Three months is long enough to cultivate arrogance in HBS students

This week, Boston saw its first snowfall of the year. Although not unexpected, it seemed that before I knew it, green leaves had changed into autumn colors and are now ready to fall. Campus is feeling very melancholy.


It’s not only the weather that has changed. After three months at HBS, students’ behavior is also turning  “HBSish”.


It was Marketing class. The protagonist of the case was making a decision on pricing of the company’s new product, and we were discussing the economic value of the product and pricing strategy. When we came to a close, a student raised his hand and said,

“We shouldn’t go for this price! Just imagine, who understand the complicated economic value of this product? We are HBS students. That’s nothing to us. But think about normal people. How can they reach the same conclusion as us??


It was Financial Reporting and Control (FRC) class on the same day. The company was torn between two accounting options: one showing the financial statements in good light – making the company look profitable – nice, but in this case, misleading. The other required the reporting of a loss but having no accounting basis.  As the company was reporting a loss for the second consecutive year, it was under considerable pressure from its stockholders for a turnaround. A student said firmly,

“There is no room for argument! We shouldn’t go for the misleading accounting. Remember, we are HBS students. We are the people who set the standard in the business world. Our role is not to reward shareholders, but to make a difference in the world.”


Arguments such as these were not heard three months ago. HBS education is apparently changing the views and attitudes of students. I don’t necessarily view these changes negatively. Such arrogance is sometimes necessary to direct our discussions in the right direction. However, we shouldn’t be overly arrogant. We know that not a small number of HBS alumni have made critical mistakes in their careers due to over-arrogance and hubris.

I can’t help but wonder – after spending two years here, will we be able to maintain good balance?


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