Should Managers Study the Liberal Arts?

Last Updated Dec 17, 2007 1:09 PM EST

Should Managers Study the Liberal Arts?Here at BNET we have a whole blog dedicated to all things MBA-- all the hows and whys of going to business school. Today on his blog, Marginal Revolution, economist Tyler Cower talks about the ROI on a liberal arts education. What does studying the cultural products of man yield? Judgment, according to Cowen, and judgment is valuable. His theory:
Bias is everywhere, and overcoming bias yields great gains. Empirically, our biases stem strongly from our nationality, our language, and our cultural background... To overcome those biases we should travel, spend some time living in other countries, and learn other languages. In other words, the more knowledge is held in the minds of other people, the more competent we wish to be in assessing who is right and who is wrong, and that requires exposure to lots of different points of view.
Judgment, judgment, judgment. That's the scarce asset which most people underinvest in, and which yields especially high returns. It can't be outsourced very well either. Marketing is becoming all-important as well. That also requires judgment and the ability to see things from other people's points of view. Again, live abroad and learn other languages.
At the very least, date foreign women (or men).
In an increasingly globalized world, Cowen's notion that managers need to be able to see products and problems through the eyes of people of various cultures doesn't sound off the mark. BNET readers weigh in: what's more essential for managers, a stint at business school or a healthy dose of judgment-strengthening liberal arts education? And how about foreign languages--are they essential for ambitious managers today?

(Image of graduation by Andrew Schwegler, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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