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What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism [Paperback]

Philip Delves Broughton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 7 Aug 2008 --  

Book Description

7 Aug 2008

When Philip Delves Broughton abandoned his career as a successful journalist and joined Harvard Business School's prestigious MBA course, he joined 900 other would-be tycoons in a cauldron of capitalism. Two years of taxing case studies and excel shortcuts lay ahead of him, but he couldn't have told you what OCRA was, other than a vegetable, or whether discount department stores make more money than airlines.

He did, however, know that Harvard Business School’s alumni appeared to be taking over the world. The US president, the president of the World Bank, the US treasury secretary, the CEOs of General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Proctor & Gamble – all were bringing HBS experience to the way they ran their banks, businesses and even countries. And with the prospect of economic enlightenment before him, he decided to see for himself exactly what they teach you at Harvard Business School.

Two years and 500 case studies later, he had met the worlds’ most influential entrepreneurs and analysed the biggest business conundrums. But he and his fellow students faced a bigger question still – how would they juggle their lives, their jobs and their bank balances?

Philip Delves Broughton’s witty and informative memoir is a revelatory account of what the financial elite learn within the hallowed walls of the exclusive Harvard Business School.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (7 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670917761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670917761
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 515,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Informative, wry, and well-written, this book will make rewarding and pleasurable reading for anybody wishing to understand why business is the way it is. (John Cassidy, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Dot.Con )


'Anyone considering enrolling will find this an insightful portrait of HBS life... he has put his class notes to good use by providing an excellent layman's guide'

'An insightful and entertaining, behind-the-scenes glimpse at a powerful institution'

'Original, clever, funny - and full of insights into one of the most influential instiutions in the world' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inside look at the economic elite 11 Aug 2008
By Jay Oh
Philip Broughton went into the Harvard MBA like an anthroplogist goes to live with an obscure jungle tribe - this book works on the same principle of outsider wisdom, of the newcomer able to see just how strange the social norms of these hard-to-access cultures can be. Marvel at these elite MBA-ers and their language of "creating a developmental agenda for leveraging their reflected best-self"! Puzzle at the strong emphasis on business integrity and moral judgment, when fact is everyone's really there to learn how to make a lot of money. But, however odd, the Harvard MBA programme indubitably produces global business & economic leaders who shape a substantial portion of our lives, and so it's in everyone's interests to understand how this elite are taught to think.

'What They Teach You At Harvard Business School' is not just a guide to the economic and management concepts the MBA students study. Broughton does talk about these topics, giving examples of the Harvard study system of analysing hundreds of case studies. This method seeks to teach the students how to handle the chief challenge in business: making good decisions with inadequate information. It's no substitute for the actual course, largely because none of the examples' statistics are published in this book, but as a non-economist I definitely learnt a lot regardless.

But of wider relevance is Broughton's discussion of the 'hidden curriculum' of Harvard Business School, the assumptions it inculcates in its students and the distorted beliefs they already hold about work & the economy. What do they think is the value of the money they'll be earning, when will they know that they've made enough? "When you've got your own jet." Even the pre-arrival guide says, "Don't bring that guitar...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes you inside a top MBA 1 Sep 2008
By T. Khan
Having just finished an MBA myself from London Business School, I saw this book at Heathrow on my way out of the UK and bought it with curiosity. I wanted to see whether my experience at London Business School would have been significantly different from that at a top American school; Harvard, of course, as far as MBA brands go, being number one in my opinion regardless of what competitors or any rankings say.

This book can be recommended to those interested in applying to Harvard or a comparable top MBA program to see if they have the right expectations of an MBA program; as well as to graduates of other programs to see how the experience at their schools compare against the holy grail of MBAs. It really goes inside what the MBA culture is about in general, especially at elitist schools, and at Harvard in particular. Broughton is not the only MBA who feels like this. The unreal world, the pressures, the tendency to go with the herd... despite having studied at a school across the atlantic, I continuously kept on smiling at the commonalities.

I disagree with the notion that this book disses the school, or the MBA in general. It just points out very well some of the absurdities of the program for all those who are not financial crackheads.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very amusing indeed 14 Aug 2008
By Chris
Very dry and witty - Delves Broughton brings alive all the madness and hype of the American MBA system. He half makes you want to enrol, and half to avoid the place for the rest of your life.

What is particularly good is that it is full of interesting business theory from the MBA course, which is very stimulating.

No doubt this book will make HBS very irritated - which is a good reason to buy it, I think!!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading the 2009 postscript 28 July 2009
Fascinating read, but interestingly in the 2009 postscript, the author claims he was "too timid".

He argues that aspects of the school which were unsettling to him at the time because of who he happened to be, should in retrospect "have been unsettling to everyone".

Furthermore, in the shadow of the recent financial crisis and the role HBS alumni have played in the meltdown, he comes down heavily on the prevaling mentality at HBS that all the world's ills can be solved by the leadership methods of the School, its alumni, and by "what we [HBS] do".

Food for thought.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
As a Harvard graduate (not HBS) I loved this book. Fantastic writing, lots of anecdotes, and very clear explanations of what they really teach at Havard Business School. But it's more than that. It's a trip through one man's attempt to find what he wants to do with his life. Delves Broughton was a very successful journalist, and he walked away to spend two years doing an MBA, which cost him $170,000. He finds that he isn't like most of his fellow students, who are obsessed with money. When the author goes to cover an anti-globalisation march, he sympathises with the protestors. Instead of writing an analysis of Time Warner, he choses a organic blueberry farmer. When his fellow students are off working over Spring break, he's at home in Boston working on a novel. It made me wonder: why did he go to business school? Ultimately, Delves Broughton is critical of the school, and gives good reasons for being so.
In response, the school has been mildly critical of the book, apparently arguing class-room conversations should be private. I think this probably stems from him revealing some of school's rorts, including one relating to financial aid. In all, the book is a 300-page ad for HBS and can only drive up applications.
But Delves Broughton's experience punctures one of the myths about HBS: that it creates business leaders. (STORY DISCLOSURE HERE.) He is the only member of his class not to get a job, mainly because he doesn't have any experience in finance or consulting, even though his grades were good and he clearly he could cut it in the classroom (although he is unlucky to miss out on a markeing job at Google.) It seems that no matter how many brilliant classes they have at Harvard, business recruiters want people with business experience.
It will be interesting to see if HBS admits many more journalists in the future.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time and
Havent got the item.
Waste of time and money
Published 13 days ago by özgür polat
4.0 out of 5 stars but got better in the latter part
The book didn't seem very interesting at start, but got better in the latter part. Includes stories about the school, some little things about what they teach, and a story of a... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Tero Ojanperä
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be Required Reading
Fantastic book. It should be required reading for anyone considering an MBA. A critical look at Harvard and MBAs themselves from an insider. Quite sad at times! Read more
Published 2 months ago by David Cross
5.0 out of 5 stars Shows an intrestingly humourous insight to the notoriously strict...
Mr. Broughton is quite an artist. He masterfully takes your preconceptions of HBS MBA graduates, with all the stereotypes you may associate with them, and turn them into humans. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Zizou
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and interesting
For both the ones considering to do an MBA and for the ex-MBAs, there is something interesting in this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by MNT
5.0 out of 5 stars A good balance of reflections and criticism
I enjoyed reading Broughton's open account of the personal saga through the Harvard MBA. He brings in a good balance of his experience, reflections, and criticism of the HBS... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ibrat
5.0 out of 5 stars What they teach you at HBS
I enjoyed reading this book . I meant to read it for sometime and I am glad I read it. It is engaging, fun and has interesting perspective about HBS in particular and business... Read more
Published 7 months ago by WME
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting view
As someone who's considering an MBA, it was a very interesting insight into HBS - the good and bad parts, equally. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr. O. J. Proctor
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, well written and an entertaining read
I bought this book after browsing the few reviews of it that were on the Amazon site.
As someone who finds many business books rather dull and not a lot fun to read I was... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. C
4.0 out of 5 stars genuine insight into HBS
The highlight of the book is that it never takes
Itself too seriously. However, it provided a genuine perspective on the world of HBS that I wasn't expecting. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ewen Bailey
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