Wednesday, 20 October 2010

HBS: Harvard Business School or Half-Baked Silliness?

For a reputable institution that has as its motto "We educate leaders who make a difference in the world", Harvard Business School doesn't half spout some nonsense!

Let's first allow Harvard Business School to talk for itself:
For more than a century, our faculty have drawn on their passion for teaching, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and the insights gained from their research to educate generations of leaders who have shaped the practice of business in every industry and in every country around the world
Now let's go on to look at the content of HBR's The Daily Stat: ("Facts and figures to stimulate thought - and action") - a daily e-mail distributed to a serious number of subscribers in search of business insight and wisdom:
Break Out of a Slump By Visualizing Success

How do you get out of a slump at work? Atlanta Braves ace pitcher John Smoltz had won just 2 games and lost 11 in the middle of the 1991 baseball season, but after seeking help from a psychologist, he went 12-2 the rest of the season, according to the Wall Street Journal. The problem: He had been over-analyzing every bad pitch. The solution: He watched a video of his best pitches, then recalled those images when he got to the mound, mentally evoking the feeling of throwing well.
The article, which admittedly originated in that other lightweight business periodical, the Wall Street Journal,(read it here if you can wade your way through the transatlantic terminology) then goes on to demonstrate that merely by visualising yourself performing well in the future, all will be well.

All you need to do is follow the simple advice of the author to "Stop overworking and allow yourself to relax" and before you know it, sales will have doubled, new clients will be landed, and confidence will be restored.

I know that we all want a quick route to success, but honestly, to sign up to some of this mumbo-jumbo outside of the sports field (where it undoubtedly can have its benefits) is tantamount to embracing new-age nonsense.  

You'd expect more from an academic institution that prides itself on producing some of the most influential characters in American business, wouldn't you?


  1. In my experience there is danger in some of the shortened versions of more helpful and well researched articles. If I have time I will go off and look behind the headings. I am a great admirer of Tim Gallwey's 'Inner Game' application of learning in personal performance and I wonder if what you highlight here is related to that? The Inner Game works for me.
    But there is maybe another, more worrying, lesson here in that there is a lot of 'quick fix' advice around when a 'slow, working it through thoughtfully' approach is more often than not what is needed!

  2. Jackie: Thanks for the comment.

    I think that we're saying the same thing. Performance, whether as a baseball player, a senior manager or a lowly HR professional is acquired by hard work and personal application. I believe that there's a lot that can be gained from looking at how excellent people excel, and I suspect that almost all of them will confirm that what might look effortless is actually the result of many years of application and persistence.

    Personally I'd like to "just relax" a few more pounds into my bank account, but I also know that it won't happen like that!