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The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite

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A riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, Harvard Business School, from the bestselling author of The Firm. With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and i A riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, Harvard Business School, from the bestselling author of The Firm. With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School. Harvard University occupies a unique place in the public’s imagination, but HBS has arguably eclipsed its parent in terms of its influence on modern society. A Harvard degree guarantees respect. An HBS degree is, as the New York Times proclaimed in 1978, "the golden passport to life in the upper class." Those holding Harvard MBAs are near-guaranteed entrance into Western capitalism’s most powerful realm—the corner office. Most people have a vague knowledge of the power of the HBS network, but few understand the dynamics that have made HBS an indestructible and powerful force for almost a century. As McDonald explores these dynamics, he also reveals how, despite HBS’s enormous success, it has failed with respect to the stated goal of its founders: "the multiplication of men who will handle their current business problems in socially constructive ways." While HBS graduates tend to be very good at whatever they do, that is rarely the doing of good. In addition to teasing out the essence of this exclusive, if not necessarily "secret" club, McDonald explores two important questions: Has the school failed at reaching the goals it set for itself? And is HBS therefore complicit in the moral failings of Western capitalism? At a time of pronounced economic disparity and political unrest, this hard-hitting yet fair portrait offers a much-needed look at an institution that has a profound influence on the shape of our society and all our lives.


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A riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, Harvard Business School, from the bestselling author of The Firm. With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and i A riveting and timely intellectual history of one of our most important capitalist institutions, Harvard Business School, from the bestselling author of The Firm. With The Firm, financial journalist Duff McDonald pulled back the curtain on consulting giant McKinsey & Company. In The Golden Passport, he reveals the inner workings of a singular nexus of power, ambition, and influence: Harvard Business School. Harvard University occupies a unique place in the public’s imagination, but HBS has arguably eclipsed its parent in terms of its influence on modern society. A Harvard degree guarantees respect. An HBS degree is, as the New York Times proclaimed in 1978, "the golden passport to life in the upper class." Those holding Harvard MBAs are near-guaranteed entrance into Western capitalism’s most powerful realm—the corner office. Most people have a vague knowledge of the power of the HBS network, but few understand the dynamics that have made HBS an indestructible and powerful force for almost a century. As McDonald explores these dynamics, he also reveals how, despite HBS’s enormous success, it has failed with respect to the stated goal of its founders: "the multiplication of men who will handle their current business problems in socially constructive ways." While HBS graduates tend to be very good at whatever they do, that is rarely the doing of good. In addition to teasing out the essence of this exclusive, if not necessarily "secret" club, McDonald explores two important questions: Has the school failed at reaching the goals it set for itself? And is HBS therefore complicit in the moral failings of Western capitalism? At a time of pronounced economic disparity and political unrest, this hard-hitting yet fair portrait offers a much-needed look at an institution that has a profound influence on the shape of our society and all our lives.

30 review for The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite

  1. 4 out of 5

    Siv30

    הספר מתאר את היסטוריית הצמיחה המטאורית של בית הספר לעסקים בהאוורד ושל התוכנית למינהל עסקים מהעשור הראשון של המאה ה 20 ועד היום. הוא מתאר התפתחויות מרכזיות ביחסי העבודה ובתפיסות ניהול שונות והוא גם מציג לקורא את גורלם של חלק מבוגריו הבולטים בית הספר שעד היום נחשב למוביל וליוקרתי בתחומו. אז מה המסקנות מהספר עד כה? בית הספר לעסקים של הווארד דואג לבית הספר לעסקים של הווארד. הוא הפך למפעל משגשג המגלגל מליונים בזכות התוכנית והמגזין שהוא מוציא. הוא לא דואג לגדל מנהלים שיתרמו לקהילה, או לארגון שבו הם מוע הספר מתאר את היסטוריית הצמיחה המטאורית של בית הספר לעסקים בהאוורד ושל התוכנית למינהל עסקים מהעשור הראשון של המאה ה 20 ועד היום. הוא מתאר התפתחויות מרכזיות ביחסי העבודה ובתפיסות ניהול שונות והוא גם מציג לקורא את גורלם של חלק מבוגריו הבולטים בית הספר שעד היום נחשב למוביל וליוקרתי בתחומו. אז מה המסקנות מהספר עד כה? בית הספר לעסקים של הווארד דואג לבית הספר לעסקים של הווארד. הוא הפך למפעל משגשג המגלגל מליונים בזכות התוכנית והמגזין שהוא מוציא. הוא לא דואג לגדל מנהלים שיתרמו לקהילה, או לארגון שבו הם מועסקים, או ללקוחות של אותו ארגון או לעובדים של הארגון. הדאגה המרכזית של מנהלי בית הספר לדורותיו היא להכניס דולרים בין אם עי כך שהם מוציאים בוגרים שישתחלו לאליטות הכלכליות והחברתיות, יתעשרו ובתורם יתרמו לבית הספר הון. בין אם בעסקים עם חברות וארגונים שתרמו להם בכדי לקדם את האינטרסים של התורמים ובין אם בנקיטת שיטות לא אתיות ומפוקפקות, לפחות כך זה מצטייר מהפרק ההזוי על לידתו וצמיחתו של המגזין שהם מוציאים. לפי התיאורים בספר זו מערכת משומנת ביותר שגם מצליחה לטשטש את מטרותיה. באופן מפתיע האסטרטגיה הזו לא עברה שינוי והמנהלים של בית הספר דבקו בה. אולי כי היא מצליחה. האליטיזם האקדמאי שבית הספר מתהדר בו הוא למעשה דוגמטיזם ושמרנות שמתבוססים בעצמם ולא הוכיחו את עצמם. הסופר נותן במהלך הספר עשרות דוגמאות לכשלונות של התוכנית להוציא מנהלים דינמיים בעלי מחשבה יצירתית שמצליחה להדביק את החדשנות הניהולית. ככלל הדוגמאות מלמדות שהתוכנית בכלל לא מוציאה מנהלים כי הם לא לומדים ניהול אלא איך למקסם את הרווחים האישיים שלהם ולמקסם את ההכנסות של בית הספר. שוב אולי כי השיטה מצליחה אף אחד לא שוקל לשנות אותה. הסופר מדגים עשות מקרים של כשלונות קולוסאליים בתחום הניהול רובם מוכרים מהעיתונות הכלכלית. היוהרה שמצטיירת מכל דוגמא וכל פרק בספר פשוט מחליאים. הגיחוך והיוהרה של התוכנית שעיקרה טמון ברעיון שניהול ניתן ללמוד באופן תאורטי וליישם בלי להתלכלך בעבודה תעשייתית, מגיעים לשיא בפרק "מנהלים את הדעיכה" שבו הסופר מתאר כיצד התעשיה האמריקאית הגיעה למצב שבשנות ה 70 וה 80 היא לא תחרותית אפילו מול מדינות קפיטליסטיות כמו יפן וגרמניה. הציטוט הבא של ג'יימס סטאמפס שהשתתף בכנס מנהלים של הווארד בשנת 1988 יבהיר לחלוטין עד כמה החבורה הזו, שנציגה היו בכל הנהלה של המפעלים המתועשים ברחבי ארה"ב פשוט גאוותנים, עיוורים, יהירים ובעיקר מגוחכים: By the end of the first day, I was wondering what kind of a weird world the Harvard MBA was being raised in,” he wrote. “The professors made no bones of the fact that they regarded the factory floor as the least important part of a business. The business office was the place where the company made or lost money. One of them stated that he could save more money with a calculator in a week than a factory manager could in a year with all his new machines and production ideas. Of course, at that time, the Harvard MBA was everybody’s fair-haired boy and the school’s curriculum was widely imitated. With this kind of nonsense passing for a business education, is it any wonder that American business has gotten completely off the track and become hopelessly uncompetitive? האפליה נגד נשים היא עוד מסמר בארון התוכנית המפוארת. התוכנית לא נכנעה למגמות של שוויון ומתן הזדמנויות אקדמאיות לנשים עד שנות ה 60 גם כאשר בתי ספר אחרים פתחו את שעריהם לנשים החל מתחילת המאה ה20. העובדות לא בילבלו את ראשי התוכנית שהמשיכו להתבצר בטיעונים מגוחכים ועלובים ששלחו את הנשים למטבח. עולב ופאטתיות. גם האישה היחידה שזכתה להתקבל לתוכנית ולעבוד במחקר בבית הספר, לא נזכרת בדפי ההיטוריה של בית הספר ולא זכתה לקידום לפרופסור עד שפרשה אז כאקט סימלי קיבלה את הפרופסורה. ובכל זאת מדוע התוכנית הזו נחשבת ליוקרתית, אלפים צובאים על דלתותיה מדי שנה בניסיון להתקבל לשורותיה? אין לי תשובה מלבד העובדה שבוגרי התוכנית מתברגים למשרות יוקרתיות ומקבלים שכר התחלתי גבוהה משמעותית מעמיתיהם שלמדו בבתי ספר אחרים. כמו כן, הסופר מציע את רשת התמיכה של בית הספר ובוגריו. הבעיה של הספר בעיקרה שהוא ארוך מאוד כ 600 עמודים לא כולל נספחים וחלקו מתעסק בנוקדנות וחשבונאות קטנה שמגמדת את הטענות שלו כמו הטענות כנגד מקנזי וכנגד גולדמן זאקס. בנוסף, מן הסתם בגלל אורך הספר ישנן חזרות מסויימות הן על עקרונות והן על מסקנות של המחבר. כמובן שישנה חזרה גם על הביקורת שלו כנגד התוכנית ובוגריה. לפעמים נראה שחלק מהמקרים פשוט מובילים שוב ושוב לאותן המסקנות. הספר ברובו מעניין, אבל כמו שסביר שיקרה, ישנם חלקים משמימים בספר.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kylewelch

    Despite having my own issues with HBS, I have found this book to be simply a bad read. An uninformed, superficial interpretation of the school that is simply not worth the effort. Duff's book reads as if the school was run by Voldemort, and all the cases were written by Screwtape or Sauron. The only thing worse than someone writing without knowledge is someone writing with incomplete knowledge--that is what Duff has done here. In every point of history, Duff takes a constant twist to a negative Despite having my own issues with HBS, I have found this book to be simply a bad read. An uninformed, superficial interpretation of the school that is simply not worth the effort. Duff's book reads as if the school was run by Voldemort, and all the cases were written by Screwtape or Sauron. The only thing worse than someone writing without knowledge is someone writing with incomplete knowledge--that is what Duff has done here. In every point of history, Duff takes a constant twist to a negative lens. For example, Duff's conversation about a Wyss $40MM donation to the HBS doctoral program added the commentary that HBS is willing to make an investment as long as "someone else is paying for it." As if any other university works any different--there are a million investments to be made at schools. Moreover, Wyss (an HBS alum) also gave $250MM to the school of engineering--he could have kept his multiple donations for his family but offered them to programs he thought could better use the money. Someone takes their wealth and instead of hoarding it, gives it away--yet somehow Duff finds a negative spin on it. The whole book reads like that--a constant rub to the negative. The result is a book that claims history and truth with an apparent lack of knowledge and experience with it. Duff has no problem finding citations, but the book is void of any context lending to an understanding of the school or management theory. From an insider's perspective, the major claims about what happens at HBS are just wrong, exposing Duff's shallow understanding of HBS' key players, research, course work, and students. He passes over graduates like Sal Khan, popular courses like BSSE and Reimagining Capitalism, research from George Serafeim or Robert Eccles, and many students that work at non-profits. Duff intended this book to condemn HBS regardless of reality. Golden Passport was written to maximize book sales via scandalizing HBS. If you are looking for a book about management and academic theory, this is also the wrong book. Duff fecklessly calls out agency theory and shareholder maximization. Sorry, Duff greed was not invented by an academic theory at HBS. Indeed, there are problems with agency theory, but Duff's writing is a poor source. This book will not help you think intelligently about management theory (let alone HBS). If you want a good read on this topic, I recommend Joe Bower and Lynn Paine's 2017 article "Managing for the long term." Unless you are looking for fiction, this book is a waste of time. If you are looking for a good read about HBS, "Ahead of the Curve" is no less flattering but has the benefit of being written with facts (from a decade ago).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Juliana Philippa

    Heard about the book from article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/bu... The book is filled with anecdotal evidence of Mr. McDonald’s argument. In once instance, he draws from a paper Mr. Jensen co-wrote in which the professor recounted a well-known story about the playwright George Bernard Shaw. As the story goes, Shaw had asked “an actress if she would sleep with him for a million dollars,” Mr. McDonald writes. “When she agreed, he changed his offer to $10, to which she responded with ou Heard about the book from article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/bu... The book is filled with anecdotal evidence of Mr. McDonald’s argument. In once instance, he draws from a paper Mr. Jensen co-wrote in which the professor recounted a well-known story about the playwright George Bernard Shaw. As the story goes, Shaw had asked “an actress if she would sleep with him for a million dollars,” Mr. McDonald writes. “When she agreed, he changed his offer to $10, to which she responded with outrage, asking him what kind of woman he thought she was. His reply: ‘We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling about the price.’” To Mr. McDonald, Harvard teaches its students that “we’re all whores.” Very interested to read this, especially since I'm a b-school student (not HBS) and a Harvard grad student (at the Kennedy School).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    Unreadable. Didn't finish. Not worth my time. Unreadable. Didn't finish. Not worth my time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mbogo J

    Duff McDonald was in need of a good punching bag and he found it in Harvard Business School. Once he had set it up to the right height he punched the hell out of it. I have read these set of books before the likes of When Genius Failed, or Enron's The smartest guys in the room but this is the most stinging indictment I have ever come across. I wonder if the decision of HBS to deny him access played a part. Duff picked apart HBS from its founding idea to what it is today, the language was so scath Duff McDonald was in need of a good punching bag and he found it in Harvard Business School. Once he had set it up to the right height he punched the hell out of it. I have read these set of books before the likes of When Genius Failed, or Enron's The smartest guys in the room but this is the most stinging indictment I have ever come across. I wonder if the decision of HBS to deny him access played a part. Duff picked apart HBS from its founding idea to what it is today, the language was so scathing that I feel for any HBS staff or alumni reading it. He accused it of academic capture, and its case method a sham used by corporations to clean their image. He even posited that they were in the business of reinventing the obvious and calling it ground breaking. One of guys interviewed said reading books from HBS staff is equivalent to eating cardboard for dinner, it has zero nutritional value. The pillorying of HBS aside, one of the minority thesis of this book deserves merit. The idea first put forward by Milton Friedman that business exists to maximize shareholder value. This toxic idea has led to mercenary business that are looking after the bottom line always trawling the world for sweatshops in the name of cutting cost. HBS stands accused for allowing this notion to seep in the business community and poison capitalism. Before getting into business school a person always thinks that a business should exist to help the community around it and various stakeholders, after leaving business school they think its purpose is maximizing shareholder value. This intellectual sham needs to be called out before the runaway inequality it has spawned threatens the very edifice of the human race. The strength of this book lies in the extensive research Duff did, the not so good bit is that he picked HBS apart decade by decade and the story seemed similar all through that I felt stricter editorship should have reigned in on this repetition. I think in as much as Duff claimed he had no bone to pick, it seemed that he had and I would not quote this book on serious circles. This is the kind of book you talk with your left leaning friends over drinks. In my opinion Duff did a good job and the criticism was warranted.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Giles K. Kemp

    Very disappointing McDonald seems unable to overcome a disdain for Harvard Business School and market capitalism. The result is a snide tone which becomes quite grating and makes it difficult to appreciate the thorough research he did, albeit with no official access to the school.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    (I rated this a "3" but feel it more a "2.5". I enjoyed it enough to finish it but have issues. McDonald is a journalist who wrote a nice book on McKinsey. I had hoped he would do the same with HBS but that was not to be.) McDonald has written a long history of the Harvard Business School (HBS) that can be summed up easily. While HBS invented the MBA degree and has been a major institution in business since its inception, notable for its case method, its high powered professors, and its arrogant (I rated this a "3" but feel it more a "2.5". I enjoyed it enough to finish it but have issues. McDonald is a journalist who wrote a nice book on McKinsey. I had hoped he would do the same with HBS but that was not to be.) McDonald has written a long history of the Harvard Business School (HBS) that can be summed up easily. While HBS invented the MBA degree and has been a major institution in business since its inception, notable for its case method, its high powered professors, and its arrogant but highly successful graduates, when its record is looked at in more detail, it is found wanting in virtually every respect. The school ruthlessly defends its status and legitimacy against all comers, changing only when it needs to and claiming virtually all new ideas as its own. The professors, while occasionally showing flashes of brilliance, are generalists detached from the business world and from the rest of business academia. The students embrace the stereotype of the greedy and ambitious "master of brutal action" and place their fame, fortune, and career ahead of the firms they work for or the society in which they live. Far from advancing knowledge and business practice, HBS is a "madrassa" of capitalism turning out indoctrinated shock troops of capitalism to answer the call of whichever employer can pay them the most. Get the idea? ...but tell us what you really think! My issues with this are numerous. 1) None of the criticisms in the book are new. Most are longstanding. It would have been nice if McDonald had advanced some new criticisms, but if he did, I missed them. Indeed, an issue with the "craft" if this book is that it is in many parts just a retelling of the tales of others, with the grand narrative being well known. 2) All of the major business schools (the 25-30 that claim to be "top ten") all suffer from varieties of the criticisms leveled at HBS by McDonald. Top business schools are as much instruments of selection, legitimation, and credentiallling as they are institutions of education. This means that one can in principle separate the benefits that come from attending the school from those that come from what students actually study and learn while at the school. For the top schools, the signaling and credentially value far exceeds the value from course content. 3) When you look at institutions that pursue such legitimizing missions, it is a simple task to look at the lofty purposes of the institution and then compare that mission with the realities of how the institution actually works and the tasks that are performed there. None will survive such a scrutiny without a wide range of shortcomings being identified. In this sense, McDonald is engaging in a cheap parlor games that means little. If HBS is so terrible and fails to "deliver the goods" then why is it impossible to get into? Why do corporations send their managers to exec ed? Why do donors continue to donate? Why do readers of their materials continues to patronize them? This is not to say that the issues raised by McDonald are not worth considering. But it is not at all clear to me what is so valuable about McDonald's collection of shortcomings that everyone else dealing with HBS seems to have missed. It is easy to criticize an institution like HBS. Answering the "so what" question about the criticism seems to be more difficult. 4).Another issue I have with McDonald's analysis is that he relies heavily on a relatively limited set of scholars from the camp of "economic sociology". The people he relies on the most are distinguished enough as scholars but they are of a very particular taste in that their research agendas comprise studies that look at the social institutions of business and find that these institutions can also be seen as pursuing power and influence along with their stated official goals. This is a line of work that has frequently criticized the business establishment as being more of an entrenched elite than a meritocracy and has disparaged many presences to business institutions pursuing more public goals. While one is free to cite any source in making an argument, it should not be surprising if a journalist citing a bunch critical sociologists come up with a critical story - that is what his sources. 5) McDonald in spots seems to be stretching to make his overall case. For example, he makes several references to the social critique of education by William Deresiewicz, whose 2015 book "Excellent Sheep" criticisms the overemphasis on the pressured life of students seeking entrance to US elite colleges and the negative consequences of that pressure. The trouble is that the "Excellent Sheep" argument if focused on elite undergraduates not on MBA programs. While the elite grad schools enter into the argument by implication, it is near impossible to get into HBS straight out of undergraduate school. Why include the argument here when McDonald is supposedly focused on a specific institution? Aren't there other critiques of HBS and MBA programs available? 6) There are other critical perspectives on business schools and McDonald would have done well to consider them more. He does discuss Henry Mintzberg's work towards the end of his book and this is a refreshing change from Spender and others - and I am no fan of Mintzberg. 7) Any book about a top business school almost has to be critical, since the business schools themselves spend a lot of time, attention, and resources in touting themselves. Given that HBS has been around for so long, there is a higher bar than one might think in saying something new. 8) There are parts of the book that were more interesting. The treatment of the early years and the intellectual foundation for the "master of business administration" label is interesting. The ordering of the story by Deans and decades generally works. The use of summary chapters for each decade is also a useful organizing tool to help the reader keep track. The material on the evolution of the Harvard Business Review was also interesting. 9) There are better recent books that make similar points about HBS without as much snarkiness. One is "From Higher Aims to Hired Hands" by Rajesh Khurana.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brad Fonseca

    This book will make you angry while it informs you. The author makes a very good argument for the ills in our capitalist society deriving from the MBAs running companies into the ground.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    You’d think that a 25 hour audiobook about Harvard Business School would be boring, but you’d be wrong. This laid bare what went wrong with the social contract of America at it’s heart. When the MBAs from HBS and their ilk hit a rough going in the 1970s, after nearly three decades of unchallenged supremacy on the world stage, they bailed. They tried to cut their way to growth, which anyone who pays attention knows doesn’t work as a long term strategy. They financialized the corporation and the e You’d think that a 25 hour audiobook about Harvard Business School would be boring, but you’d be wrong. This laid bare what went wrong with the social contract of America at it’s heart. When the MBAs from HBS and their ilk hit a rough going in the 1970s, after nearly three decades of unchallenged supremacy on the world stage, they bailed. They tried to cut their way to growth, which anyone who pays attention knows doesn’t work as a long term strategy. They financialized the corporation and the economy as a whole, sending our best and brightest not out to build the next great thing, but to make fortunes at Wall St investment banks building mathematical models predicting profit. The HBSers abandoned the age-old relationships and social contracts that work had with the people, and laid it bare on the altar of Friedman’s doctrine of shareholder value. The likes of Michael Jensen held forth at HBS for decades the share value maximization dogma which ended up having the asylum run by the inmates, who were only motivated to make short term riches. The only thing that was important was making cheddar. Lots and lots of it. Gone was the drive for innovation, customer satisfaction, quality, and fidelity to the community. Even the likes of Carnegie, Mellon and Rockefeller built schools, libraries and hospitals for the public; the only thing being built by these new titans were their bank balances and yachts. What did we get for this suffering? Enron. Mortgage backed securities collapse in 2008. And that’s just since 2000. HBS has been trying to “professionalize” business management for over a century now, and have utterly failed. They’ve tried, somewhat half-heartedly by this telling, to also codify “ethics” into the curriculum as well, and met with the same level of success, as in none. HBS styles itself as an institution of higher learning, training future leaders using what they call the “case method” for unambiguous teaching. This is utter garbage. The “cases” are prepared with cooperation of their subjects, so if you don’t want a case, one is not prepared. A huge bias that goes unacknowledged by Harvard. Nothing negative is apparently ever written by HBS. This is a blind spot of such tremendous scope and breadth that managed to go unaddressed by the greatest minds of the 20th and 21st centuries that it boggles the mind. It has only recently (2017) that they’ve even given in to any alternative pedagogical method. God forbid some scientific hypothesis are proposed, researched, tested, and dis/proven. A shocking lack of imagination. This nearly criminal level of chicanery should be a stain not just on HBS, but Harvard University itself for decades to come. They’ve managed in the last 50 years to destroy the very fabric of the American Experiment to the point that it is feared lost. What is most shocking is that no one apparently noticed. Or really even cares.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zach Church

    A business school history is a little specific. I work at a business school so this felt worth reading, and it was. It starts very slow. While there is some foundational value to understanding the early years of Harvard Business School and management education in general, the book doesn't really get rolling until the modern era ... 1960s or so on. From there on, it's pretty engaging and does a nice job explaining the competing approaching to business education and the theory of the firm. It's not A business school history is a little specific. I work at a business school so this felt worth reading, and it was. It starts very slow. While there is some foundational value to understanding the early years of Harvard Business School and management education in general, the book doesn't really get rolling until the modern era ... 1960s or so on. From there on, it's pretty engaging and does a nice job explaining the competing approaching to business education and the theory of the firm. It's not entirely a takedown. In criticizing Harvard, it's criticizing business education in general and the author is pretty up-front about that. He makes some solid general arguments for a new approach to management education and does a nice job of explaining the failings of the case system. And it's important to cover conflicts of interest. It's good to collect some of this stuff in one place. Is there anything new here? Not really, but it's a strong and cohesive overview, albeit one with a slow start.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anandh Sundar

    The book makes the following points well Case Study and Section approach make people think on their feet yet be diplomatic since you work with the same people for a year, so slight long term focus. Since professors write and present case studies with limited experience, it is often more theatre oriented. The only real test of HBS was of McNamara in Ford and Korea war, both of which failed. MBA students prefer to start as advisors instead as line managers, and this is often since they fail in thei The book makes the following points well Case Study and Section approach make people think on their feet yet be diplomatic since you work with the same people for a year, so slight long term focus. Since professors write and present case studies with limited experience, it is often more theatre oriented. The only real test of HBS was of McNamara in Ford and Korea war, both of which failed. MBA students prefer to start as advisors instead as line managers, and this is often since they fail in their initial jobs and hence 50% quit in 5 years flat. Also, some light on relationship between McKinsey and HBS, as also the failings of Harvard Business Review. Not really new for those aware of MBA limitations, but good read

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    Having had an inside view at HBS, I felt as McDonald was justified in much of his criticism of the school (I worked at HBS from 2006-20120. This book does not diminish HBS's standing or influence in society although it does chink the armor of such an elite institution. In a discussion with many HBS alumna about the book, I was told that they are still superbly grateful for the opportunity HBS afforded them. Given the current #metoo environment and strong feminist push, they felt, with hindsight, Having had an inside view at HBS, I felt as McDonald was justified in much of his criticism of the school (I worked at HBS from 2006-20120. This book does not diminish HBS's standing or influence in society although it does chink the armor of such an elite institution. In a discussion with many HBS alumna about the book, I was told that they are still superbly grateful for the opportunity HBS afforded them. Given the current #metoo environment and strong feminist push, they felt, with hindsight, that perhaps they could have done more to forward the role women played at the school during their time there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Yoder

    I enjoyed this book, but the size was something I just couldn't get over. I kept wondering if Mr McDonald (along with a cold-hearted editor) could have pared this book down a bit. The writing is quite funny in parts, which was somewhat surprising to me. I especially enjoyed the many times that Mr McDonald would quote some impenetrable prose created by someone in Harvard Business School and then paraphrase bluntly. I can't argue with the overarching themes of this book. HBS is immensely influenti I enjoyed this book, but the size was something I just couldn't get over. I kept wondering if Mr McDonald (along with a cold-hearted editor) could have pared this book down a bit. The writing is quite funny in parts, which was somewhat surprising to me. I especially enjoyed the many times that Mr McDonald would quote some impenetrable prose created by someone in Harvard Business School and then paraphrase bluntly. I can't argue with the overarching themes of this book. HBS is immensely influential and its unquestioning embrace of destructive capitalism sans ethics has not helped anyone but a small sliver of society. I did receive an advance reading copy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    MADHUKAR DAYAL

    Success of the Harvard's MBA program following the case method of teaching adopted, problems and pitfalls faced enroute, the leaders who brought it to its World renowned stature, its graduates who went on to lead the World's largest and most successful business (and other) organizations, and over a century's HBS's history, its all rolled into one in this book. A work of great research. Harvard having reached where it has, the book makes you wonder - what is the success actually achieved, at what Success of the Harvard's MBA program following the case method of teaching adopted, problems and pitfalls faced enroute, the leaders who brought it to its World renowned stature, its graduates who went on to lead the World's largest and most successful business (and other) organizations, and over a century's HBS's history, its all rolled into one in this book. A work of great research. Harvard having reached where it has, the book makes you wonder - what is the success actually achieved, at what cost, and to whom?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Frances

    Interesting alternative look to challenge the general social idea that Harvard business school has constructed for itself; a business school turning out ethical managers helping make our world a better place, not just focusing on the bottom line. I enjoyed the history of how the school developed and how this idea was fostered. I found myself agreeing with the author that the school is fooling us and it's graduates are not being formed to do good really, just to take their places among the elite Interesting alternative look to challenge the general social idea that Harvard business school has constructed for itself; a business school turning out ethical managers helping make our world a better place, not just focusing on the bottom line. I enjoyed the history of how the school developed and how this idea was fostered. I found myself agreeing with the author that the school is fooling us and it's graduates are not being formed to do good really, just to take their places among the elite (some exceptions). Will the school be able to hold more true to its promise?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    Exhaustivo y bien documentado. Un excelente repaso por la historia, con sus héroes y villanos, de la Escuela de Negocios de Harvard. Es evidente el sesgo anti - HBS y, aunque uno tiene qué coincidir (porque también es evidente la avaricia sin límites de la clase privilegiada), los últimos capítulos se ponen repetitivos y regañones. Interesante, sin duda. Éntrenle.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    I agree with his overall premise, that the thinking that HBS promotes is responsible for many of the current financial woes and low ethics of the business world. However, this book is absolutely exhausting. The intense vitriol is nonstop for (in the audio book) 20 hours. I'm no fan of HBS but it is difficult to believe that there is not a single positive thing about it. I agree with his overall premise, that the thinking that HBS promotes is responsible for many of the current financial woes and low ethics of the business world. However, this book is absolutely exhausting. The intense vitriol is nonstop for (in the audio book) 20 hours. I'm no fan of HBS but it is difficult to believe that there is not a single positive thing about it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary Nee

    McDonald has written a long history of the Harvard Business School (HBS) that can be summed up easily. McDonald showcases how the delicate experiment of a business school at Harvard triumphed with questions of ethics and morality imbued throughout the school's expansion. McDonald has written a long history of the Harvard Business School (HBS) that can be summed up easily. McDonald showcases how the delicate experiment of a business school at Harvard triumphed with questions of ethics and morality imbued throughout the school's expansion.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Phenomenally good! A must-read for these corporation/big business-worshipping times, a time with more financial inequality--as if all the other inequalities weren't enough, sigh--than in 100 years. Cannot wait for the author's next book! Phenomenally good! A must-read for these corporation/big business-worshipping times, a time with more financial inequality--as if all the other inequalities weren't enough, sigh--than in 100 years. Cannot wait for the author's next book!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan Leo

    A thorough-going history of the school that, since 1908, has provided the world with a large percentage of its de facto leaders – not so much leaders in the realms of politics, but the leaders of the world behind the world of politics – the world of very big money.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    i would go further but nonetheless a through critique of the business school and consulting space. Should be a mandatory read for all the people engaged in those very spaces , cynically or otherwise.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Barry

    Immensely informative and well-researched. If you're looking to understand our culture's enamored fascination with Capitalism, this is a great resource. Mr. McDonald illuminates Harvard Business School and its nature not as it would like, but how it really is. Immensely informative and well-researched. If you're looking to understand our culture's enamored fascination with Capitalism, this is a great resource. Mr. McDonald illuminates Harvard Business School and its nature not as it would like, but how it really is.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gen

    Deeply researched but incredibly biased. The valid criticisms of HBS are undercut by the multiple cheap shots, snarky language, and overwhelming length of the book. Incredibly disappointing when compared to his other two books, which treated their source material with much more even-handedness.

  24. 5 out of 5

    John

    "This is a rambling, colorful disquisition on the history of management theory in America in the twentieth century! I thought you said this was a history of Harvard Business School." "Duffman says a lot of things! OH, YEAH!" "This is a rambling, colorful disquisition on the history of management theory in America in the twentieth century! I thought you said this was a history of Harvard Business School." "Duffman says a lot of things! OH, YEAH!"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bill Koenig

    6/13/2017

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan Dawson

    Lame

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ken Hamner

    I didn't agree with all of the criticisms, but certainly many. Well worth reading. I didn't agree with all of the criticisms, but certainly many. Well worth reading.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claus Mossbeck

    Deeply disappointed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brendan O'connell

    Good review of the history of business thought. Interesting context regarding how the people at Harvard influenced it too.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    I went into this book cynically, critical of those who would want the premier business school of the world to be more than a business school. And the weird short chapters format didn't help the flow one bit. But I kept coming back to this sentence: The promise of HBS, comfortably ensconced in the bosom of one of the country's greatest universities, was to remain free of undue corporate influence and to engage the fundamental problematic of their subject and of their time, which was how to ensure I went into this book cynically, critical of those who would want the premier business school of the world to be more than a business school. And the weird short chapters format didn't help the flow one bit. But I kept coming back to this sentence: The promise of HBS, comfortably ensconced in the bosom of one of the country's greatest universities, was to remain free of undue corporate influence and to engage the fundamental problematic of their subject and of their time, which was how to ensure that power actually be used to make the world a better place. The author convincingly makes his point that due to professors chasing lucrative consulting opportunities and the administration chasing rich donations, they lost their way. The oldest way is this: the love of money is the root of all evil. Lots of great funny lines are undercut by cheap shots and a bizarre overreaching premise that HBS caused the economic crisis because so many of their alums are in positions of powers. But I came to believe that calling Harvard to its highest calling was an important mission for the author to take. It will make you think more than most books will.

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