Wednesday, May 29, 2013

So What CAN You Do With a History Major?--Part 44

More and more leaders in the business world are seeing the value of the humanities.  Check out Tony Golsby's Smith's recent post,"Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities," at the blog of the Harvard Business Review.  He identifies several things that job applicants trained in the humanities might be able to offer a company:

1.  A sensitivity to complexity and ambiguity: "Too many companies lack the scope and understanding to stop problems before they start, because their people are too focused on immediate tasks, or buried under so much data that they can't see warning signs."

2.  Innovation: "Humanists are trained to be creative and are uniquely adapted to leading creative teams."  (See Steve Jobs, founder of Apple).

3.  Communication and presentation: "Liberal arts graduates are well-trained in writing and presenting, making them natural fits for marketing, training, and research...And an understanding of history is indispensable if you want to understand the broader competitive arena and global markets"

4.  Customer and employee satisfaction: "The ability to 'get under the skin' of customers and employees to discover their real needs and concerns demands something other than surveys, which yield superficial information. Instead, you need keen powers of observation and psychology — the stuff of poets and novelists."  I might add historical empathy to mix here.

Golsby-Smith concludes:

What else? A person who has studied a foreign language or literature can run your overseas offices, or help with your global strategy by providing local insight or business analysis. Philosophers can help you with ethics. Historians can help you understand the past while giving you a picture of the future. (Just ask P&G's A.G. Lafley, who once planned to be a professor in medieval and Renaissance history.)

If you want another good reason to hire from the humanities, consider this: consulting firms like McKinsey and Bain like to hire them for all the reasons I've described above. You can hire liberal arts graduates yourself, or you can pay through the nose for a big consulting firms to hire them to do the thinking for you.