HBS students ought to stop taking themselves so seriously
With April comes the annual joke issue of the Harbus. We hope you enjoyed its comedic exterior and that it lured you deeper into the issue to read the more usual, serious content therein. Somewhere in there is a metaphor for the way teaching should work with the case method.
Editing the joke issue of the Harbus was a very self-reflective exercise and challenged us to ask a lot of meta questions about the way HBS is experience from near and afar. For example, what are the essential elements of the HBS experience that are worth parodying? What uncomfortable MBA anxieties can we best explore through comedy? Where will our peers draw the line for good comedic taste?
HBS as a concept is so ripe for parody. (If you don’t believe us, go to
www.hbsshow2017.eventbrite.com and buy your tickets to the can’t-miss HBS Show, a feature-length-musical send-up written by many contributors of this very issue, being performed in Burden Auditorium Monday 10 April to Thursday 13 April.) Part of the reason is that the Harvard Business School administration itself takes the experience so seriously. Bound cases arrive perfectly collated in locked mail boxes. A scribe sits in the back of the classroom transcribing students every word for judgement and grading later. Section norms are painstakingly developed. And in the lead-up to snow storms, faculty are encouraged to sleep over on-campus so as to not miss their classes.
We think it is right and good that HBS take itself this seriously. Much of our degrees’ value comes from the prestige it derives from the somber allure of the school itself. The professionalism of the administration ensures that an absolute minimum of time is wasted. A compelling case-method conversation pushes everyone to think several levels deeper about a subject and grow intellectually.
But while the HBS experience should be taken seriously, the same cannot be said about ourselves. We are young, naive, incomplete, and immature. We get emotional about in-class comments that many of us will not remember in a month’s time, and we agonize over the jobs we will occupy after school, even though we will likely only occupy it for a year or two at most. Most of us have not yet experienced major setbacks, but yet we dare to articulate what we wish to accomplish with our one wild and precious life.
We hope that you will read this issue and reflect on the fact that with distance and perspective, much of what we think and experience here at Harvard Business is absurd and hilarious and that we shouldn’t lose sight of that no matter how important and accomplished others believe we become.