Thursday, April 7, 2011

Harvard Biz Review: humanists have "intellectual wattage" firms need

No less than the Harvard Business Review is on the 'hire humanists' bandwagon. A snippet:

How many people in your organization are innovative thinkers who can help with your thorniest strategy problems? How many have a keen understanding of customer needs? How many understand what it takes to assure that employees are engaged at work?

If the answer is "not many," welcome to the club. Business leaders around the world have told me that they despair of finding people who can help them solve wicked problems — or even get their heads around them. It's not that firms don't have smart people working with them. There are plenty of MBAs and even Ph.Ds in economics, chemistry, or computer science, in the corporate ranks. Intellectual wattage is not lacking. It's the right intellectual wattage that's hard to find. They simply don't have enough people with the right backgrounds.
This is because our educational systems focus on teaching science and business students to control, predict, verify, guarantee, and test data. It doesn't teach how to navigate "what if" questions or unknown futures. 
Humanists, then, have the "intellectual wattage" needed to deal with complexity, pose hypotheticals, and communicate effectively.

Shout it from the rooftops, folks.


  1. This is why I have discussed with my students for many years now the advantages of at least minoring in philosophy. As a former business person (35 years) I tell my students that I can train people to be accountants, marketing/sales people, etc. in my organization, but I do not have the time to teach them how to be critical thinkers. If they apply for a job with only a business related degree there is nothing to set them apart from the thousands of others who are also applying.

    We need to face the fact that most people are not going to become professional philosophers. We need to start to emphasize the practical importance of majoring/minoring in philosophy in order to create relevance for our subject.

  2. To be honest, I'm a bit umoved. I read this when it came out and my thought was: when these businesses actually start using these claims to make actual hiring decisions, let me know. Until then: it's hot air and will have no effect on how students, parents or administrators think or behave.


    See this link for philosophy major earnings


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