Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thoughts on "Ahead of the Curve"

I picked up Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School as another way to distract myself from my online BW Forum and blog addiction. Also, I wanted to get the dirt, so the speak, on HBS before heading to their admitted students weekend at the end of the month. Wait, you may ask, isn't this blog about someone who plans to attend Stanford in the fall? Yes, it is. Stanford has always been my dream school and I have every intention of matriculating there in September. However, I have never visited HBS and if I am going to turn down "the single most influential institution in global business"1, I want to know what exactly I'm turning down. Hence, the upcoming visit and the book.

The author, Philip Delves Broughton, provides a quick, enjoyable, blog-like read in his book, which sheds light on HBS's culture, grading, classroom environment, and employment season. He is conflicted from early in his matriculation -- genuinely appreciating the in-class learning opportunities while simultaneously disdaining many his classmates for their relative youth, what he considers their single-minded drive for money and recognition, and their embrace of HBS's monolithic culture.

I thought that the author's criticism (as applied to ALL business school students, not just HBS students) is generally spot on and recommend his book for anyone interested in American business education. However, it is important to take all that he says with a grain of salt because the author graduated from HBS in 2006 behind the curve in arguably the most important metric of all -- gainful and satisfactory employment. He chronicles his foray into entrepreneurship and his four months of interviewing with Google, but never finds the help wanted posting he seeks:
Absurdly profitable company seeks journalist with ten years' experience and a Harvard MBA for extremely highly paid, low-stress job in which he can wear nice suits and loaf around in air-conditioned splendor making the very occasional executive decision. Requirements: acute discomfort in the presence of spreadsheets, inability to play golf, poorly concealed loathing of corporate life, knowledge of ancient Greek.2
1. Philip Delves Broughton, Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School (London: The Penguin Press, 2008), front flap
2. Ibid, p. 210.

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