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Ahead of the Curve

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,538 ratings  ·  187 reviews

Two years in the cauldron of capitalism-"horrifying and very funny" (The Wall Street Journal)

In this candid and entertaining insider's look at the most influential school in global business, Philip Delves Broughton draws on his crack reporting skills to describe his madcap years at Harvard Business School. Ahead of the Curve recounts the most edifying and surprising lesso

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 31st 2008 by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,709)
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Stuart Nachbar
I have read four “insider” accounts of life at top business schools, three written by Harvard MBAs, the fourth by a Stanford graduate. I read two of these: Peter Cohen’s The Gospel According to Harvard Business School and Peter Robinson’s Snapshots from Hell about the Stanford experience prior to going to business school. I read the third: Robert Reid’s Year One: An Intimate Look Inside Harvard Business School five years after I finished my MBA. Now I’ve read Philip Delves Broughton’s Ahead of t ...more
A nice little memoir of the author's time spent studying for a Harvard MBA before the recent financial crash.

The author's experiences are for me summed up by two anecdotes in particular. The teaching of leveraging up a company with debt not as a strategy that can be pursued in certain circumstances but as a universally right answer and appropriate course of action; and the course taken jointly with the Kennedy School taught by Michael Porter when the MBA approach of being profit focused runs up
If I didn't work at HBS I wouldn't have touched this book with a 10 foot pole. But I do work at HBS and I know many of the players mentioned in this book and I was there for the stir this book created when it was released. Needless to say the institution was less than thrilled. However, I found the narrator, whose writing a memoir of his experience as a HBS student, very credible and honest. He's willing to admit his own flaws and his own struggles as much as he is willing to expose the perceive ...more
Overall, I think this book is a good description of one person's experience at HBS. Like all memoirs, this is a tale of one person's experience, formed by his own expectations, personality, and mindset. HBS, like everything else in life, if what you make of it.

I don't agree with many of the author's opinions - I had a great time at HBS despite entering with the lowest of expectations and serious dread of spending 2 years surrounded by arrogant a**holes, and I enjoyed the digression back to junio
Some good quotes to summarize why I like this book:

Hank Paulson:

“Professional happiness would come from being very good at something difficult.”

“The victors are those who made change their friend. (1) Resist the temptation to be a short-termist; (2) Be honest with yourself about what jobs are the right ones for you; (3) Keep your moral compass; (4) Maintain the proper balance between your professional career and your personal life. Do not be career-engineers, but simply learn and grow at every
(3.5) What it's like inside Harvard Business School (for someone who's not well prepared)

Just prior, I read The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT, which is a similar project (though Idea Factory is MechE masters student experience at MIT, this one's MBA student experience at Harvard). I think I liked the MIT one better, but both were good about sharing actual problems, interview questions, case studies, so it felt more concrete.

The first half of this one is pretty good, the narrative moves
I usually enjoy elitist pretentious books, so I was surprised when I didn't really enjoy this book. I went through a lot of "what does it all mean. What will I do in my life as a career?" during and after college. A lot of it. I guess this book helped me see that I'm no longer in that place. I had little sympathy for the British native who decided to get his MBA from Harvard and then struggled with not knowing what to do with his future. It seems like a first world problem.
Relevancy and timing
Harvard certainly is not how I imagined it to be after I read this book. I found that it gives me hope as much as disappointment. I feel hope because apparently I can be Harvard MBA students' boss if I can. It does not really matter which college you are truly from, so many Harvard MBAs are having hard time finding jobs at google, yet my high school friend who is currently in pursuing of her San Diego State University Business bacholar degree is able to get the job with google. Just because you ...more
Michael Scott
I very much enjoyed this ironic and witty account of the experience of graduating from the Harvard Business School (HBS). Mr.Delves finds the right balance between personal and objective (academic) experience, including details on the curriculum, the interviewing and learning experience, and the presentation of the top businessmen who lectured to the HBS studentship. On the negative side, I found the book too long, and the analysis of the HBS school very European-minded (read: focused on social ...more
John Hibbs
I read this book for the fourth time. As I have matured in my business knowledge, focused on my upcoming transition into the business world, determined what I want out of my life, and seen the disastrous effects of the financial crisis, the more this book resonates. I recommend this book for everyone.

Great book that will be read by business students for decades. Raises serious questions about the role of business schools, capitalism and business leaders in society. Very surprising how insecure m
Ryan Mac
This was an excellent account of two years at the Harvard School of Business written by a journalist from the UK. I have a business degree from undergrad and have no interest in going back for more but it was still very interesting. I enjoyed his observations about his fellow classmates, his thoughts about the non-US born students (and how they saw many things differently) and his internal struggles between taking a job that you probably won't like to support (but rarely see) your family and wor ...more
I enjoyed this book. I am seriously considering attending business school and decided to read this book to understand what exactly I was endeavoring to do.

The author does a good job with indicating the not-so-pleasant aspects of attending Harvard Business School (HBS) without coming across as bitter or whiny. At the same time, he does indicate the positive aspects of HBS. The book is written from the point of view of a 30+ year old, former journalist and this is apparent in his portrayal of the
Excellent Read.

Impressive read by an interesting guy who was born in Bangladesh and grew up in England.

After working as a journalist for many papers and in many cities the author decided he wanted to expand his opportunities and got into HBS. He effectively brings the reader on his journey through the business school and profiles a good deal of his classmates and professors in a way that lets you relate quite well. The book isn't too heavy on cramming business terms and functions down your thro
It is one of the least appealing features of company accounts, and perhaps their greatest flaw, that humans appear only as costs on income statements, never as assets on a balance sheet.

The idea is not to find certainty but to deal more comfortably with uncertainty

Margie Yang - When doing business in as lawless a place as China, it was more important that ever to have a set of values to anchor you. But any business person operating in China over the past thirty years who told you he hadn’t done
Thoroughly enjoyed this one, but then it resonates with so many areas of my life how could I not? Prior to 2002 I was seriously considering leaving my journalism career to get an MBA, and my first choice of schools? Harvard. In 2002 I discovered I was pregnant with twins, so I put the MBA idea away and instead, and purely by coincidence, after giving birth, took a part time job at Harvard Business School Publishing where I worked until 2006. I know this school well, know many of the 'players' an ...more
Good descriptions of the reasons why people look to go to Business school. The book was written from somewhat of an outsider's perspective, as the author did not consider himself the average HBS student. There is a lot of emphasis placed on the pressure to conform to Investment banking and Consulting careers, and the author shares his understanding of private equity, consulting and venture capital.

I also was impressed on the running commentary on the sacrifices that one is required to make to b
I came across this book rather half-hazardley and unexpectedly at waterstones in Newcastle, I was doing my usual waterstones routine off scanning the business section when I came across "what they teach you at harvard business school?" and this instantly grabbed my attention, as I myself as always been an advocate business fan and am planning to go onto the business sector myself In the near future. Anyway I have now for good while been fascinate by "harvard business" the name, the ambiguity sur ...more
Sep 14, 2013 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in going to business school.
I picked up this book to learn about someone's experience at business school. I can't lie, even though I have no interest in going there, I picked this book partially because it’s about the Harvard Business School (HBS). There were high and lows for this book. The great part is that the author isn't as overtly biased as I expected and not in the way that I expected. What I mean by that is that he has his issues with HBS and isn't afraid to mention them. He goes into life in his Section and the f ...more
The beginning of the book started fairly well, at least enough to pique my interest enough to purchase the book. PDB does a good job of chronicling his classes and experiences at HBS, but I thought it was a little too cursory. There were many characters introduced, but not a lot of depth to any one of them. This book read more like a series of anecdotes than something with an overall storyline.

Still, there were a couple of things about this book that I liked. PDB was an atypical student, already
pretty good memoir of the author's time at Harvard Business School. He was a few years older (early 30's) than most of his classmates and had spent his time since college as a journalist rather than doing investment banking, consulting, etc. as many of them had, so a lot of the book is about his feeling out of the group and questioning whether he has what it takes to succeed in the ways prized by the business school.

Another sub-plot is his questioning whether he even wants to do so -- he is marr
Belal Khan
Intriguing story of a journalist's transition and journey through Harvard business school.

I went through this book twice, first when I was in college and again recently several years later. I got a lot more insights from the author's memoir the second time around. This is a must-read for anyone considering business school (not just HBS).

Basic notion of the book: HBS is a school not to learn entrepreneurship, but to to understand the language of business. HBS has a great brand and adds credibili
Since I'm interested in business, I thought Ahead of the Curve would be a good read, and I was not disappointed. This is the tale of one man's experience earning an MBA from Harvard Business School. The author comes from a background that's different than most of the other students in his class (i.e., he's a family man and former bureau chief of the London Daily Telegraph). This is a book filled with insightful reflections, great writing (it helps to come from a journalist background), and lots ...more
Oct 21, 2008 Alana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone considering business school.

As a person considering business school, this was an obvious read for me. A timely insider account is worth quite a lot -- and given the current economic crisis, people definitely want to examine the worth of a Harvard MBA and its role on Wall Street.

Philip Delves Broughton wrote Ahead of the Curve to chronicle his two years at Harvard Business School. He didn't come from a finance background -- in fact, he was Bureau Chief for The Daily Telegraph in Paris -- and he insists that he didn't go to
This was a great book to give you a good overall perspective on Harvard Business School. One disclaimer I have to say though is that the author went to HBS in 2006 coming in as a former journalist from London at the age of 33 with a pregnant wife and 1 kid already so he has a much different persona than the typical 27 year old single former investment banker coming into HBS.
He does a good job in walking you through his 2 years at HBS and it was truly an eye opener for everyone out there who may
Emilia P
First and foremost, the worst offense of business school and its offspring, to me, is their relentless, unapologetic abuse of the English language. You cannot make yourself more important by using big words incorrectly, and you do not have a sense of higher purpose just because you say you have one in 7 different poorly-put-together-ways. It makes me want to stab myself in the eye.

Which is the main reason why I liked this book. PDB is a journalist by previous career, and writes like one. With a
Pada awalnya, saya mengira buku ini akan sharing tips-tips praktis mengenai bisnis yang diperoleh sang penulis setelah menyelesaikan studi MBA-nya di Harvard Business School (selanjutnya ditulis “HBS”). Ternyata, isi buku ini adalah berbagai macam pengalaman dan kesan yang diperoleh si penulis selama 2 tahun di HBS. Buku ini merupakan semacam liputan, reportase, inside peek mengenai dunia yang ada di dalam HBS. Tidak mengherankan, karena penulis buku ini sebelumnya adalah seorang jurnalis yang s ...more
Eveline Chao
This wasn't as juicy/entertaining as I thought it was going to be. Nonetheless, it's definitely useful for anyone undecided about whether to go to business school.

There are a lot of things I take for granted about any educational institution in America, like getting-to-know-each-other games and binge drinking, that the author found really strange. Partially it's because he's a lot older than most of his classmates (apparently the average age at HBS is 27 or 28) but ultimately I viewed this as a
Business School is on my mind with my 10 year reunion on the horizon (hard to believe). This book is a student's description of his time at Harvard Business School, back in the good old days of 2004-2006 before the business world (and the financial world in particular) got turned upside down. I identified with Broughton on many levels, not least because he was an Englishman immersed in the strange business school experience, much as I was when I moved to the States to study for my MBA. Many of t ...more
I loved Broughton's first-hand account of his experience at Harvard Business School. It was real and raw and I appreciated that he shared his experience of the chasm he felt between success and happiness and the emphasis that is so often placed on monetary gain as the ultimate grade of success. I think this excerpt from the book sums up the in-depth thesis of this experience:

"How can I succeed financially without losing my soul? How can I work at a company without becoming a corporate stiff? Rai
3.5 actually, mostly because reading this tale of a former journalist at Harvard Business School was so soothing for me as an Arts & Letters type about to take a similar plunge (not Harvard, but a top-20ish b-school).

Here are ways in which I could connect to the author:

1) Seeing the MBA not so much as a path to riches, but as a way to "understand the world better", and also perhaps some financial stability for one's family.

2) Being somewhat quantitatively challenged, and just scared of math
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I grew up in England, graduated from Oxford University and was a journalist for ten years for The Daily Telegraph and The Times of London. I was The Telegraph's bureau chief in New York and Paris before going to Harvard Business School in 2004 to obtain my MBA. I now live in Connecticut with my wife and two sons."
More about Philip Delves Broughton...
What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism The Art of the Sale Life's a Pitch: What the World's Best Sales People Can Teach Us All Management Matters: From the Humdrum to the Big Decisions The Financial Times Guide to Management: The Art and Science of Being an Effective Manager

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