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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inside look at the economic elite
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...
Published on 11 Aug 2008 by Jay O.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars naive
This book is really about 3 things

1) The author's discovery of world of business (70% of the book)
2) The HBS experience (20% of the book)
3) Unstructured ramblings about business ethics (10% of the book)

The book is well written but apart from that is disappointing.
For the author it's a missed opportunity of a potentially more...
Published 19 months ago by Paolo


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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inside look at the economic elite, 11 Aug 2008
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... Don't bring any books from literature or history classes... Don't bring your cynicism. Do bring all the diverse rest of you." Interesting notion of diversity, right? The idea that future business leaders are being trained to dismiss history and cynical judgments is telling, and Broughton, a former journalist with the Telegraph, is never able to buy in to this culture. Instead of getting a high-flying job like his coursemates, he remains a writer - but the strength of this book is that he's not bitter about this. It's not a rant, not really an expose (no truly horrific secrets are uncovered) - just an insider's look into a world most of us won't enter.

The compelling narrative is Broughton's own decision-making about his future career: Harvard forces him to confront the values that really matter to him, makes him question deeply what it is that he really wants out of life. This is something a lot of university graduates and prospective MBAs could benefit from reading - I know I was fascinated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very amusing indeed, 14 Aug 2008
By 
Chris (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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 (Dubai, UAE) - See all my reviews
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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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - read before you decide to go to Harvard, 5 Mar 2009
This is a must-read for any student thinking of going to Harvard to study. Delves Broughton presents a very balanced view of the place, listing the many plus points as well as exposing the negatives. Clearly, Harvard is an immensely stimulating place to be and can be also be immensely rewarding and beneficial BUT only if you are the right kind of student. The downside of Harvard is that if you do not come from the right background (business/banking), and are of the wrong age group (over 30), or have seriously worked as an entrepreneur already, Harvard will not help your career. Delves Broughton, as a successful journalist in his early 30's, without a finance background, did very well on the course but found doors did not open for him. That does not surprise me. Years ago when I thought about studying for an MBA at one of the UK's top business schools, and having passed the entry exam, I was (honestly) advised by an entry tutor that with my (non-finance) background I would only have a 30% chance of a job after the course, compared to 80% for others. Happily I took heed of the advice and did not do the MBA - it would have been a waste of my money. With regard to Harvard, on the less pleasant side, is the attitude held by many tutors and students that being a Harvard graduate automatically makes you a world business leader - a sort of business aristocrat. Just reading of such attitudes provides a wonderful insight into how the current world financial crisis has occurred!! Back to the book - it is extremely well written and does not set out to do a hatchet job on Harvard. In fact, it is clear that Delves Broughton found his time there personally rewarding, but he proves that you need to be a round peg in a round hole to really gain the maximum from Harvard.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and useful, 28 Aug 2008
By 
J. Reffin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book comes across as an honest account of Delves Broughton's experience of, and reaction to, the Harvard Business School MBA course. Delves Broughton highlights well some of the strengths and weaknesses of the institution and the course, though the recent departure of the Dean (Kim Clark) will probably already have lead to changes in the mix.

I would particularly recommend the book to UK readers considering applying to a 'top-tier' US business school, not least because the author highlights some of the cultural differences that hit a British student most forcefully and can come as a bit of a surprise. Delves Broughton's experience also provides a useful reality check. Contrary to the author's apparent expectations, graduation from a business school of this type does not guarantee entree into the well-paid specialised world of hedge funds, private equity, investment banking or consulting. Many of the businesses in these industries have built into their business models recruitment from HBS and other similar schools, but they are looking for a very particular profile and the MBA badge is only one small component. If you don't fit more broadly you probably won't get the job. The author's criticisms of the cost to personal lives entailed in careers of this type are also worth thinking about hard.

For the general reader, Delves Broughton provides a useful flavour of the mindset and approach taught at these kinds of institution. Don't expect to come away with more than a vague impression though - this is not a primer of what they teach at Harvard Business School (title notwithstanding). He raises concerns that this 'business' mindset leads to problems when applied to other arenas of life, particularly if used naively or by people lacking decent ethical standards. (If HBS alumnus George W. Bush had shown any inclination to use this kind of approach in his decision-making, he would have made an easy stick with which to beat the institution). Whatever the merits of his argument, it's something that the HBS faculty (and many companies) worry about a lot, even if their attempts to discuss such ethical issues lead to stomach churning management-speak. Encouragingly, most of his fellow students seemed to take the point, though, even at this early stage in their careers.

One point of criticism of this book (and others of its kind). By publishing it Delves Broughton has arguably betrayed a tacit contract of confidentiality that exists between participants (faculty and students) in such institutions. 'Betrayals' of this kind are an everyday occurrence for daily newspaper journalists and this is perhaps why Delves Broughton seems unaware of this aspect; a couple of the professors in particular might feel justifiably aggrieved.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book praises, criticizes Harvard Business School, 21 Aug 2008
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars naive, 5 May 2013
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This review is from: What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism (Paperback)
This book is really about 3 things

1) The author's discovery of world of business (70% of the book)
2) The HBS experience (20% of the book)
3) Unstructured ramblings about business ethics (10% of the book)

The book is well written but apart from that is disappointing.
For the author it's a missed opportunity of a potentially more interesting work.
The fact that the author apparently didn't have any knowledge of business and finance makes his report of HBS mostly a report about what any economics/finance/strategy course is about, could be HBS or any university around the world.
Much better are the parts where the author sticks with doing a chronicles of specific events or days, this really makes it an interesting read and particularly the report about the interview processes, career opportunities, and characters the author met at HBS are interesting.

But the author feels he's on a mission of building a better world and spends quite some time insisting on the fact that HBS should teach ethics to its student and make them feel responsible for their impact on society.
Also the author states multiple times that HBS should inject in its student some interest for a work/life balance.
If people who will rule the world can make it till the age of business school thinking that their next porsche is worth compromising the global economy stability (and their family) I doubt this can be fixed by retrofitting some ethics at business school.

It might be true that HBS attracted and educated the people who engineered the system that triggered current global crisis.

But the problem is rather how comes that these are the people our society expresses consistently as leaders and put them in charge?
The idea that we should try to "fix" these people and drive them to instead be mindful about the consequences of what they do seems weird. What if instead society just expressed as business/government leaders people who are conscious and with solid ethics in first place?

We are not forced to pick our business/political leaders out of HBS, or are we? Iis HBS that needs to be changed or companies and governments should just pick from a different talent pool?
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly, 4 Aug 2008
By 
H. Mount - See all my reviews
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For those interested in business, this is a marvellous, easy-going guide to all those things you thought you vaguely understood but couldn't really define - price/earnings ratios, balance sheets, profit and loss.
But the wit and fine writing will appeal to those who couldn't care less about this sort of thing. Delves Broughton nails the idiocy of managementese; he skewers his dons and fellow graduates of Harvard Business School with beautifully chosen direct quotations and very funny analysis. He also manages to get in quite a lot on the point of life - don't kill yourself doing something you don't like; don't kill yourself making a fortune you don't really need.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars harvard business school - one person's view, 22 Jun 2012
By 
markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism (Paperback)
As an account of life at Harvard Business School, an outline of what is taught there, and a pen portrait of the class, this is enjoyable reading. As someone who has also been incredibly fortunate to go there, even although just for one week, there was much i recognised. Harvard for me was a wonderful experience - , very hard work certainly, the case study learning is transformational and i found world class teaching and facilities, and incredibly talented class mates. This book reflects all of that, but it is also a little preachy at times about the lives of Harvard graduates- and in a way i didn't relate to. The author went to Harvard it seems, seeing himself as an outsider, and maintained a slightly cynical approach throughout. He was the only member of his class not to get or take a summer job, and one of tiny few not to be employed after he graduated. His gripes seem to be more to do with capitalism itself than HBS. He seems to think being successful must make you unhappy

HBS is what is described - it is fascinating, it does build confidence, it can be exhausting, and it is ethical in its approach to business. It does stimulate ambition and focus - but is it a factory for unhappy people as the author suggests - i don't think so - certainly not what i observed or felt there.

A good enough read though - if you approach the author's cynicism with some scepticism of your own
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% recommended to anyone looking at an MBA, 17 Feb 2011
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This review is from: What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism (Paperback)
An extremely interesting, although critical view on HBS. 100% recommended to anyone looking at an MBA. I was compelled to come back and read each new chapter to see how the time at HBS unfolded for Peter.
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