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A few nuggets in a sea of consultant speak
on September 3, 2014
I received a subscription to HBR as a gift, for which I'm very grateful, although my take on the magazine itself is not entirely positive. My perspective is of someone who has long read the Economist and the Financial Times. Why read HBR? Because it covers topics of urgent interest for people trying to manage companies and organizations. It falls short in three areas:
First is the pervasive consultant-speak: if it sounds like snake oil, it probably is and you're probably being taken for a ride. Your eyes will tire of rolling after the third "The ten critical, life changing principles for yada yada", which can usually be boiled down to a couple of interesting ideas. The magazine itself usually produces one interesting idea for each issue, along with what seems like filler and countless accounts from experts who invariably try to boil down the entire world to their perspective. In the end it's not all that helpful for people actually looking for solutions. The buck needs to stop with those of us who hire consultants and buy publications like HBR: not in plain English, no deal.
A second related problem is the reverential tone with respect to executives, who somehow hold the keys to the universe, until of course you remember so and so sunk the ship, which is very easy to do in the current never ending world recession. From a social or anthropological point of view the HBR is a curious read, a series of articles which seek to affirm your inclusion into a specific group of people; except the world has moved on from the company car, the executive account, the rimless glasses and the Brooks Brothers suits (never mind the Ted Koppel hairdos).
The third is the constant harassing to buy more HBR related products like cases (nope, not included in the subscription), books and suchlike: it's almost as if you're paying to be bombarded with offers. Somewhere in its bowels there's bound to be an article called "ten ways to stop annoying your customers", which they themselves haven't read.