Valued Skills

Business Leaders Praise the Humanities

“Just think about the world today—about globalization, about the need to understand different cultures and perspectives, the ability to be intellectually curious… What we really need today are people who have broad perspectives… A liberal arts education is critical in providing people with broad perspectives and helping them to ultimately become effective leaders.”

Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express

“It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.”

Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and former CEO of Apple Inc.

Pursue a liberal arts education. For most people, it’s the best foundation for a successful career… The formula for businesses trying to compete in today’s economy is simple: hire employees with the mental agility, leadership and passion to navigate constant change—in other words, hire those who are liberally educated.”

A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble

Literature is unbelievably helpful, because no matter what business you are in, you are dealing with interpersonal relationships. It gives you an appreciation of what makes people tick.”

Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company

“If we really want to reinstate a true state of innovation in the United States, we have to find a new way to bring the humanities much more forward into our thinking….”

John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation, and Director of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

There is a need for creativity and innovation of a different type that might not simply come from math and [the] sciences….”

Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State

Senior executives need “a general understanding of how everything works… For larger companies and senior positions, an understanding of history, art, and how societies operate are assets.”

Michael Useem, Professor of Management, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Businesses want workers who have “the ability to think, the ability to write, the ability to understand the cultural or historical context of whatever business decision they’re making.”

Rachel Reiser, Assistant Dean of Boston University Questrom School of Business

I think maybe the best education, or the best foundation for business, is probably reading Shakespeare, rather than some MBA program out of some great business school. I think I’d rather have an English major than an economics major.”

Michael Eisner, former CEO of The Walt Disney Company

“I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers… Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”

Sidney Harman, Founder of Harman Industries

“It’s easier to hire people who can write—and teach them how to read financial statements—rather than hire accountants in hopes of teaching them to be strong writers.”

Liz Kirschner, former Head of Talent Acquisition of Morningstar, Inc.

Humanities majors “can often more accurately understand the human dynamics that drive stock market flows.”

Daniel Rasumussen, Forbes “30 Under 30,” holder of a B.A. in history and literature, and Founder of Verdad Fund Advisors

“I believe humanities majors make the best project managers, the best product managers, and, ultimately, the most visionary technology leaders.”

Vivek Wadhwa, Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University

“In my experience, a background and aptitude in linguistics or philosophy has always been a superb marker for a successful hire. I have found the conceptual and analytic skills honed by these disciplines to be better predictors of success than any particular technical skillset.”

Dan Rybeck, Systems Architect, Wells Fargo and Founder and Managing Director, ASI Associates