Intellectual Virtues and the Workplace


The idea that intellectual virtues like curiosity, intellectual humility, and open-mindedness are important to learning is clear enough. But are they also important to having a successful career? There is mounting evidence to think they are. It’s well known that employers today are looking for candidates with so-called “soft skills” or “non-cognitive skills.” These skills include intellectual virtues like curiosity and open-mindedness. A similar picture is suggested by two recent columns in the New York Times. In “How to Get a Job at Google,” Thomas Friedman shares excerpts from his interview with the person who oversees hiring at Google. Among five core attributes the company looks for when hiring is “intellectual humility.” Not just generic humility, but intellectual humility. In “Mental Virtues,” David Brooks catalogues the virtues you need “if you are just an information age office jockey, alone with a memo or your computer.” He discusses virtues like intellectual courage, firmness, humility, and autonomy. The emerging picture is that success in the work place depends on having good character as a thinker and a learner, that is, on possessing intellectual virtues.  — Jason Baehr