Found in 6 comments on Hacker News
crdb · 2017-03-31 · Original thread
> readymade set of sacraments and oaths one can apply to any business to achieve magical effects

On the contrary, MBAs are designed not to be a "management formula" but teach by experience in two ways: first, exposure to thousands of real life case studies (often, in the better programs, with the CEO who lived it participating in the class discussion), and a class formed of carefully balanced profiles to have a mix of experiences contributing to the class discussion.

Domain experts will of course judge what they know: the accounting classes are weak, the investment classes are outdated, etc. but I'd argue there is no better way to speed-teach a generalist exposure, because the real world is complicated and management is about juggling inadequate resources and conflicting objectives for which there are often no rules. Whatever "rules" are taught (such as accounting standards, or using EBITDA instead of revenue for company valuation) are the product of generations of trial and error and tend to exist for a reason; it's good to question the rule and look up the reason, part of building a better mental model of how the world works.

Look at Enron: today, the black and white story is that they were fraudsters, but if you dig into the history of the company, first there were tons of genuinely interesting and moral people employed there because they believed in the vision and second there was a pattern of "the end justifies the means" from the true believers in management. So when you see a ton of smart people hired by true believers taking ethical shortcuts because "the end justifies the means"...

The generalist part is important. You might think you do not need to know about accounting or legal issues now, but as a manager they will come up. Just being aware of what can go wrong (reducing unknown unknowns) can go a long way in mitigating temptation. I think this is missed by many people who are on a certain career track: for example, I often hear that the CFA is better than an MBA if you want to stay in finance, and this may well be true (disclaimer: bailed out after failing level 2) but the CFA won't teach you, for example, how to deal with a toxic C-level hire, nor will you hear first hand a former infantry officer describe instances of creative leadership under intense pressure. Anecdotally, this kind of experience comes in a handy in private equity whilst being less useful in global macro trading.

Philip Delves Boughton's book [1] in particular captures this quite well.


dzink · 2013-11-10 · Original thread
Yes, I think I red it in "Ahead of the Curve" ( ) and the author backed it up with data from the most recent tech and financial bubbles. The exact quote escapes me.
ejames · 2011-04-16 · Original thread
There's basically three categories where this problem shows up: grade inflation, cheating, and discipline. Grade inflation is most relevant to colleges, discipline only matters for levels of schooling with mandatory attendance, and cheating cuts across all levels.

However, the same issue is in common: In theory, there are standards applied to students, and it is an important priority to distinguish between students who meet the standards and students who don't. In practice, the administration does not necessarily care about applying the standards rigorously.

I think the following two articles are a good introduction to grade inflation as a topic:

"Can Untenured Faculty Members Stop Grade Inflation?" - Chronicle of Higher Education,

"In the Basement of the Ivory Tower" - The Atlantic Monthly,

It can also be useful to read up on business schools, because a business major is not an "academic" subject; more than any other major, the students are looking explicitly for a credential that boosts their income, and don't care about the subject material. The book "Ahead of the Curve" ( is a well-written appraisal of the Harvard B-School and includes chapters specifically on both grade inflation and cheating.

Going through these publications and/or following the notes and recommended reading therein can lead to more involved reading on the topic. Articles in the Atlantic Monthly are always a good starting point.

The fundamental issue: If an institution of learning punishes students for cheating, or failing classes, or behaving badly, then somebody, somewhere must have both the authority to do so and the goal of exercising said authority. But often, nobody wants to be that person, or the authority is conflicted, or the goal is given less priority than the goal of making money/quota.

minouye · 2011-02-02 · Original thread
The author of this article wrote a interesting book chronicling his experiences at HBS. It's a quick read and helpful for anyone considering B-school (skip over the technical chapters and focus on the anecdotes). I don't agree completely with his assertions, but it's another useful datapoint to take into consideration.

davidw · 2009-03-26 · Original thread
This would be a good place to mention a book I enjoyed reading recently:

"Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School" (yes, it has my affiliate link)

It's written by a pleasantly cynical, yet curious Englishman. It's pretty interesting to hear about the whole experience, the mindset, and some of the people involved. A particularly relevant (for me) passage:

"Rubenstein looked like any other Wall Street elder statesman, in a blue pinstriped suit and owlish tortoiseshell glasses. But the moment he spoke, eh revealed a droll, self-deprecating wit. The difference between corporate leaders and those who start their own businesses, I had observed, was startling. The latter come across as so much smarter and independent-minded, so much less prone to platitudes, so much more comfortable in their own skins. There seems to be an anarchic streak in anyone who has taken a real risk in his life. And even when it has to burn its way through a pinstriped suit, it shows."

That sort of hints at one of the "problems" with teaching business - there's lots of useful stuff you can learn, but there is also some natural, innate talent there, that doesn't necessarily correspond to doing well at an MBA course. So perhaps it's best to get out there, get some experience, and then just do it.

ardit33 · 2009-02-15 · Original thread
HBS = Case Studies overload, the corporate type of cases....

1. It is really how for driven and greedy, (please don't neg me), people to channel their energy into money making, as that is the emphasis.

2. The brand power. It will unlock you doors just b/c of the name, especially in the corporate world. Think of it, nobody will get fired b/c they hired a Harvard grad, just as as nobody will get fired b/c they use java, or xml.

3. Connections. Lot of smart people, and some of them will be bound to be somewhat important one day, so they can help you out. the proverbial old-boys-club kinda of thing. This was true, especially during the wall street's financial bubble madness.

To get a inside look, check this out. It is a good read.

If you are looking into technology/mobile/internet companies, I am not sure I could recommend it. HBS doesn't quiet get tech. Since you are working with case studies, you by default are looking/studying the past, and not the future. For traditional businesses, yes. Fedex was started there (as a class project), so my favorite dessert place (Finales).

Disclaimer: I haven't gone to HBS, but I know people that have, and have been to few of their classes as an observer, and took some classes at Harvard Extension. (part of fas, not hbs), but who were taught by HBS professors..

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