Anybody who wants to be successful in a challenging, leading position within business, politics, public administration, or the wider society needs a crucial set of skills: You will need to see quickly through complex issues, put together convincing arguments for or against given proposals, filter relevant from irrelevant information, check the consistency and soundness of policy papers, decide which problems are crucial and identify the issues that are still badly understood. These skills of rigorous analysis, sound argument and critical examination are the bread-and-butter of philosophy: no subject trains our ability for consistent, systematic thought better than philosophy.
Being within a leading position also means being confronted with challenges that not only require a good understanding of very diverse aspects and dimensions, but which can also be solved only by thinking outside the box: What are the positions of others, how convincing are they and do we need to take them into account? How do the different components of a problem interact with one another? How can problems which appear to be very different find similar solutions? Philosophy does not offer answers to these queries. However, engaging with philosophical questions teaches us how to reflect on stances other than our own, to be open for possibly very unorthodox considerations, and to have a supple mind which weaves seemingly unrelated considerations into new ideas in order to solve problems or even resolve crises.
Those who take on key responsibilities within business and society also need a good moral compass: ‘How ought we to deal with whistle-blowers? Should we invest in countries with atrocious human right records? How is funding to be distributed across different areas of R&D? Should we prefer women over men in recruitment processes?’ are just some of the key moral questions faced by businesses and society. Philosophers seek to find answers to these urgent questions. However, they do more than that. For, philosophers also provide tools and approaches which managers themselves can employ when faced with difficult situations: ‘Which features of the situation could be morally relevant? How could we deal with moral conflicts? What are the general issues that we should consider in specific situations?’ are just some examples of questions for which this ‘philosophical toolbox’ provides guidance.
Hence, although philosophy might not be clearly visible within a business world, philosophical training is nonetheless key to any area of multifaceted decision-making, no matter whether this concerns strategic choices, policy priorities or business development.
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