A massively detailed history of Harvard Business School since its founding in 1908 and a searing critique of the school’s impact on American capitalism.
Upon beginning the “thirty-month odyssey” of researching his latest book, New York Observer contributing editor McDonald (The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, 2014, etc.) realized that it constituted the third in a trilogy of sorts, following The Firm and, before that, Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase (2009). In The Firm, the author included a section about the connections between the legendary consulting firm and the Harvard MBA program, a section titled “McHarvard.” McDonald’s deep research into the 100-plus years of HBS—the faculty members, the courses offered, many of the students—is undoubtedly impressive. However, the decade-by-decade sections of the history often drag, featuring facts and anecdotes most likely to interest only faculty and students. When McDonald broadens his focus to examine the impact of HBS outside the campus, the book becomes more relevant to general readers. The author concludes that while HBS has always possessed the ability to improve business practices in the United States and around the globe, most faculty members have failed to imbue most of their MBA students with the values needed to make true improvements or innovations a reality. McDonald hoped to share his impressions with HBS administrators and active faculty, but he reports that he received rejections from nearly everyone he approached. Throughout his critique, the author emphasizes the unwillingness within the MBA program to delve into the responsible roles of businesses other than earning as much money as possible. As McDonald rightly notes, deep investigations into the economic inequality spawned by the current capitalist system are egregiously missing from the Harvard MBA curriculum.
A tome that alternates between a useful exposé and a slog—best for HBS alumni and business historians.