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Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School Hardcover – July 31, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut by a former journalist at the Daily Telegraph of London chronicles the author's love-hate relationship with the Harvard Business School, where he spent two years getting his M.B.A. Beginning with a confessional account of his disillusionment with journalism and conflicted desire to make money, Broughton provides an account of his experiences in and out of the classroom as he struggles to survive the academic rigor and find a suitably principled yet lucrative path. Simultaneously repelled by his aggressive fellow capitalists in training—their stress-fueled partying and obsession with wealth—and dazzled by his classes, visiting professors and the surprising beauty of business concepts, Broughton vacillates between cautious critique and faint praise. Although cleverly narrated and marked by a professional journalist's polish and remarkable attention to detail, this book flounders; it provides neither enough color nor damning dirt on the school to entertain in the manner of true tell-alls. The true heart of the story is less b-school confidential than a memoir of Broughton's quest to understand the business world and find his place in it. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


" Destined to become required reading for prospective B-school entrants. . . . As an insider's account of an influential institution, [it] hits every mark."
-San Francisco Chronicle

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

" What makes this a particularly absorbing and entertaining read is the combination of journalistic detachment and the sense of personal alienation that Delves Broughton, a Brit in an American system, feels as he struggles to come to terms with what it means to be a Harvard MBA."
-Financial Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (July 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201757
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201752
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, some disclosure: Philip and I were classmates at HBS, did a project together (which he doesn't directly mention in the book), I've had dinner at his house, and I consider him a friend. If you choose to ignore my perspective because of the above bias, I wouldn't blame you, but I want to make sure that myths (generated by some press coverage) of what this book is about are dispelled: by no means is Ahead of the Curve a tell-all insider-guide bashing of the HBS experience. In fact, I suspect that some of the negative reviews are written by folks who either didn't read the book or didn't read it all the way through.

What the book is instead is a rather touching introspective memoir on Philip's personal experience at HBS as an outsider - someone who, because of his age, career background, nationality, but most of all personality did not fit into the traditional HBS mold. Despite that, the reader comes away clear on the fact that Philip learned a great deal from HBS, respects its educational method tremendously, made some very good friends, and overall came away a bigger person after it. I want to elaborate on that last point - Philip was already a fully formed individual before coming to HBS: a father, a husband, a successful journalist, a well-traveled man. To feel growth after HBS, where the average age is ~5 years younger and the average experience is much more junior is a BIG DEAL.

The book really has two elements to it. One is a witty description of the HBS stereotypes, fun stories about interactions, and, ultimately, a fascinating tale of what it's like to be immersed into the HBS experience. The second (one that I didn't find as exciting having gone there) is a reasonably in-depth description of the cases and educational method.
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Format: Hardcover
As the father of a recent HBS graduate, I was drawn into the book to understand more about the inside workings of Harvard. As a graduate of a community college in New York, and the father of eight children, and owner of a 30 year successful technology business, I quickly realized that this book was about true success. The balance of family, love of work, and of course, making a living. The chapters replayed much of what my daughter talked about, but I could now truly understand the life and pressure of those embarking on this trip. It was amazing to hear from somebody almost half my age that he truly understood what most people didn't.He heard of the loss by those that did not follow their hearts, but allowed the brand they wore to set their direction in life. The guilt I sometimes feel for being a parent that pushed their child to fufill their own dreams is now diminished, since I know, just like Philip chose to stay true to his heart, my child may elect to do the same. This book is not about Harvard, it is about life. I want to thank him. Although many books have talked about life-work balance, "ahead of the curve" shows us what we need to consider when raising our children, and helping them in their life choices.
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Format: Hardcover
Philip Delves Broughton was on top of the journalism world as the Paris bureau chief for The Daily Telegraph of London when he got itchy feet and decided he wanted to go to business school. Setting his sights on Harvard, he was pleased to get in. The book's title refers to the grading system at Harvard and alludes to the competition to get a leg up on other MBA students in gaining a lucrative job.

I attended Harvard Business School while in law school many years ago. I was surprised to find out how many things are similar to when I attended. The student complaints were similar, too.

I thought that Mr. Broughton did an excellent job of explaining what the case system is all about and what occurs in preparing for and during a class. If you've always wanted to go to HBS, here's a chance to take a peek.

The book's strength is in exposing the values behind HBS, people seeking the highest-paying jobs despite the personal cost to family life and one's own soul. Mr. Broughton made some half-hearted attempts to seek out such opportunities, but ended his two years at Harvard with a large loan to show for the experience . . . and no job.

The book's weakness comes in Mr. Broughton's desire to teach you some of the basic concepts about business management. I doubt if you are interested. He doesn't always get it right, either.

I found myself comparing Ahead of the Curve to One L, Scott Turow's brilliant description of the bad old days of being a first-year law student at Harvard. One L is a better book. But both are powerful in explaining what it feels like to be a student in the middle of the gigantic forces moving to shape you like a vise into a new form that will be attractive to employers.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is well written, as befits someone who had a career as a journalist prior to business school. The scenes are captured wonderfully, dialogue skillfully rendered, the portraits of places make them seem almost palpable.

And yet... whenever he writes about something I know about, he is DEAD wrong. Since I was never a Harvard MBA student I wonder whether his depictions of places and events of which he is supposed to be more familiar are any more accurate.

Let me give 3 examples. In his dismissive account of a visit to Silicon Valley (pp 120-21) he writes "Up in the hills were town such as Palo Alto, Woodside, and Atherton..." The housing in Palo Alto & Atherton is not up in hills. It's on the flatlands skirting the San Francisco Bay, at most 100 feet above the water. In fact the city data at [...] has it located 23 feet above sea level, hardly "up in the hills".

Of his visit to Google he writes "Google's headquarters was a sprawling glass and metal complex originally built for Netscape" (pp 219). No, it wasn't. It's previous tenant was Silicon Graphics (SGI). Netscape was never in the building. There is a *tenuous* connection -- Jim Clarke, a founder of SGI, left and later founded Netscape among other companies. But Clarke left SGI long before SGI even erected the complex (and then immediately cratered as a going business). But if this sentence exemplifies the depth of his research and the accuracy of his reporting, what in the book can you trust?

In recounting a talk by Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, he writes that Dan recommended they ditch their copies of books about entrepreneurs recommended by the faculty and "read 'One Smart Cookie', the biography of Debbi Fields, the founder of Mrs. Fields cookies (pp 238).
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