Posted by: Louis Lavelle on September 8, 2008
A few weeks ago, Penguin Press published a book about Harvard Business School—Philip Delves Broughton’s “Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School.” (Full disclosure: I reviewed the book for BusinessWeek. Here’s the link.) The book was critical of that august institution, calling it, among many other things, “a factory for unhappy people.”
Just how unhappy those people are became abundantly clear today when Harbus, the business school’s independent student newspaper, published an “investigatory report” on the book, which has apparently caused something of an uproar among students, alumni, and administrators.
The report is remarkably even-handed given the gist of Broughton's book, but it gets a little defensive at times. Alex Godden, HBS '08, says his working title for his review of the book was "extremely dull and incredibly sad," adding that he's not buying Broughton's criticism of the school, and by extension U.S. business culture. "His mudslinging seems more like the disappointed temper tantrum of a child in Disneyland seeing Mickey take his head off than the wise observation that the emperor is not, in fact, wearing new clothes."
Adam Ireland, a current student at HBS, says that "probably the most valid of all criticisms leveled at the book" is that it is "the ranting of one disillusioned individual which is a completely unfair representation of life at HBS." He concedes, however, that a lot of HBS students feel the way Broughton does about their experiences.
It strikes me as odd that people who presumably benefited from the Harvard experience feel the need to defend it against a critique that was (in my humble opinion) fairly tame, and that came from someone like Broughton, who made no secret of the fact that he despised pretty much everything about the business world. If Warren Buffet entered the temple of capitalism and pronounced it unfit, that's one thing. But that's not what happened.
What's everybody think? Would anyone from Harvard who's read the book like to weigh in?