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Book review: What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School

What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark H McCormack (Profile Books, £9.99)

May 2017

Now this book seems to have been in the best-seller list for a very long time. It was first published in the UK in 1984 and to be truthful it is starting to show its age.
McCormack stresses early on that the best lesson you can learn from any business school is an awareness of what it can’t teach you. He is talking here about the ins and outs of everyday life here.
This is a book is all about ‘street smarts’, but in a world that is moving to AI and data analytics McCormack wants you to use your instincts, insights and perceptions. There is no mention of robots!
In fairness to Harvard, what they don’t teach is what they can’t teach you – how to read people and how to use that knowledge. It is here that the book really comes to life. We like the fact that from the off he says: “Most management philosophies don’t work.” He also believes it is always worth taking five hours to save five minutes, and is a great believer in separating your office life from your social life.
In a world that now lives online there is also a lot about phone calls and meetings. He says: “If you can get these two business activities under control everything else falls into place.” He obviously has someone sorting out his emails!
And when it comes to meetings he suggests it is vital you set a time limit (good idea). He also likes restaurant meetings as they are friendlier, less formal and, perhaps more importantly, more revealing.
The chapter on silence is an interessting one. It is vital you let other people talk – that might mean biting your tongue, but it will often provide you with key information you wouldn’t get by trying to lead the meeting.

PQ rating – 3/5
Despite the need for a bit of brush up this book has lots going for it. I enjoyed the read!

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