Corporations need free thinkers now more than ever

I graduated from a state liberal arts college in 1980. This was when liberal arts were still “liberal”, ie liberating your mind.

I remember asking my teachers how this education would help me get a job. Their response was that employers wanted people who could think for themselves. People like that were true leaders; innovators; problem-solvers.

As the article below outlines, employers today are having a hard time prioritizing their need for free thinkers, when other employees demand conformity of thought.

It seems to me that those people with a closed mind should open up. That would good for everybody.


“The chasm between the lofty promises of Apple’s “Think Different” campaign and the workplace reality for anyone who dares to do just that has never been so yawning. The purpose of a true creative is to shine a light into dark places, to be provocative, to touch society’s third rails and send up sparks. Offending people may not be a requirement of the job, but it’s an unavoidable hazard, and one that liberals have traditionally fought to protect. The argument for freedom of creative expression drew a bright line between offense and harm, and while we always agreed that art could be political, it was not, crucially, policy: At the end of the day, the artist’s ideas exist in a realm where the worst thing they can do is offend.”

“But like the now tattered Hot Topic T-shirts of our youth, this argument is out of style. Contemporary culture increasingly sees no distinction between public and private, between the social and the professional, or between exploring an idea in an artistic setting and endorsing it for practical application. The political is not just personal, but professional and social and everything else, a lens superimposed over every relationship, every hiring decision, every utterance on social media.”

“Corporations are caught between two competing sets of values in a trap of their own making: paying the customary lip service to a love of creative, rebellious boundary-pushers, yet also assuring their increasingly political employees that they’ll never have to work with one. Hiring managers may wax poetic about their desire for the sort of provocative freethinker who can bring innovation to products and processes, but there is no room for this sort of person in a workforce that balks at the slightest threat of ideological discomfort—and particularly not in an environment where every hiring announcement prompts a rash of frenzied digging for evidence that the honored party is guilty of bad acts, or bad thoughts, and ought not to be allowed through the door. This messaging was disingenuous before, but now it’s downright removed from our cultural and political reality.”

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