Monday, August 11, 2008

Remarks on Ahead of the Curve

I'm reading a book that is so good I couldn't wait to finish before blogging it. Ahead of the Curve is by Philip Delves Broughton, an English journalist who quit his job to enroll and pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School. HBS is, by reputation, one of the top MBA programs in the country. Delves Broughton was alternately impressed and appalled by the things he saw there, and tells all in a very funny, ironic way.

When he's writing about the content of the coursework the book sometimes reads like his transcribed class notes. It's when he talks about the attitudes of the students and faculty that make the book worth the read. The present and future Masters of the Universe don't always look very attractive in the author's narrative.

As I read I can't help but think about Philip Zimbardo's classic mock prison experiment at Stanford, in which students were assigned the roles of prisoners and guards in a "prison" set up in the basement of a Stanford classroom building. The experiment demonstrated that participants' behavior was heavily influenced by their environment and preconceptions about how guards and prisoners behave in prison. In Delves Broughton's account, HBR students quickly adapt to the priviledges and perks of being part of the "HBR brand," and display a sense of entitlement.

Excellent read, especially if you're in or considering an MBA program of your own.

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