How Much Information About Brazil Can You Get From Reading Harvard Business Review Brasil?

A while back — maybe a year ago — I asked myself: “Should I add the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW BRASIL to the Latin American bureau of the NMM multimedia open-source Bloomberg box?”

This was my answer at the time.

I should check back in and see if this remains true.

This was their pitch to the Tupi reader:

Entre as muitas ferramentas colocadas à disposição de homens e mulheres que tomam decisões e formam opinião em todo o mundo, a Harvard Business Review ocupa posição singular. De suas páginas emanam as idéias que transformam, para melhor, a gestão empresarial. Com mais de 80 anos de história, a publicação mantém-se ágil e moderna. Traz a cada mês os avanços do pensamento administrativo, as melhores práticas, estudos de caso e perfis de liderança, escritos por autores novos ou consagrados. Traz, enfim, as idéias e os conceitos que se transformarão em novas e vitoriosas ferramentas de gestão.

Among the many tools at the disposition of the men and women who make decisions and form public opinion throughout the world, the Harvard Business Review occupies a unique position. From its pages emanate the ideas that transform, for the better [odd that the writer feels the need to qualify the verb “transform” here, to rule out transformations for the worse –Ed.], the field of business management.

With 80 years of history behind it, the publication is as agile and up to date as ever. Every month, it brings you the latest advances in administrative thinking, management best practices, case studies and leadership profiles, written by new and established authors. It brings you, in short, ideas and concepts that will become new and victorious management techniques.

I picked it up at the newstand the other day for R$38,00 — about US$17.65 at today’s offer price, or about 11% of the minimum monthly salary here — and was amazed to find that it contained no articles by Brazilian authors, no citations of Brazilian researchers in the theory and practice of public and private administration that I could see, and not a single Brazilian business case.

Just translations of the content of the English-language edition, apparently.

So the answer was an emphatic no: Besides being outrageously pay-to-play — unless you subscribe to a public library and can get it through a news database service — the publication has no relevance at all to local business conditions.

Unlike, say, Knowledge@Wharton, which actually reports on and interviews Brazilian business leaders and local issues, in local terms. And publishes them in both Portuguese and English. Which is nice if you do not speak Portuguese yet — it’s easy to learn, and thinking of it as a very odd way of speaking Spanish will get you fairly far — but would like some realistic information of what it might be like to do business down here.

Microsoft and Wal-Mart, the two business cases cited by what seems like 90% of HBR articles, are in deep reputational shit in this part of the world, for example.

I have never seen an HBR article dealing with the specific risk profile of operating in foreign countries. It does not believe in the comparative method or the conflict of law literature that studies how to cope with regulatory incompatibilities.

It has bet the farm on the notion that the New American Century will level bulldoze those differences to the ground and “converge the world up” to best practices under American law and regulation — or the lack thereof — as defined by the geniuses at the HBR.

Given the developments I see down here, and back home as well, that is starting to look like a pretty foolish bet to have left totally unhedged.

Not that I buy the HBR a lot.

That freaking thing is EXPENSIVE.

But while I am humbled every day by the depths of my ignorance of the local business climate, I can assert one thing with absolute confidence: Harvard Business Review is not going to help me dispel that ignorance.

NMM Brasil Operational Prime Directive:

Remind yourself repeatedly, “We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

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