Famous Last Words: Harvard's Tat Masters
In the second presidential debate in October in Nashville, Tenn., amid the financial collapse, Tom Brokaw asked the candidates who they might pick as secretary of the Treasury.
My choice for Treasury secretary: Robert S. Kaplan, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and a former vice chairman at Goldman Sachs.
It was Kaplan who oversaw Harvard's endowment. In the turbulent fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008, the fund earned 8.6 percent, taking Harvard's nest egg from $34.9 billion to $36.9 billion and outperforming 95 percent of the 165 large institutional funds measured by the Trust Universe Comparison Services. By comparison, Yale did a modest 4.5 percent.
Something Else That Harvard Does Right
Right after reading about Professor Kaplan's wizardry with Harvard's endowment, I received an offer to subscribe to The Daily Stat: Facts and figures to stimulate thought—and action from Harvard Business Publishing. Since Harvard was on my radar screen, I signed up.
Many B-to-B offers come to all of us on the Internet—free special reports, white papers, e-letters and e-zines—all with great promises. But when I click through, I usually am required to fill out a bunch of personal information. I am used to the Internet offering free stuff, and frankly, I do not give away personal data to strangers without first having a sampling of what is being offered. Tit for tat is the operative philosophy. Harvard cannily obliges, in more ways than one.
The Daily Stat from Harvard is a gas—a short dose of cogent, trivial, sometimes useless and sometimes useful facts and figures that you can drop around the watercooler, in meetings or at cocktail parties.
An example: One in five U.S. workers participates in happy hours, and here's what goes on:
- Bad-mouthing a co-worker or manager (16 percent)
- Sharing a secret about a co-worker (10 percent)
- Kissing a co-worker (8 percent)
- Drinking too much and acting unprofessionally (8 percent)
- Sharing a secret about the company (5 percent)
- Singing karaoke (4 percent)
So what's the point of this daily fix of odd facts? They are lead-ins to a relevant Harvard Business Publishing book, newsletter or white paper being offered for sale—in this case "Creating and Sustaining a Winning Culture," an issue of the Harvard Management Update newsletter in hardcopy or PDF for $4.50. If you like the issue you might subscribe.