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Ahead of the Curve

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,161 Ratings  ·  228 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 less

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 31st 2008 by Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Sep 26, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I.v. Deepak
Mar 16, 2016 I.v. Deepak rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I never wanted to abuse on Goodreads or at-least that's what I decided when I joined Goodreads. But, what the f*king bullSh*t book is this! Everything is so descriptive and no insights what so ever. Glad I realized after reading just 30 pages and then turned some random pages like 100, 130, 180, etc to see if it fits the pattern or not. Very Very annoyed by the book. Strongly recommend anyone with common sense, NOT TO READ the book.
Jul 04, 2009 Aichi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 19, 2012 Kristiana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
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
Jul 18, 2014 Sophia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly enjoyed the first half of the book. It reminded me greatly of my own time at a business school. I was pondering when the author would stop descriptions and tell us already what he really thought of the experience. The second half was full of moralising yet still without a distinct feeling of authors actual position on the matters discussed.
It wasn't until the last pages, that I grew disappointed with ugly double standards.
Worth the read, nonetheless.
Lucas Nguyen
Sep 20, 2014 Lucas Nguyen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: entrepreneur
Cốt lõi của quyển sách là tác giả không hề thích môi trường học tập ở Havard sau 2 năm ông học tập ở đây. MBA không chỉ là một con đường bạn buộc phải đi nếu như muốn học cách kinh doanh (ngay cả Havard danh tiếng vẫn không chắc chắn sự thành công cho bạn, tất cả vẫn phải phụ thuộc vào việc bạn có đủ đam mê và kiên nhẫn không). Thực tế người kinh doanh giỏi thường không học lý thuyết suông, họ phải kinh doanh thực sự thì mới rút ra bài học thành công cho mình.

Bên cạnh đó tác giả cũng phê bình lố
May 11, 2011 Robyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Aug 13, 2012 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(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
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
Jul 25, 2009 Michael Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
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
Jul 02, 2011 John Hibbs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2011 Ryan Mac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Mar 26, 2016 Zach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you ever wanted to go to Harvard but not put in the work, this is a vicarious look at like at HBS (as it’s called) as author Philip strives to get his MBA. Along the way, there are many interesting anecdotes which makes this a worthwhile read.

It might be a little telling, but what I enjoyed the most was the slapdown of some least favorite aspects of what could be any college or recruitment experience. There’s the exposure of the word passion – the best employees have a passion for success. Bu
Jan 18, 2016 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely different type business book, but also very engrossing. It is the autobiographical story of
thirty-something British journalist (the Guardian), former Head of the Paris Bureau. He had an early mid-life crisis, quit and went to HBS. The book is set in 2006, so the events occur at the height of the
Iraq War and just before the subprime mortgage market crash of 2008/(commonly referred to in Business books and news as the Great Recession).

Full disclosure - I read this book primarily hoping
Rolling Ideas
Apr 15, 2016 Rolling Ideas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
is a very intriguing novel. I read the novel because I'm enticed by HBS, the golden hat. The relentless reflection, in the book, poses deep question on the meaning of 175K debt, or at least if ROE(return on equity) is worth it. The message is - If you goal of life is to make money and then inevitably sacrifice your private life, as family and children, then HBS is the magic key. Conversely, if you goal is to do what you love, and then money is just a derivative of your passion. The reality is t ...more
May 11, 2015 Vismay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As a prospective B-school student, eager to devour the course content of the Harvard Business School, this book comes as a boon. Because it does just that, giving a blow-by-blow account of the curricula of this prestigious institute. But if somebody were to ask me to write such a book, I would readily decline. If you wish to explore Europe, go out and do just that, why study the itinerary under a microscope? That too a one, whose lens are smudgy.

The author is too judgmental and pessimistic for m
Brad Leu
Jan 28, 2016 Brad Leu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have an MBA from a slightly less august school (Iowa State University), and I thought that this was a very interesting read. We used Harvard business cases in our materials and talked about Harvard every now and then, so it was interesting to see what the hype is about.
Really most of it does seem to be just that: hype. Sure, our professors were not world famous and we didn't have major league CEOs flying in from all over to speak to us, but I found Broughton's description of the MBA experienc
Mar 12, 2016 Geoff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book basically summarizes the author's experience with his admission and studies at Harvard Business School.

If you are an alumni of the school or prospective student you should love this book. If you are an MBA student or graduate you another program you may find it interesting. For the rest of us it is a good read and has several entertaining stories. However, the author admits he did not participate in most of the partying or debauchery that some of the other students did (particularly t
Nov 05, 2013 Joux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely witty, it is obvious the author has a great penchant for autobiographical and earnest writing. He also has the same personality type as me so I could resonate with his character's interaction. The book has a good balance of the technical business terms, personal account and feedback of the HBS MBA system. A very light, entertaining and stimulating read.
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
Khang Nguyen
In contrast to "What they don't teach you at school", a book I have read a couple of chapters, this one is purely a personal retrospect of the author on the two years of his life. Having his background in journalism, the author struggled in the environment filled with economists, financiers, investors and consultants. During that journey, an insightful (yet pretty personal) picture of HBS was depicted with its perks and dark sides. The true role of business and the importance of education were r ...more
Aug 09, 2014 Vilmantas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is like a gateway to land of HBS. You can get to know teaching, learning format, what subjects are mandatory etc. I've just got so much from this text - it's great.
Ravi Warrier
For those who want to do an MBA some time in their lives, or those who have done a couple of years back - must read this book.
Philip has managed, not only, the essence of an Harvard MBA and the life of a student for two years there, but also has brushed upon some of the key topics that every professional/business-person must know.
It was quite a refresher course for me to read about things I learnt less than a year ago and it was quite entertaining to know that all MBAs are more or less the sam
Snehann Kapnadak
Honest, informative, and heart-felt. Those words kept going through my head as I read this book.

He does a great job of telling his story--everything from leaving his well-paying and secure job to being one of the few people in his class to not have a summer internship. I think what really makes this book a great read is that Philip constantly brings up the self-doubt he has throughout the entire book. He's not afraid to mention how bad he feels that everyone else seems like they know what they'r
Oct 19, 2015 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A worthwhile read if you're exploring the path of a Harvard MBA, or even law school. I felt the author tried to temper his biases, and the reflective conclusion emphasized the value achieved and recognized in hindsight. The great conflicts come from the struggle against FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), which affects many professional students' decision making, and heading toward a career path that often brings wealth at the expense of family and time.

The FOMO aspects resonated with my experiences in
David Willem
This could have been a contender. Any pre-the-credit-crunch critique of the world's premier business school from the inside and from any non-capitalist perspective would now be a classic. But Delves-Broughton, like the rest of us, isn't sure enough of his ground to mount a serious attack on the preening behemoth that is Harvard Business School. When you boil it down, it's just a student diary by a successful journalist (Paris correspondent of the Daily Telegraph) who decided to go to Harvard to ...more
Apr 12, 2009 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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."
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“It felt like one of those movies where a bunch of misfits, each gifted in his own way - one in explosives, another in disguise, another in forgery or karate- are thrown together to achieve a dangerous mission.” 0 likes
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