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More poetry for businesses

An article published in the Harvard Business Review insists on the need not to base everything only on calculation and planning

A business is about calculation but it must also be more. Risk, instinct, adventure, the ability to look further afield. The saying about the “art of producing” is not mere chance. Always – of course – with a particular focus on making ends meet in the balance sheet; which must now also include more than just columns of numbers. In this respect, it is good to read “Liberal Arts in Data Age” by Josh M. Olejarz which was published in the Harvard Business Review some time ago.

This short yet intense article written by Olejarz (who has for the last five years or so been the assistant editor of HBR), revolves around an observation: “What circumstances of great disadvantage could we end up in, us and the world, if we forced our minds to address all problems in the same way”. The author’s reasoning is based on risk and the risk of type-approval. Indicating that a world made up solely of calculations, of algorithms and big data  would soon become a one-way world, one therefore devoid of imagination and resources, Olejarz outlines a different path. For companies too. Indeed, Olejarz points the finger at what are referred to as Stem (acronym of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). In other words, the world would be moving towards a horizon made up not only of type-approval but also of the lack of ability to respond adequately to unexpected events. Exactly the opposite to the circumstances a company should always be in.

So, what should be done? For Olejarz, the solution is simple: make room for philosophy, literature and poetry. So, not just coding, but also beauty, skill, innovativeness understood as the ability to be ground-breaking.

Quality and not just quantity – Olejarz seems to insist on -, must permeate businesses and companies as well. In other words, this means that quantitative rigour and focus on organisation should go hand in hand with qualities such as empathy, caution and wisdom true to humanistic disciplines.

The words of Olejarz have the great merit of opening up the reader’s eyes to a scene only partly known to this day which deserves to be explored further.

Liberal Arts in Data Age

Josh M. Olejarz

Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2017