As we approach midterms next week, I thought it might be a good idea to briefly comment on each of the courses we have the first semester. First, it’s worth mentioning that HBS designs their curriculum so that every student takes the exact same courses taught the same way their first a.k.a. “required curriculum” (RC) year. So, the Private Equity guru sits in Finance class next to the Marketing and Sales guy. This is unusual among b-schools. Most will test people into various levels of courses. There are a number of reasons for this, but I think it just serves to emphasize that HBS is far less about technical knowledge and more about imprinting rapid information filtering and clear defensible decision-making via the case method.
So, without further ado, here are the classes every RC takes:
- LEAD: Leadership and Organizational Behavior
- TOM: Technology and Operations Management
- FRC: Financial Reporting and Control (aka. Accounting)
- MKT: Marketing
- FIN1: Finance I
At some point I’ll have to go through and discuss each of the courses in some depth, but for now I’ll leave you with that ranking (with #1 being my favorite and #5 being my least favorite). One important point to note: I’ve found that my enjoyment of a course is directly related to how good the professor is. As interactive and self-guided as the HBS case experience is, a steady and experienced professor is an absolute necessity. My LEAD and TOM professors are phenomenal, and it shows through in the classes… the discussions are dynamic, thoughts move quickly, and new insights and experiences spring from my classmates without effort.
Some of the other courses… are less so spectacular. I had lunch with a Professor last week and he expressed his amazement at how strongly HBS encourages teaching (over research). This was in direct contrast to his experience at a few other leading business schools, and I can definitely agree with his observation. At the same time, even with the strong incentives HBS sets forth, there are still professors that need a bit more experience. Guiding a case method discussion really requires a lot of very difficult skills. When it works, it’s a marvelous experience. When it doesn’t, frustration abounds on all parts.
*[So far, FIN1 is the only class with actual books (which we’ve seldom used). All learning is via cases.]