Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Factory for Unhappy People

It is a common mistake to elevate the academic study of business above the actual practice of business. While academic study can yield useful information, there are many important differences between business as it is conceived by people in school, and business as it is practiced by the vastly larger universe of people who did not attend business school. Among those differences, motivation may be the most important. Why do some people "study" business, while others act? A new book may shed some light on the first part of that question.

From The Economist, here is a review of an unflattering book about Harvard Business School written by Harvard grad Philip Delves Broughton. He calls HBS, "a factory for unhappy people."

Broughton's book is being published in the UK with the title of What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years in the Cauldron of Capitalism. Its US title is Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School.

An excerpt:

He graduated healthily “unintimidated by business and its practitioners”, not least by HBS itself, which had two failings in his view. First, it pushed the idea that its alumni would be equipped as leaders capable of solving all the world’s problems, rather than merely doing a decent job of running a company. “Business needs to relearn its limits, and if the Harvard Business School let some air out of its own balloon, business would listen,” he grumbles. His second worry was that so many of his classmates seemed destined for careers that would leave them no space for a happy personal life. He opted for more time with his family, rather than follow in the footsteps of the “Goldman Sachs executive who came to talk about leadership and values…I just remember this look of total defeat on his face when he said how he had four ex-wives.”

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