Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities

Tony Golsby-Smith writes in a Harvard Business Review blog post, "Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities," that
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.
He suggests that:
People trained in the humanities who study Shakespeare's poetry, or Cezanne's paintings, say, have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can't be analyzed in conventional ways.
he says humanities people bring can help with the following workplace challenges: complexity and ambiguity, innovation, communication and presentation, and customer and employee satisfaction.

Part of the challenge of creativity and innovation in organizations is that people say that creativity and innovation matter, but then get stuck with how to practically engage current employees in developing, unleashing and applying their imagination, creativity and ideas for innovation. We've done the convincing that creativity and innovation are important; the gap we need to close is how to put such beliefs into practice. This certainly can include hiring people with broader, creativity, humanities-based education. AND it can include developing creative thinking skills in individuals, assessing the climate for creativity and innovation in organizations, helping people understand what creative products and outcomes look like (and how to get there), and applying individual and group processes for creative thinking and problem solving. Business says its wants this. Educators are ready to run with this. Now we need to make space in both arenas for people to (re)discover and constantly apply this part of themselves.

What do you think about the role of humanities-trained people in the workplace? How else can we tap into humanities-based skills, talents and knowledge?

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