12 November 2010

Reading Notes: Ahead of the Curve

My notes on Ahead of the Curve by Philip Delves Broughton. I read this as light reading for my PhD work, but think it would be very interesting for a much wider audience.

This book was a tremendous pleasure to read. I had not anticipated how engaging Philip Delves Broughton's tale of life as a Harvard MBA student would be. Broughton, former Paris bureau chief for the London Daily Telegraph who quit his job to attend Harvard Business School, is a gifted writer with a thoughtful and entertaining story to tell.

What makes this an interesting memoir is the fact that Broughton traces the arc of his feelings about attending an MBA program at all. His ambivalence about the program and his participation in it never fully dissipates. Broughton is troubled by his own interest in the MBA program and distrubed by the lack of self-reflection he finds in many fellow students. He describes himself as a capitalist but is not prepared to stop being critical of the extreme ideology that the MBA program and especially the financial world seem to encourage with regards to importance of money-making. He takes particular offense to any suggestion that business is the most important institution in society and wonders frequently why social and political issues aren't given more attention throughout the program and by his fellow students.

Ultimately, and really not surprisingly, Broughton finds his own path and career aided by but not determined by his MBA experience. His original goal was to be able to live happily with his wife and two sons as well as be able to work independently. In other words, he wanted to be his own boss and still have a pesonal life.

For me, this book is interesting on many levels. Academically, I find it a rich resource for information about the Harvard MBA program as well as the influence of business schools on society. Personally, it's an inspirational story about how a person maintains their individuality in a situation where conformity is expected. One of the most valuable lessons here is that your resumé doesn't determine who you are, either professionally or personally. The thing that really matters is having the courage of your convictions and the willingness to go where they take you, no matter what anyone else thinks is “right.”


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