A WHOLE NEW MIND: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, by Daniel H. Pink
Wired writes, “Why right-brainers will rule the future.” Wired is wrong. What Daniel Pink actually argues is that success in the 21st century while require a “whole” mind, in which both left and right brain are engaged.
Starting a book with a first chapter entitled “Right Brain Rising” almost made me put it down. But Pink is an effective writer, who quickly makes it clear that he is no New Age enthusiast for right-brain thinking. Instead, he spends Part One of A Whole New Mind laying out an argument for why knowledge workers who depend exclusively on left-brain expertise in sequential logical thinking face a future of shrinking opportunities. Why? Pink sums it up in three key words, “Abundance,” “Asia,” and “Automation.” Abundance means that consumers are no longer satisfied with merely functional products that perform as advertised. From equally functional alternatives they are able to choose those whose design adds aesthetic or other significance to their lives. Asia and Automation mean that repetitive work of any kind, including the kind that gets done with spreadsheets, can be done more cheaply, either by cheaper Asian labor or tireless computers and robots. Success in the brave new world defined by these three A’s will require additional, right-brain skills. And what might those be? In Part Two, Pink suggests six: Design, Storytelling, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Workers with these skills will create or recognize the edge that good design adds, tell great stories to motivate people to want what they sell, work in harmony with people of diverse talents and tempraments, have a gut feeling for where others are coming from, turn work into play and play into something that adds meaning to the whole of life.
Individually the ideas are not new. I first saw the argument from Abundance in research by the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living that taught me to ask if a product or add will snap into focus for its target. I learned about the implications of Asia and Automation by reading Robert Reich’s The Work of Nations and got my first exposure to right-brain theory from Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Hand Side of the Brain. What Pink has done, however, is to pull these ideas together and forge a persuasive argument that avoids the trap of sour critique and points in positive, perhaps even actionable, directions. Highly recommended.
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