What use is it in the real world? they’d inquire, implying I’d never make a go of it unless I joined the MBA crowd.
Fifteen years out of university, with experience as an entrepreneur, as an employee in small business, and in a large corporation, I can pretty much kick any MBA’s ass (no offense)
(photo credit: Zevotron)
While we may not have mastered the corporate lexicon (learnings.preferred outcomes.KPI’s) and PowerPoint is usually our enemy, here are skills any history major worth her degree brings to the table:
- The ability to read – lots – fast, and extract the critical information that will make a difference to the business.
- Predicting trends – both by reading broadly (see above) and by good analysis of stats.
- Asking smart questions, and connecting the dots. Studying history isn’t really about memorizing dates and locations and events. It’s about asking questions: What is the meaning of this event? How does X event connect to not just the obvious Y but even to Z? Or: If we make X change in our business, it will affect Y like this, and will likely affect Z this way – perhaps as an unintended consequence.
- Challenging convention and making new discoveries as a result. Revisionist history is chiefly concerned with challenging the assumptions, interpretation and questions asked of historical events, leading to new, often radically new, understandings of the event. Innovation, anyone?
- Seeing beneath the surface, and making thoughtful, grounded decisions. Our current economic woes reveal how easy it is for businesses to make short-sighted decisions, sometimes without knowing all the facts. History majors know that what seems evident may in fact be obscuring other information that, when considered, changes the whole story. History majors, while perfectly capable (admittedly, not universally) of being decisive, are not prone to shallow decision making processes. They know how to weigh opinions, to note what is not said as well as what is said, to consider the context and make decisions based on thorough research.
AND. If all that isn’t enough, how ’bout this: We’re careful to give credit wherever credit is due. Wouldn’t that make a history major a refreshing colleague?
So there you have it: my case for liberal arts majors (with a special nod to history) as essential to good business.
Readers: Have at ‘er! Are you a liberal arts major? Do you think it served you well? Why do you think liberal arts majors seem to get short shrift?