Tuesday, 15 February 2011


In Roman mythology, Veritas, meaning truth, was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue. It was believed that she hid in the bottom of a holy well because she was so elusive. Her image is shown as a young virgin dressed in white.

Thank you Wikipedia for the above... what would we do without you? Doomed. Also happens to be the Harvard University motto.

So, next stop: Boston. Long time, no see. Must have been a good 4 years since I was last here. City of contrasts, city of Ireland, city of Europe... Spent just under 48 hours in the city, primarily visiting a "potential" school, HBS. Also managed to spend some quality time with my good friend Rahul Parikh, and enjoy a delicious 14 February dinner prepared with much love by all his friends. We'll see when I swing by next. Hopefully soon.

Given that the primary purpose of my trip was to explore the school where many past, present and future world leaders are educated, I will share my impressions of what is considered by many as the top business school in the world and which is known across the globe due to its imperishable brand name. An interesting feeling invaded me as I crossed the Charles river for the first time on my way to the HBS campus from the Harvard Sq. "T" station... It was almost as if one was entering a bubble, a world of its own - isolated not only from the rest of Harvard University, but also from the rest of the city... and from the rest of the world. For when one steps foot on campus, one can tell the place is different. One realises there is a different mentality, a different attitude... a different approach. As the audience may be aware, HBS is not only renowned for its leading publishing unit, best-in-class academics and unique case-method approach to business education. It is also viewed as the cradle of modern global economic, political and business leadership.... but exactly why? When walking around campus, talking to current students and attending classes, one feels the place is different. Most importantly, people there feel they are different. HBS might not currently be the #1 school for business education but there is something about being called Harvard that seems to be more powerful than that. Who cares if were are #2, #3 or #5? Do you know how amazing it is to have Harvard on your resume for tge rest of your life? . . . Is it really? I was very interested to obtain a first hand read on students' motivation to attend the school. Drilling down on the thought process they had gone through to select HBS as their school of choice would certainly help me in my own decision process. Why HBS and not Booth? Why HBS and not Wharton? Why HBS? Why HBS? Everyone I talked to could only give me one honest answer... "It's Harvard, one can't say no to Harvard". And yet most people were aware of the shortfalls of the program, the rigidity of the curriculum and the limited "on the ground" experience of certain faculty members. Yet everyone I talked to was thrilled to be there, whether because the 2-year MBA was seen as the launchpad to a bigger and better career or simply because it provided a "break" after a hectic career start for some young professionals who had been on the verge of burning out at their previous jobs. I also managed to attend a few classes in the couple of days I was there (4 in total, to be precise. 3 first-year classes and 1 second-year class). I was totally impressed by the intellectual proficiency of some of the individuals I was sharing the classroom with. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder what my role would be in the not so distant future... How would I interact within that context? Would certainly be unique to eventually sit in that hemicycle. Smart, yes. Talented, yes. Motivated, yes. Passionate, yes. But what about all the unrealised potential? Is there any benefit in having a rigid graduate education where the curriculum is fixed and where all my peers will develop the same profile as me? Why should I sit in on a finance class covering the Miller-Modigliani Propositions? Why go through the motions of reviewing covered ground? USD100,000 for that? Really? Most students will argue that it's not about "what" you learn, but rather "how" you learn. Content vs. form. Students are not educated to have the answer to a particular problem, but rather to develop the skills set which will help them reach out to the right person or ask the right questions in a given situation. Thinking rather than doing... I just don't buy into that. Don't get me wrong, HBS is an outstanding place, but for some reason certain aspects seem outdated. The underlying motivation of providing a homogeneous "quality-controlled" development for the successive generations of MBAs is a concept I am not aligned with. What am I expecting out of an MBA education? For starters, much more than a USD100k stamp with the Harvard logo. Time will tell... Tick Tack.

For a closer look at HBS, its culture, its people and its overall role in today's business and political world, click on the link below. Cool CNBC video which should provide further insights.

A presto.