters. If more employers want candidates with banking and consulting experience, then Harvard will try to become a better matchmaker. I did not earn my MBA from Harvard, though my experience was equally positive and negative. Like the Harvard students, I experienced some of the best and worst teaching I’d ever seen in my life. I had teachers who were very kind and wanted us to learn as well as those who just showed up. I also enjoyed the case method; it was in all of my marketing courses. However, there was one important difference: I worked at least part-time over the full two years. I needed the income and equally important, I needed business experience. Like Broughton, I did not come from business, consulting or banking. And I knew I would not get any work experience sitting in classrooms all day. Harvard does not appear willing to arrange such experiences for the students who need them the most, though it pushes expensive MBA study abroad programs at extra cost. I strongly recommend Curve to anyone considering business school. Unlike the other inside stories, Curve shows that the intense full-time experience may not benefit everyone. Harvard and its kin all admit very bright people, and they graduate a little smarter than they started. However, it has become a much riskier investment for anyone contemplating a career change or wanting to start their own business.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    A nice little memoir of the author's time spent studying for a Harvard MBA before the recent financial crash. The author's experiences are for me summed up by two anecdotes in particular. The teaching of leveraging up a company with debt not as a strategy that can be pursued in certain circumstances but as a universally right answer and appropriate course of action; and the course taken jointly with the Kennedy School taught by Michael Porter when the MBA approach of being profit focused runs up A nice little memoir of the author's time spent studying for a Harvard MBA before the recent financial crash. The author's experiences are for me summed up by two anecdotes in particular. The teaching of leveraging up a company with debt not as a strategy that can be pursued in certain circumstances but as a universally right answer and appropriate course of action; and the course taken jointly with the Kennedy School taught by Michael Porter when the MBA approach of being profit focused runs up against doing what is best for a business environment, the economy as a whole and the society that has to endure the consequences. And then you think that the graduates on release from captivity will roam free for up to forty years with attitudes more appropriate to an earlier age of golden entrepreneurship practised extensively throughout the Spanish Main. However when it turns out that many of the wealthier students bought expensive new cars in order to reduce the cash in their current accounts to qualify for hardship funds (or equivalents thereof) that the school is only reflecting the values of the society in which it operates. Judging by the teaching and studying style alone those values look to me to be horrific, with the curve grading and marks awarded for performance in class. No space here for contemplation and the development of knowledge, just a struggle to reach the top quartile. It is a long way from the author's folk memory of his Grandmother running a cinema in Rangoon. You get a sense of how it is a manner of study that encourages the brash, the arrogant, the certain, and the loud. When in pursuit of being brash, arrogant and loud one student gets drunk and urinates on their neighbours door they apologise, apparently unironically, by saying that their moral compass had gone haywire resulting in a regrettable property damage incident. This they are obliged to put in writing and send out to the whole student body. A form of public penance that makes me think of Maoist China, or perhaps some peculiarly intense church in which the believers strives to be considered to be among the Elect. At the same time given that former US President Bush II was a graduate it puts some political discourse in a different light. Considering the inputs the wonder is that things aren't considerably worse than they appear to be at present. But on an optimistic note perhaps the worst is still to come. Some mild references to business concepts are included, but the faint hearted need not be frightened of them, this is an engaging and readable memoir.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    If I didn't work at HBS I wouldn't have touched this book with a 10 foot pole. But I do work at HBS and I know many of the players mentioned in this book and I was there for the stir this book created when it was released. Needless to say the institution was less than thrilled. However, I found the narrator, whose writing a memoir of his experience as a HBS student, very credible and honest. He's willing to admit his own flaws and his own struggles as much as he is willing to expose the perceive If I didn't work at HBS I wouldn't have touched this book with a 10 foot pole. But I do work at HBS and I know many of the players mentioned in this book and I was there for the stir this book created when it was released. Needless to say the institution was less than thrilled. However, I found the narrator, whose writing a memoir of his experience as a HBS student, very credible and honest. He's willing to admit his own flaws and his own struggles as much as he is willing to expose the perceived fault of his classmates, teachers and ultimately the institution that is HBS. I also felt a tinge of self defense as it feels like he's trying to prove to someone how much he learned in business school. Perhaps it is his classmates who took high paying jobs after graduation while he struggled to find work, clearly an embarrassment for him. Or perhaps it was the faculty or his family or his former journalism colleagues. I'm not sure who it is but his description of the subject matter of the classes, the hard core business principles, felt to me like he needed to show that the experience was worthwhile. If you read this book you must do so with an understanding of the lens through which this person saw HBS, a 30+ married father (with 2 kids by the time he graduates from the 2 year program) who left a journalism career of significant substance at the London Telegraph to attend business school. This lens is much different than that of a 26 year old who enrolls in HBS after a few year working on Wall St. There is clearly a clash of world views within the classroom at HBS and he certainly falls in the minority as he is surrounded by younger, less mature peers who are closer to their halcyon college days and aren't afraid to act that way. Being a little older prove a challenge when surrounded by the hunger and drive of younger peers who are striving to earn enormous salaries out of the gate. Also involved in the clash of world views is the idea of "selling out", sacrificing your personal life to make huge money. This is probably the true crux of the book. Despite countless CEO's and Alumni who come into the classroom and stress the idea of protecting your personal life because the money that big business offers is not worth the sacrifice of not watching your kids grow up, many of the students at HBS ignore the warnings and head for the high salaries anyway. This life couldn’t be painted clearer to the students yet most head off to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars and to 90 hour work weeks anyway. This theme came up again and again and the author clearly fell in the minority as he struggled to find a path that would allow him to use the business education he was getting while also being a visible father and husband. By the end he realizes it is one or the other, commitment to family and personal life or commitment to career; it can’t be both. How much HBS creates and cultivates the culture of selling out is up to us to decide? The author clearly feels one way. His younger peers likly feel another way. I'm not sure HBS does anything more than provide a means by which the students can reach the goals they set out to reach in the first place. It seems that no matter how much you tell them that wealth does not provide the ideal lifestyle they think it does, they still are going to lead their lives toward it anyway. HBS simply brings out in them their best by pushing them and allowing them to live up to their potential. The true irony to me is that HBS is a wonderful place to work. Employees are encouraged to find a work-life balance that works for them. In fact, resources are available to HBS employees to facilitate the work-life balance. So while many of the students in the classroom shun this balance for money despite being warned about the sacrifices they will be forced to make, the staff that supports the institution itself is actually encouraged to find and sustain it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali

    One of those rare books where no amount of note-taking does justice to the actual account. In fact, the only reason it clicked hand-in-glove with me is because I was surrounded by its denizens for a decade. A look into the lives of the few and the privileged... the gilded gates into The Network, where upon entry & graduation, your life is basically set. Random notes: ----------- “The banks, I heard someone say authoritively, tended to have huge short-term liabilities, otherwise known as the money One of those rare books where no amount of note-taking does justice to the actual account. In fact, the only reason it clicked hand-in-glove with me is because I was surrounded by its denizens for a decade. A look into the lives of the few and the privileged... the gilded gates into The Network, where upon entry & graduation, your life is basically set. Random notes: ----------- “The banks, I heard someone say authoritively, tended to have huge short-term liabilities, otherwise known as the money in their customs accounts - which could be withdrawn at any time. And similarly, huge amounts of receivables, or loans made to its customers. For banks, loans are assets, while the money it holds for its customers is a liability.” “The usefulness of decision trees depends on the accuracy of your probabilities, but the idea is not to find certainty, but to deal more comfortably with uncertainty - to find hand-holds however tenuous in the otherwise sheer rock-face in financial decision-making.” “Study groups were pitted against one another in a mock financial negotiation. The subject was the acquisition of a tractor company. My side was the potential acquirer. We met into the night, preparing our strategy, trying to decide what we could get away with paying… In our group, the military guys took charge and turned out to be convincing liars and brutal tacticians. We did very well.” “Francis Frye said now that we were at Harvard, the professors were at our disposal. They would help us to learn and build businesses. They would even help our children get into HBS if needed.” “We were expected to craft our own best-self portraits by answering the following questions : * What situations or contexts encourage your best self to emerge? * What keeps you operating at your best more of the time? * Are there certain contexts you can put yourself in to maximize your potential?" “I had overheard students sharing jokes about Excel shortcuts and macros, a way of programming certain buttons on your computer to form calculations that come up again and again.” “It turns out that finance is about one thing : valuation. How do you put a price on an asset? From that basic question flows everything else.” “Inventory, as we would learn again and again, is a dirty word in business, and the less you have of it, the better.” “The rest of the semester would be devoted to this one task : forecasting cash flows. It was the root of valuation…” “The word leadership lurked in every corner of HBS… Every club position, no matter how menial, carried the title of vice president… Everyone at HBS, it seemed, could be a leader of one sort or another.” “As venture capital has become institutionalized, the people in it have become less and less venturesome. Those who visited campus were overwhelmingly male and either white or Asian… a hardened monoculture… They enjoyed sitting in judgement, looking terribly pleased with themselves, to the point where all you wanted to do was slap them to life and demand they do something.” “By the end of the summer, I had completed the first draft of (a) book. It was entrepreneurship, of sorts. After spending the past year struggling with work and feeling incompetent, it felt wonderful doing something on my own terms again and reconnecting with life before business school.” Bonus Notes : How $$$ Works High Up The Food Chain : --------------------------------------------- “Whereas ordinary mortals talk about debt as a burden that requires relief, bankers talk about the discipline of debt and the wonder of 'juicing the returns.' Take two different companies. Each one has assets worth $1000. The first has funded its assets with $800 in borrowed money, and $200 in equity from investors. Lets say the interest rate on the borrowed money is 10% and the tax rate is 50%. Each year the $1000 in assets produce $200 in operating profits; $80 goes to pay interest on the debt, which the government allows you to charge as an expense. Of the remaining $120, $60 goes to pay taxes, an the remaining $60 goes to the equity holdrs. For their investment of $200, the equity holders receive an annual return of 30%. Now imagine the same company in which all the assets were funded with equity. They produce the same $200 in operating profits. There is no interest payment; $100 goes to pay taxes, leaving the equity holders with $100, a 10% return. Which would you rather have? A 30% return or a 10% return? Juiced or not juiced?” .

  5. 5 out of 5

    Deepak Imandi

    I never wanted to abuse on Goodreads or at-least that's what I decided when I joined Goodreads. But, what the f*king bullSh*t book is this! Everything is so descriptive and no insights what so ever. Glad I realized after reading just 30 pages and then turned some random pages like 100, 130, 180, etc to see if it fits the pattern or not. Very Very annoyed by the book. Strongly recommend anyone with common sense, NOT TO READ the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aichi

    Some good quotes to summarize why I like this book: Hank Paulson: “Professional happiness would come from being very good at something difficult.” “The victors are those who made change their friend. (1) Resist the temptation to be a short-termist; (2) Be honest with yourself about what jobs are the right ones for you; (3) Keep your moral compass; (4) Maintain the proper balance between your professional career and your personal life. Do not be career-engineers, but simply learn and grow at every Some good quotes to summarize why I like this book: Hank Paulson: “Professional happiness would come from being very good at something difficult.” “The victors are those who made change their friend. (1) Resist the temptation to be a short-termist; (2) Be honest with yourself about what jobs are the right ones for you; (3) Keep your moral compass; (4) Maintain the proper balance between your professional career and your personal life. Do not be career-engineers, but simply learn and grow at every opportunity.” “Do the right thing and be seen to be doing the right thing.” “Resist group-think and peer-pressure, that often makes good people do bad things.” “No company was going help us with balance. We had to learn how to say no, and how to juggle our schedules to make time for our families, friends, and private pursuits.” Philip Delves Broughton (the author): “Measuring oneself against one’s friends or peers can only lead to misery; because always, in some area of life, there will be someone doing better than you. It is the misery of the curve.” “HBS is not about getting a job; it is about putting in a structure for a more interesting life.” “I thought by this point in my life, I would have more answers; and that by continuing to drift and agonize and wonder, I was letting a lot of people down.” “Find a world-class tribe and stick with it.” “If I kept searching with the education I had, it was well within my grasp.” His straight-shooting buddy Justin: “If you want to change the world, get on a f---ing plane to Darfur. HBS is about making money. Most of us, like everyone else in business, we talk about it (doing good) because it makes us feel better…..how many people in our class wrote in their applications that they wanted and MBA to do micro-finance in Uganda, and are now going into investment banking?” “Business needs to relearn its limits. HBS needs to let some air out of its own balloon.” His banker HBS-mate Cedric: “HBS, is a factory for unhappy people. We have so many choices, and yet so few people seem happy about that. It just makes them anxious, and more anxious, then they make terrible decisions for their lives.” His fashion industry HBS-mate: “You have to be kind of risk-averse to go to HBS. The whole thing about the network and the transformation is for people who want to minimize in their lives when they go after opportunities.” His entrepreneur Russian HBS-mate Oleg: “You should never consider yourself the smartest guy in the room.” “People can be annoying, but it is still worth listening.” “If you are not sure what you want to do, or if you want to win some time to get some options, consulting opens some doors.”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mallika Saharia

    A pretty accurate depiction. Of my first sem atleast

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristiana

    I usually enjoy elitist pretentious books, so I was surprised when I didn't really enjoy this book. I went through a lot of "what does it all mean. What will I do in my life as a career?" during and after college. A lot of it. I guess this book helped me see that I'm no longer in that place. I had little sympathy for the British native who decided to get his MBA from Harvard and then struggled with not knowing what to do with his future. It seems like a first world problem. Relevancy and timing I usually enjoy elitist pretentious books, so I was surprised when I didn't really enjoy this book. I went through a lot of "what does it all mean. What will I do in my life as a career?" during and after college. A lot of it. I guess this book helped me see that I'm no longer in that place. I had little sympathy for the British native who decided to get his MBA from Harvard and then struggled with not knowing what to do with his future. It seems like a first world problem. Relevancy and timing may have something to do with my hesitancy toward this book. It was published in 2008, and discusses classmates going to be hedge fund managers and stock brokers. The market changed so dramatically in 2008 it leaves me wondering what has changed for the MBA students at Harvard since then. I find the more I read nonfiction the more relevancy plays into how I receive a book. Does it still matter? What has changed since the book was published? Reading fiction, I rarely ran into this problem. The string of successful businessmen touting the importance of family is ironic and comes across as an ominous warning. There seems to be a level of discontent in success. Family, personal life and success in business come across as mutually exclusive. The hubris of the Harvard Business class is ironic and leaves the faint impression of a morality play. I doubt this book has kept or will keep anyone from pursing their dreams of attending Harvard Business School or entering a career they have their eye on, but it allows the author to use his experience to further his goal of being with his family. Which seemed to be the point all along. He is the hero that escaped the draw or financial success for success' sake, and chose his family.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    I truly enjoyed the first half of the book. It reminded me greatly of my own time at a business school. I was pondering when the author would stop descriptions and tell us already what he really thought of the experience. The second half was full of moralising yet still without a distinct feeling of authors actual position on the matters discussed. It wasn't until the last pages, that I grew disappointed with ugly double standards. Worth the read, nonetheless.

  10. 4 out of 5

    JDR

    I can only imagine what it must be like to be a student at such a prestigious institution and entity like Harvard Business School. And having read this insider account, it makes me think it over a little bit if it's a career path I want to follow. It isn't easy to find something unless it's online about whether or not such and such is for me and I wanted to see the details of someone's experience at HBS. Maybe it has to do with the subject matter but I found Broughton's content to be uninteresti I can only imagine what it must be like to be a student at such a prestigious institution and entity like Harvard Business School. And having read this insider account, it makes me think it over a little bit if it's a career path I want to follow. It isn't easy to find something unless it's online about whether or not such and such is for me and I wanted to see the details of someone's experience at HBS. Maybe it has to do with the subject matter but I found Broughton's content to be uninteresting and unexciting to read about. More than anything, what I took away from this book was that Business school is not a legitimate career option I should be considering!

  11. 4 out of 5

    C.G. Fewston

    What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism (2008) by Philip Delves Broughton was originally published without a Postscript and under the American title Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School (not to be mistaken for Brian Kenny’s 2016 book for baseball lovers called Ahead of the Curve). The Postscript for Philip’s book was added in 2009, after the economic catastrophe, and the title was changed in the United Kingdom and elsewhe What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism (2008) by Philip Delves Broughton was originally published without a Postscript and under the American title Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School (not to be mistaken for Brian Kenny’s 2016 book for baseball lovers called Ahead of the Curve). The Postscript for Philip’s book was added in 2009, after the economic catastrophe, and the title was changed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere outside of the United States. Harvard Business School (HBS) was established in 1908 with its Roman motto “Veritas,” Latin for “Truth” and represented by a young virgin in white. HBS has, however, had its problems with the truth and was criticized in the Bloomberg article called “A Harsh View of Harvard Business School” (July 11, 2017) written by Barry Ritholtz, who cites Duff McDonald, author of The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite (2017), who explained: “One of the most vaunted institutions in America—Harvard Business School—is not only a ‘failure’ but positively ‘dangerous.’” Philip also has something important and damning to say about Harvard Business School (HBS) and he says it defiantly in the Postscript of his book: “A financial era ended in the summer of 2008, one built on the availability of credit and the ability of an ingenious elite to exploit it. This elite consisted of investment banks, private equity firms and hedge funds… “Throughout these weeks and months of crisis, the Harvard Business School’s alumni were exactly where the school wanted them to be: in positions of leadership. They were the President of the United States [George W. Bush, class of 1975], Treasury Secretary [Henry Paulson, class of 1970], head of Securities and Exchange Commission [Charles Christopher Cox, class of 1977], CEOs of banks and senior partners in investment firms. “Which begs the question: what exactly had Harvard been teaching them? “I realize now that they should have been unsettling to everyone: the narrow thinking, the greed, the disinterest in politics, the contempt for the non-business world and, most of all, the complete unwillingness to accept responsibility for its mistakes” (p 284-285). He does, however, provide clues to why he is so critical later on in the Postscript: “I felt two things,” Philip explains. “The first saw how privileged we were to see the world as Harvard MBAs. The brand was stronger than I had ever imagined. The second was how weird this perspective was… “Instead of being part of society, the MBA überclass seemed to exist apart from the rest of the world, with its own set of standards. You needed to yank hard to get its attention” (p 120). Philip is not alone when he calls HBS a place disconnected from the rest of the world, one that is pure and good and honest and forthright: “A friend who had visited Baghdad’s Green Zone said that Harvard Business School felt eerily familiar. Whatever hell befell the rest of Iraq, the Green Zone was made luxurious with palm trees, swimming pools, and functioning electricity. Its occupants cocooned themselves from the unfolding horror so that they could focus on the broader mission of rebuilding a country. So, too, HBS smacks of an ivory tower, cut off from the world outside” (p 50). One commenter named “Adam,” however, wrote about the Philip’s book at Goodreads.com on September 15, 2008: “If I didn’t work at HBS I wouldn’t have touched this book with a 10 foot pole. But I do work at HBS and I know many of the players mentioned in this book and I was there for the stir this book created when it was released. Needless to say the institution was less than thrilled… “Also involved in the clash of world views is the idea of ‘selling out’, sacrificing your personal life to make huge money. This is probably the true crux of the book… This theme came up again and again and the author clearly fell in the minority as he struggled to find a path that would allow him to use the business education he was getting while also being a visible father and husband.” Recruiters also share Philip’s assessment of the low quality produced by Harvard and HBS: “A Wall Street Journal poll had just come out ranking Harvard number thirteen. Numbers one and two were the business schools at the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon, respectively. Harvard’s low rank was in large part due to the negative opinions of recruiters, who had told the newspaper that HBS MBAs were ‘arrogant,’ with a ‘sense of entitlement’ and ‘ego problems’” (p 85). The negative opinion of Harvard students, MBAs or otherwise, is no surprise to anyone who has ever met someone who graduated from Harvard—the real pretentious type who fail to listen closely to the conversation and ends up saying she’s never heard of the University of Southern California (Yes, that happened). A graduate of Harvard University and a nonfiction professor in the Writing Program at Columbia University, this same woman wore fishnet stockings and a tight miniskirt the night New York Times Bestselling novelist Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog (1999), came to visit the hotel (the young woman later became a columnist for the New York Times Sunday Book Review). She’s also the daughter of a respected economist who teaches at the University of California, San Francisco (the irony is too rich sometimes), and the father is also a Harvard alumni, having received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University under Kenneth Arrow; the father also has a sister who taught at Harvard University in 2002. As they say, “Keep it in the family.” Nepotism and the lack of a moral compass run wild among the Harvard alumni. Empathy, to say the least, is a byword for these Harvard pseudo-intellectuals who attend the university more for the “brand” and for the “networking” the university offers than for a real, honest education. “Harvard was a brand as much as a school,” writes Philip, “and by attending, we were associating ourselves with one of the greatest brands in business. We were now part of an elite, and we should get used to it. I struggled with this idea. It seemed so arrogant on the part of the school, and somehow demeaning to those of us who had just arrived. Regardless of who we were when we arrived, or what we might learn or become over the next two years, simply by being accepted by HBS, we had entered an überclass. It was HBS, not anything that came before it, that conferred the ‘winner’ tag on all of us… “They would even help our children get into HBS, if needed. It was a brutal acknowledgment of the legacy admissions system, whereby the children of alumni are preferred, and it immediately set me thinking: How many in this room were here simply because someone had pulled strings?” (p 20) As you read you will begin to see a pattern of corrupted ideology forming, and it isn’t the good kind. It’s the kind that believes in the saying, “the second mouse gets the cheese,” meaning: have others work hard while one person reaps the rewards and fruits of labor (i.e., steal from those who do honest work). The kind of ideology that says, “Ask for forgiveness. Don’t ask for permission.” One day at Harvard Business School (which seems to be taught mostly be immigrants from countries like Australia, India, Turkey, etc.), Philip encounters the following scene: “During coffee breaks from Crimson Greetings, I had noticed how many of the class seemed to know one another or at least know people in common. The networks of certain universities and companies ran very deep. For those like me, who knew no one, it was a question of drifting through the crowds” (p 24). Philip has more to say on the “networks” (i.e., favoritism through personal connections and not through merit or hard work) at HBS: “I also met up with Vera, a Chinese woman who had emigrated with her husband to Silicon Valley and had worked for a large technology firm… ‘I hate all this stuff about the network and relationships and being able to bullshit in front of other people,’ she said. ‘That’s what we’re being trained to do. That’s not what Chinese immigrants think business is. We think it’s about good ideas and hard work’” (p 116-117). There’s more: “For some companies, especially the top-tier banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds, if you did not spend the summer with them you had no chance of working for them later” (p 132). And more: “His story was one of seizing opportunity, gathering resources, and deploying them. He knew the right people to finance him and help create and sell the game… We were taught to organize our thinking according to POCD, people, opportunity, context, deal” (p 177). It is Einstein and Gandhi, in the end, who have the most to say about education and learning: “At the end of our course, [Paul A.] Gompers presented us with two quotations, the first from Einstein: ‘One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value to the rest of the community.’ The second was from Gandhi: ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever’” (p 177). Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, they knew a thing or two, and neither one graduated from Harvard.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Overall, I think this book is a good description of one person's experience at HBS. Like all memoirs, this is a tale of one person's experience, formed by his own expectations, personality, and mindset. HBS, like everything else in life, if what you make of it. I don't agree with many of the author's opinions - I had a great time at HBS despite entering with the lowest of expectations and serious dread of spending 2 years surrounded by arrogant a**holes, and I enjoyed the digression back to junio Overall, I think this book is a good description of one person's experience at HBS. Like all memoirs, this is a tale of one person's experience, formed by his own expectations, personality, and mindset. HBS, like everything else in life, if what you make of it. I don't agree with many of the author's opinions - I had a great time at HBS despite entering with the lowest of expectations and serious dread of spending 2 years surrounded by arrogant a**holes, and I enjoyed the digression back to junior high/college since, like many of my classmates, I was too serious and focused the first time around to enjoy those carefree days - but he has every right to them and I can assure you that there are others who agree whole-heartedly with his points. There is a scene in the book in which he describes sitting in his Section room first year when, after class, several member's from the previous year's section come in under the guise of discussing a serious issue. Eventually, all members of the previous years section enter the room and a rowdy period of practical jokes, teasing, and part planning ensues. To be perfectly honest, I was one of the people from the old Section who was there during that scene. Yes there were some people who looked dour and annoyed (the author amongst them, I'm sure) but the majority of people were laughing and enjoying themselves. HBS, and especially first year, can be extremely intense and it's moments like these that can help break the tension, form bonds, and remind everyone that we're not actually the CEO of the business in crisis, we're just students trying to learn something. HBS is far from perfect, there are people who embody the evil stereotype, the school goes overboard in reminding everyone who special and brilliant they are, and it's hard not to eventually believe the hype and develop an attitude of arrogance and entitlement. But, after 2 years, you get spit back out into the real world and are left with your normal attitude (i.e. the one you entered HBS with) and a lot more knowledge, friends, and memories

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vismay

    As a prospective B-school student, eager to devour the course content of the Harvard Business School, this book comes as a boon. Because it does just that, giving a blow-by-blow account of the curricula of this prestigious institute. But if somebody were to ask me to write such a book, I would readily decline. If you wish to explore Europe, go out and do just that, why study the itinerary under a microscope? That too a one, whose lens are smudgy. The author is too judgmental and pessimistic for m As a prospective B-school student, eager to devour the course content of the Harvard Business School, this book comes as a boon. Because it does just that, giving a blow-by-blow account of the curricula of this prestigious institute. But if somebody were to ask me to write such a book, I would readily decline. If you wish to explore Europe, go out and do just that, why study the itinerary under a microscope? That too a one, whose lens are smudgy. The author is too judgmental and pessimistic for me to completely believe in the validity of his claims. Sample this: The author wants better monetary prospects. He enrolls in a HBS Program. He discovers, he is not ahead of the curve. He starts seeing dark lines under the eyes and sad faces of the super-successful equity investors and consultants. People who aren't encouraging of his entrepreneurial bend of mind, are stupid. Those who are smarter than him, are unethical. Everyone except himself, is a hypocrite. He doesn't land an internship, nor a job - not because something might be lacking in him (maybe, a drive!), but because Industry doesn't want people with varied backgrounds.The Indians and Chinese are competitive son-of-bitches. The Americans are over-optimistic buffoons (such fakers!). Me. Me. Me. Me. Me... Maybe, HBS does not churn out tomorrow's leaders. But it does the next best thing. The author might do well to own up his own life. While I didn't like the tone of this book, which I felt was too subjective and critical, I felt that this book did have an important life-lesson to offer. The work-life balance takes the center-stage in this book, and rightly so. But that doesn't mean that all bankers and consultants are sad working their mad hours. If you want to earn an outrageous sum of money, you have to work hard! In the end, you have to decide what you want. But the usefulness of the book ends there. In conclusion, grapes are sour. Let's fling dirt at Harvard Business School. So, shovel up the shit. We have to paint the town, brown!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    (3.5) What it's like inside Harvard Business School (for someone who's not well prepared) Just prior, I read The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT, which is a similar project (though Idea Factory is MechE masters student experience at MIT, this one's MBA student experience at Harvard). I think I liked the MIT one better, but both were good about sharing actual problems, interview questions, case studies, so it felt more concrete. The first half of this one is pretty good, the narrative moves (3.5) What it's like inside Harvard Business School (for someone who's not well prepared) Just prior, I read The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT, which is a similar project (though Idea Factory is MechE masters student experience at MIT, this one's MBA student experience at Harvard). I think I liked the MIT one better, but both were good about sharing actual problems, interview questions, case studies, so it felt more concrete. The first half of this one is pretty good, the narrative moves forward, we're learning a lot. Then he kind of just goes adrift once he starts interviewing for (and failing to secure) a job. He dwells a lot on the fact that everyone at HBS is trying to get rich, and some are just more honest about that than others. Makes me confident in my decision not to go to business school though. Maybe it'll have the same effect on you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daisy

    Harvard certainly is not how I imagined it to be after I read this book. I found that it gives me hope as much as disappointment. I feel hope because apparently I can be Harvard MBA students' boss if I can. It does not really matter which college you are truly from, so many Harvard MBAs are having hard time finding jobs at google, yet my high school friend who is currently in pursuing of her San Diego State University Business bacholar degree is able to get the job with google. Just because you Harvard certainly is not how I imagined it to be after I read this book. I found that it gives me hope as much as disappointment. I feel hope because apparently I can be Harvard MBA students' boss if I can. It does not really matter which college you are truly from, so many Harvard MBAs are having hard time finding jobs at google, yet my high school friend who is currently in pursuing of her San Diego State University Business bacholar degree is able to get the job with google. Just because you are from Harvard doesn't make you successfully. It really matters who you are. You learn a lot, certainly, but would you really give up your morals and life for a job that gives you a lot of money but no free time at all? It is the biggest question for so many college grads now. Sometimes you can learn all the Harvard stuff by borrowing books from the library, Harvard doesn't give you the leverage, but gives you the knowledge. God is fair, who you are matters more

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Scott

    I very much enjoyed this ironic and witty account of the experience of graduating from the Harvard Business School (HBS). Mr.Delves finds the right balance between personal and objective (academic) experience, including details on the curriculum, the interviewing and learning experience, and the presentation of the top businessmen who lectured to the HBS studentship. On the negative side, I found the book too long, and the analysis of the HBS school very European-minded (read: focused on social I very much enjoyed this ironic and witty account of the experience of graduating from the Harvard Business School (HBS). Mr.Delves finds the right balance between personal and objective (academic) experience, including details on the curriculum, the interviewing and learning experience, and the presentation of the top businessmen who lectured to the HBS studentship. On the negative side, I found the book too long, and the analysis of the HBS school very European-minded (read: focused on social responsibility and employees vs. money and business goals.) Overall, an enjoyable read and lots to learn from. Thumbs up!

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Hibbs

    I read this book for the fourth time. As I have matured in my business knowledge, focused on my upcoming transition into the business world, determined what I want out of my life, and seen the disastrous effects of the financial crisis, the more this book resonates. I recommend this book for everyone. Great book that will be read by business students for decades. Raises serious questions about the role of business schools, capitalism and business leaders in society. Very surprising how insecure m I read this book for the fourth time. As I have matured in my business knowledge, focused on my upcoming transition into the business world, determined what I want out of my life, and seen the disastrous effects of the financial crisis, the more this book resonates. I recommend this book for everyone. Great book that will be read by business students for decades. Raises serious questions about the role of business schools, capitalism and business leaders in society. Very surprising how insecure most of the students are. Whilst reading I experienced a severe amount of cognitive dissonance that combined whispers of Milton Friedman, Hugh Nibley and Faust. Thoroughly enjoyable read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mac

    This was an excellent account of two years at the Harvard School of Business written by a journalist from the UK. I have a business degree from undergrad and have no interest in going back for more but it was still very interesting. I enjoyed his observations about his fellow classmates, his thoughts about the non-US born students (and how they saw many things differently) and his internal struggles between taking a job that you probably won't like to support (but rarely see) your family and wor This was an excellent account of two years at the Harvard School of Business written by a journalist from the UK. I have a business degree from undergrad and have no interest in going back for more but it was still very interesting. I enjoyed his observations about his fellow classmates, his thoughts about the non-US born students (and how they saw many things differently) and his internal struggles between taking a job that you probably won't like to support (but rarely see) your family and worries of "wasting" two years at Harvard Business School by not taking a big finance job. A good book for business students and those thinking about going back for an MBA.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zahedul

    A firsthand account of the business school life from the ivory towers of Harvard Business School. The humorous narrative takes us through the author's two-year journey through different intricate courses, summing up with his core takeaways. The author focuses primarily on the good, bad and ugly parts of business schools in general and HBS in particular. This book can be a good resource for those planning on pursuing a business degree from US, particularly in an Ivy League University.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joux

    Extremely witty, it is obvious the author has a great penchant for autobiographical and earnest writing. He also has the same personality type as me so I could resonate with his character's interaction. The book has a good balance of the technical business terms, personal account and feedback of the HBS MBA system. A very light, entertaining and stimulating read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vilmantas

    This book is like a gateway to land of HBS. You can get to know teaching, learning format, what subjects are mandatory etc. I've just got so much from this text - it's great.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter Keller

    Interesting read. Probably mostly interesting to me since I went to B School at the University of Texas and wondered if I should have gone to HBS. My highlights below: the real secret to making money was wanting to make money 97 People in dire straights are inclined to take bigger risks for bigger rewards than those in comfortable situations, whose main goal tends to be preserving what they have. 98 Risk, he said, was not just the possibility of something bad happening, but also the chance of somethin Interesting read. Probably mostly interesting to me since I went to B School at the University of Texas and wondered if I should have gone to HBS. My highlights below: the real secret to making money was wanting to make money 97 People in dire straights are inclined to take bigger risks for bigger rewards than those in comfortable situations, whose main goal tends to be preserving what they have. 98 Risk, he said, was not just the possibility of something bad happening, but also the chance of something good not happening 99 Focusing on beta is a near-certain way of denying yourself alpha- the true measure of greatness 171 The difference between corporate leaders and those who start their own businesses, I had observed, was startling. The latter came across as so much smarter and independent-minded, so much less prone to platitudes, so much more comfortable in their own skins. There seems to be an anarchic streak in anyone who has taken a real risk in his life. The entrepreneurs who came to campus - from hedge fund pioneers such as Richard Perry; to Barry Diller, the media baron and founder of IAC; to Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s- seemed to be both enamored of their own skills and hard work and appreciative of the luck it had taken for them to succeed. Despite being dogged, competitive Darwinian types, they were more understanding of the world and its insanity, somehow more forgiving. They reminded me of generals who had experienced war, while all the corporate stiffs and consultants and lawyers and bankers were like the politicians who sent men into battle, with no grasp of the consequences. 173 When it comes to business and government, he believed ‘you can have your cake and eat it.’ There were two ways to do this. Either you started in government very young and then moved into business, or you made lots of money and then moved into government. … with money comes freedom … with freedom, he added, come the opportunity to do interesting things. … career advice … ‘be a principal or decision maker, not a service provider.’ … the grail: control over their time 177 POCD, people, opportunity, context deal 187 The tough-minded have a zest for tackling hard problems. They dare to grapple with the unfamiliar and wrest useful truth from stubborn new facts. 206 the real secret to making money was wanting to make money 207 what they don’t teach you is what they can’t teach you, which is how to read people and how to use that knowledge to get what you want 227 ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’ Socrates 232 This was why people hated MBAs. Too much cost-benefit analysis, too little humanity. 236 Rivkin told us that in order to influence company strategies early in our careers, we should learn about all of our employer’s operations, especially those that drove the business or faced change. We should find companies where new ideas were encouraged and developed and stay close to the people that were in charge. Finally he told us that to be a great strategist required intellectual restlessness combined paired with a grounded competence. You needed to understand your business from top to bottom, but also be ready to tear it up and start again, to listen to evidence that challenged your biases and ceaselessly revise your judgements. He was telling us that however secure we felt, we should always be alert for tremors. 238 Numbers and money follow, he said. They do not lead. … He went on to say that you could tell everything about a company from its top line, its revenue. All of its creativity, innovation, and processes were there in the top line. Revenue was proof of your ability to win customers, which would determine your success more than your ability to squeeze a few pennies out of your costs. 251 ‘People are delighted to accept pensions and gratuities, for which they hire out their labor or their support or their services. But nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.' Seneca, On The Shortness of Life … Peter Drucker’s article “Managing Oneself” 257 Either your children were the center of your life, or they were not. … ‘Your problem is this: You wanted to make all this fucking money and you went to Harvard Business School so you’d have the opportunity. But all the time, you couldn’t quiet the voice inside your head telling you that just making money is a ridiculous way to spend your life. I know this is your problem, because I suffered from the same thing until I got over it.' 270 You have to be kind of risk-averse to go to HBS. The whole thing about the network and the transformation, it’s for people who want to minimize the risk in their lives when they go after opportunities.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    When Philip Broughton arrives at Harvard Business School, or HBS, to study for his Masters in Business Administration, or MBA, after ten years as a journalist, he's in for some culture shock. Quantitative analysis of business cases stretches his computer and math skills to their utmost, and only his extensive travels have prepared him for the mixed bag of fellow students with whom he must team to succeed. Broughton gives us some background on his upbringing and his journey from England to Massach When Philip Broughton arrives at Harvard Business School, or HBS, to study for his Masters in Business Administration, or MBA, after ten years as a journalist, he's in for some culture shock. Quantitative analysis of business cases stretches his computer and math skills to their utmost, and only his extensive travels have prepared him for the mixed bag of fellow students with whom he must team to succeed. Broughton gives us some background on his upbringing and his journey from England to Massachusetts to attend Harvard, and a bit of history on the school, as well, before jumping into a narrative about each of his classes covering two years of study. Random takeaways: A bit of advice we could probably all benefit from in our lives, "HBS is not about letting everyone do everything. It is about forcing you to make choices. What are your ambitions? What are your obligations? Do they tally? If not, what should you do to change one or the other? How should you spend your time to get what you want?" My first time encountering the Forer Principal, "In 1948, the psychologist Bertram Forer created a personality test for a group of students and then gave them an analysis based on its results. He asked the students to rate the accuracy of the analysis on a scale of zero to five, with five being a first-rate description of their personality. The average rating was 4.26. But Forer had played a trick on the students. He had given each one exactly the same analysis, once he had cobbled together from various horoscopes." Think of that next time you're taking one of those Facebook personality quizzes. An interesting bit about why Microsoft's balance sheet was always cash-heavy, "Bill Gates said...'The thing that was scary to me was when I started hiring my friends they expected to get paid...so I soon came up with this incredibly conservative approach that I wanted to have enough money in the bank to pay a year's worth of payroll, even if we didn't get any payments coming in." We could all learn something from Gates about having a decent emergency fund for the tough times. A passage I found amusing from his description of his journalistic experience in covering the G8 summit in 2003, "It was a sunny day and everyone sashayed along to reggae and chants of 'Kill George Bush.' Among the twenty five thousand marchers were Zapatistas from Mexico, Maoists from Italy, French high-school teachers, Palestinian nationalists...a large British contingent organized by the Socialist Worker newspaper...furious about the war in Iraq... A Belgian kid in a Jacque Chirac rubber mask said he was there to celebrate the 'good dope coming out of Afghanistan' since the American invasion..." And if you're looking for a sign as to where the stock market is headed, "Ray Soifer...had been keeping track of the relationship between the condition of the American equity market and the percentage of Harvard MBA graduates choosing careers in financial services. Ten percent or less was a long-term buy signal. Thirty percent or more was a long-term sell." I'll let you do the research to see where we are right now. A book that left me feeling as if I'd gotten a mini-MBA myself. Interesting glimpse into life on the other side. By the time he graduates, he still hasn't found a job, disdaining some of the financial services, banks and consulting firms as "soulless", and I have to wonder what he found to offset the $175,000 cost of getting his MBA, aside from writing a novel and this non fiction work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Devika

    A memoir by an ex-journalist about his experience at HBS as he stuck out like a sore thumb with his unconventional background. Easy, conversational writing style accompanied with a tinge of humour which makes it impossible to put down. The best part is that it offers a very wholistic and objective view on what an MBA entails at Harvard. For all its talk of the uniqueness of each candidate and fresh breath of diversity, HBS can seem awfully conformist as most students feel peer pressured to apply A memoir by an ex-journalist about his experience at HBS as he stuck out like a sore thumb with his unconventional background. Easy, conversational writing style accompanied with a tinge of humour which makes it impossible to put down. The best part is that it offers a very wholistic and objective view on what an MBA entails at Harvard. For all its talk of the uniqueness of each candidate and fresh breath of diversity, HBS can seem awfully conformist as most students feel peer pressured to apply for investment banking and management consulting roles. Myers Briggs test indicators add to this conformism by placing individuals in pre-defined buckets, despite Jung (the father of MBTI) having clearly exemplified that every individual in fact is unique and can have dominant traits at one point in time. It seems the bigger question that most of us fail to ask is about the kind of life we are choosing with a particular job. Oddly enough, academics with negligible business experience teach entrepreneurship at HBS, sometimes grading actual entrepreneur students the worst (as discussed in the book). Broughton raises fair points about the advantages of HBS education - learning to analyse businesses in greater depth through directly connecting with CEOs of different companies, building confidence, and interacting with the brightest minds in class. But please do read the Postscript as it raises serious important questions about the quality of leadership being taught at HBS in the context of the Great Recession. Most of the American leadership then constituted of HBS alumni, yet they quickly deflected the blame they deserved to a collective blame on society for the failure of financial institutions. This is excessively unfair and pretentious as everyone can’t be blamed for the decisions of a select few. Also highly convenient that they don’t attribute their successes to collective effort. It definitely is presumptuous that HBS dean treats the alum as the panacea the world needs, unfairly overlooking the fact that society’s needs at any point in time constitute a mix of fairness and efficiency. Highly recommend this to anyone making up their mind about an MBA.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    As a person considering business school, this was an obvious read for me. A timely insider account is worth quite a lot -- and given the current economic crisis, people definitely want to examine the worth of a Harvard MBA and its role on Wall Street. Philip Delves Broughton wrote Ahead of the Curve to chronicle his two years at Harvard Business School. He didn't come from a finance background -- in fact, he was Bureau Chief for The Daily Telegraph in Paris -- and he insists that he didn't go to As a person considering business school, this was an obvious read for me. A timely insider account is worth quite a lot -- and given the current economic crisis, people definitely want to examine the worth of a Harvard MBA and its role on Wall Street. Philip Delves Broughton wrote Ahead of the Curve to chronicle his two years at Harvard Business School. He didn't come from a finance background -- in fact, he was Bureau Chief for The Daily Telegraph in Paris -- and he insists that he didn't go to business school with the intention of writing a book about the experience. With two kids (one of which was born during the course of his time at HBS) and a wife, he decided to take the plunge and to to business school because he saw the Harvard MBA as his "in" to the business world. It certainly doesn't take an MBA to know the prestige of the Harvard brand, and as Broughton saw newspapers as a dying medium, he knew it was time for a change. Broughton gives a very honest and clear account of his personal experience at HBS (and the fact that it's a personal experience is important to keep in mind)... Discussing his classes, explaining the case method, going over the general structure of his time as a student, quoting the professors and administration in depth as they talk about the students' futures as the elite of the business world. He shares basic business ideas and examples of cases and projects. (The first big group project of "Crimson Greetings" where a group simulates the running of a greeting card company affirmed all of my worst fears about group projects in b-school.) I could have done with a lot more on the actual goings-on of b-school and his classes, but I thought he made good use of his time and I never felt like he was spending unwarranted time on these scenes. But time and time again, he reminders the readers that he is not one of "them"... He is different from a majority of his classmates and don't you forget it. He's older and he comes from an incredibly different background, so he automatically puts himself in the position of observer, even as you want him to succeed in classes where his lack of business experience means he's clearly got to catch up. (This is perhaps important for younger people reading this who are looking to Broughton for a description of life at b-school... You definitely need to remember that he's a very different person from the average single 27-year-old that applies.) He's ever the reporter and he's often asking whether or not anyone else is concerned with how tactical they've become in their time at HBS. He gives an example when he takes a class that is attended by both HBS and Kennedy School students -- the professor asks whether or not a company should sell and automatically, Broughton gives the business school response of "yes" without taking into account the personal feelings or emotions of the business owner. He realizes just how much his mindset has changed as he approaches business decisions and it rather frightens him. Of course, with the amount of discussion he gives to being an ethical and moral person in business, I was rather surprised that he gave the b-school response at all. He's very concerned with the idea of not selling out and becoming a consultant, sacrificing his time with his family for money. While he came to business school to make a better life for himself and his family, to bring about a career change, and to speak the language of business, Broughton also emphasizes that he didn't get a summer job and he didn't receive any job offers upon graduation. From his perspective, he simply wasn't willing to give up his family for a career, but he points out that a great many of his classmates were. They accepted finance and consulting positions in droves, convinced that these with the doors to opportunity that Harvard had given them. While Broughton clearly doesn't approve of these sacrifices and choices (more on his classmates later), I think it's important to note that this is very much Broughton talking here. He is a man who wants to be a good husband and father, which is honorable, but that means he often quotes the speakers who say they didn't get enough time with their kids. Those quotes rang true for him and influenced his decisions. While Broughton might have thought that HBS was pushing him to a future of earning lots of money and disappearing from his family, any credible reader knows to take this with a grain of salt. HBS is clearly interested in giving its students the ability to make decisions for themselves, and supplying them with the contacts and opportunities to join the business world. HBS is concerned with creating business leaders, and while HBS might describe itself in grand and prideful language, I often wanted to tell Broughton to give it a rest on the critique. You go to HBS for the brand and the alumni network, and if you don't know that when you go in, then you haven't done your research. And there's a reason for the prestige, even if sometimes it is a circle of business elite Harvard alums giving the leg up to other alums. Harvard clearly teaches confidence, and when entering the business world, that seems to be one of the most valuable lessons. (In light of recent economic events, that's scary, right?) In the end, Broughton never seemed to "buy in" to HBS the way that some alums do (which I suppose one could hardly do if writing a book about the experience, or it would just be a "yay Harvard!" piece), but he clearly left the experience with a new way to view the world. He became an entrepreneur in thought and deed, and he would certainly tell you that he did manage to keep his soul in the process, even though some people might see this kind of expose as a bit of a betrayal of HBS. He's rather critical in his closing remarks about how he would change the HBS administration, and he talks a lot about the Harvard hype, but despite his disapproval for the career choices of his classmates, he does a rather good job of describing the diversity found in the class. He attributes a great deal of his learning experience at Harvard to this exposure to people from many different backgrounds, and he ends the book with many quotes from people in his class, summarizing the things they took away from Harvard (and they seem to have a great deal more good to say about HBS than Broughton). So... My opinion on his opinion on HBS? Ultimately, I thought this was a good book when you understand that this is a single person's experience. In my mind, this is about on par with asking people who are currently in business school about their experiences. (The trade off to not being able to ask specific questions comes with the fact that no sane b-school attendee would be able to speak at such length about their courses.) If you're considering business school, definitely read this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bookdrblog

    This review and more on my blog https://bookdrblog.wordpress.com So, this is not the type of book I would normally read and I only picked it up because my husband left it lying around, I have no desire to ever get an MBA! I did however, enjoy the book.How business-y this book is varies a little as you go through it. The first hundred-ish pages would appeal to anyone vaguely interested in the world, or academics. After that there is a lot more business chat. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any befor This review and more on my blog https://bookdrblog.wordpress.com So, this is not the type of book I would normally read and I only picked it up because my husband left it lying around, I have no desire to ever get an MBA! I did however, enjoy the book.How business-y this book is varies a little as you go through it. The first hundred-ish pages would appeal to anyone vaguely interested in the world, or academics. After that there is a lot more business chat. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any before that, it’s just that it’s more accessible to non-business types. After another fifty-ish pages the business chat dies down a little. In terms of the work, I really enjoyed the discussions of the cases, not a lot of detail was given, but it was still really interesting. The other aspects of the classes were far less interesting to me, but I imagine if you cared about business, you would find them interesting. I also really enjoyed the more personal aspects of the book and the wrap-up in that sense towards the end of the book in particular. Some of the take-home messages from the MBA would probably surprise some people. A lot of people I know make a lot of unkind and unfair assumptions about those with an Ivy League (or Oxbridge education), those are the people that might find some of this book surprising. Other parts will be just what these people expect of those in this environment. Reading this has made me realise that there are a lot of people in the NHS that would massively benefit from doing an MBA. I won’t go into that or I would be here all week. So, if you are interested in business/business school, or generally interested in the world this is a decent read. If you usually just read YA, or dislike education, you will absolutely hate this.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hala

    The gold cover initially drew me to this book as I was browsing the business section in the nonfiction side of the bookshop. I had imposed a rule on myself, for no apparent reason, that I was to read 2 nonfiction books for every fiction book I read to increase my exposure into other areas and to learn a few things. I picked up a few other books on the same trip, but I started reading this one because it seemed like a right read. It reads very much like a memoir of Broughton’s time at Harvard Bus The gold cover initially drew me to this book as I was browsing the business section in the nonfiction side of the bookshop. I had imposed a rule on myself, for no apparent reason, that I was to read 2 nonfiction books for every fiction book I read to increase my exposure into other areas and to learn a few things. I picked up a few other books on the same trip, but I started reading this one because it seemed like a right read. It reads very much like a memoir of Broughton’s time at Harvard Business School (HBS). Admittedly, before reading this book I was always very dismissive of business school and the whole notion of getting an MBA. After reading this book, I’ve changed my stance on the subject. Well, not just after reading this book. After abandoning a career in my area of study, I stumbled (and I really mean that) into the world of consulting and approached the idea of getting an MBA with a different mindset. The writer doesn’t make a very compelling argument for going to HBS, as he is skeptical of it and the value it truly adds to a candidate’s life numerous times, but, he does give us a taste of what life is like at HBS and a glimpse of what to expect. My feelings on attending HBS are still mixed at the end of reading this book, but I enjoyed Broughton’s account of the whole experience. I think Broughton’s account of his time at HBS is very earnest, which I appreciated.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    I saw some pithy quotes exchanged between the author and an interviewer regarding HBS students not being the customer but the product, and what it takes to be a good salesman, and decided to check this book out. I don't quite understand the hate this book receives from the top reviews. I found it a nice peek behind the curtains and can imagine that not much would have changed over the past 15 years except a more PC environment. I felt I could relate to the author; someone more reflective but also I saw some pithy quotes exchanged between the author and an interviewer regarding HBS students not being the customer but the product, and what it takes to be a good salesman, and decided to check this book out. I don't quite understand the hate this book receives from the top reviews. I found it a nice peek behind the curtains and can imagine that not much would have changed over the past 15 years except a more PC environment. I felt I could relate to the author; someone more reflective but also (by disposition?) more morally conflicted than his peers who could see things clearly but would unapologetically choose money and prestige. His first 3 months in HBS sounded absolutely nuts, a true description of "drinking from the firehose", absolutely intimidating; but at the same time you see people adapting to their environment as humans are naturally inclined to. I thought the overall theme of the book on choices and trade offs and morals was very useful in thinking about what one should prioritise in the future, amidst the roar of what society or peer pressure encourages you to pursue. Admittedly some parts of the book were overly descriptive, especially the workings of finance or explanation of a formula which didn't seem to add much value to the book. I glossed over those sections, but found the description of the nature of trading and how outrageously traders are compensated for the little to no value they generate for society very accurate.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jose

    I don't have a Harvard MBA, but I did study Industrial Engineering for four years and am starting a Master's degree in a few months, though not of the business variety. The way Philip described his power-hungry classmates really resonated with me. Many of the people in my major saw a job in consulting as a holy grail of sorts, the place you went to "just for a few years", got your MBA, and then did something else presumably more fun and fulfilling. Even while taking a class centered around the c I don't have a Harvard MBA, but I did study Industrial Engineering for four years and am starting a Master's degree in a few months, though not of the business variety. The way Philip described his power-hungry classmates really resonated with me. Many of the people in my major saw a job in consulting as a holy grail of sorts, the place you went to "just for a few years", got your MBA, and then did something else presumably more fun and fulfilling. Even while taking a class centered around the consulting industry, there was a nagging feeling that it might not be for me. This book helped me figure out why I was apprehensive of following the consulting path. At first I was a little concerned of how much the book focused on the work-life balance, but now that I finished I'm glad it did. It's allowed me to reflect on what I want out of my own future. If this book has any faults, it is that Philip might have been too harsh on Google in the book's Afterword. Now Alphabet Inc, the company is more than three times as big as it was when the book published.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Gao

    Like some of the readers, I got my MBA, but not from Harvard. I also work in a management consulting Firm where a lot of new recruits are from Harvard. Am always curious about how HBS experience may be different from my own MBA experience. Well, turns out it is quite different - the guest speakers are richer and more famous, the cadence much more aggressive and the competition more fierce. I enjoy the book. Broughton achieved the balance of being part of the crowd but also a cool observer. He ha Like some of the readers, I got my MBA, but not from Harvard. I also work in a management consulting Firm where a lot of new recruits are from Harvard. Am always curious about how HBS experience may be different from my own MBA experience. Well, turns out it is quite different - the guest speakers are richer and more famous, the cadence much more aggressive and the competition more fierce. I enjoy the book. Broughton achieved the balance of being part of the crowd but also a cool observer. He has a unique profile coming from a journalist background, with no business experience before HBS. He also is not willing to go into the traditional iBanking, consulting track, rather he prefers a balanced life btw work and family. Hence his path is intriguing different from majority of his fellow students. I find the book insightful and engaging to read. Perhaps everyone should read it before heading into business school, just that he/she knows what it means and what gives.

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