August 12, 2008

News & Opinion: Ahead of the Curve

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 7:46 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Both The Economist and BusinessWeek have reviews of Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School in their latest issues. Auspiciously published on Harvard Business School's 100th anniversary, Ahead of the Curve is Philip Delves Broughton's insider account of life at HBS. Broughton is not your typical business student, however. Entering HBS as a 32 year-old father of two, he came from a journalism background, having been the Paris bureau chief of the London Daily Telegraph.
Louis Lavelle of BusinessWeek (and author of The Best B-Schools) writes:
In Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School, Broughton provides a an insightful and entertaining, behind-the-scenes glimpse at a powerful institution that he sees as generally succeeding in its mission of transforming students into business leaders. But he views HBS as failing them in almost every other way. It is, in his persuasive account, a "factory for unhappy people."

The Economist used Broughton's phrase as well, even titling their review "Factory for unhappy people." The review begins:
Mormons, military and McKinsey are the three Ms said to characterize the student body at Harvard Business School (HBS). Philip Delves Broughton, a British journalist, was none of the above, yet he was prepared to spend $175,000 for a chance to attend this "factory for unhappy people."

Broughton didn't go into HBS with this view, and he did take many positive experiences away from his time there (he's a big believer in the HBS casse study approach). To give you an idea of his approach to the two years, consider the opening of the book's preface:
I did not go to Harvard Business School planning to write a book about the experience. In fact, after ten years in journalism, I went there to recover from writing, to stop looking at the world around me as a source of potential stories. I wanted to learn about business in order to gain control of my own financial fate and, more important, my time.

You can read previous posts on the merits of business school here, here and here.