In late 2020, the World Economic Forum released its list of the top 10 job skills that will be in demand by 2025. These skills included social influence, resilience, creativity, flexibility, and ideation.

Harvard Business School set out to answer the question; “How do you teach students how to be more empathetic, better able to interpret and express emotions, or more willing to sit with ambiguity?”. A clear identifier was reading fiction, posing a strong correlation between higher levels of emotional intelligence.

The study began by creating reading assignments to their students to practice deep thinking by engaging with fictional texts. Students were surprised to be receiving the assignment, as most had not been asked to read fiction in their classes beyond undergraduate literature courses. Over the research period, students were assigned both reading and writing assignments with interesting results.

The results
Harvard Business School identified three themes that dominated the conversations: empathy, individual and social responsibility, and leadership.

Readings included, “The Man in the Well” by Ira Sher, “As the North Wind Howled” by Yu Hua, and “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” by Herman Melville

Read the full results here

It’s difficult accurately defining how reading fiction directly impacts students’ emotional intelligence or other cognitive skills, assigning fiction for discussion in a profession graduate school class opened the doors to conversations that differ from the standard rubric.

One student wrote, “I was pleasantly surprised that we had to read fiction for this class. I really liked the discussion we had in class about this reading and how we were able to connect these fictitious characters and scenarios to real-life workplace situations.”

“Reading and discussing fiction is part of our training as creative, flexible, and critical thinkers.”

Read the complete article here: https://hbsp.harvard.edu/inspiring-minds/what-reading-fiction-can-teach-graduate-students-about-empathy-and-emotion