Monday, March 22, 2010

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

(Original subtitle: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age)
Author: Daniel H. Pink
Publisher: Riverhead, 2005
Source: library

I came to this book because a teacher of mine talked about it several times and even gave us a bit of an overview one day in class.  If someone mentions a book to me more than once, I almost always check it out.

After a short wait I was able to download the audio edition from my library.  The author reads the book himself and I love it when that happens with nonfiction.  The writer is able to bring subtle nuances to the reading that enhances the content in a way that most actors cannot.  I've listened to a few audio books where the reader is annoyingly chipper or they read in a way where everything is emphasized to the point that the content feels like its been over-exposed like a bleached out picture.  There is little contrast and so the listener is left without hooks on which to hang the ideas presented.  But I digress.

Pink's reading is engaging and personable, almost conversational.  Although he was easy to follow, he made so many interesting recommendations (books, music, websites, ideas) that I quit trying to jot down notes (not an easy or wise thing to do when driving) and just listened with pleasure, knowing that I could easily get my hands on the print edition for those recommendations.

The book is divided into two parts, The Conceptual Age and The Six Senses.  The Conceptual Age discusses how and why America's workforce is changing.  We're moving out of the Information Age of knowledge workers and into the Conceptual Age where the demand is for creators and sympathizers.  The Information Age put more emphasis on and therefore gave more privileged to left-brained ways of thinking and working.  The left brain understands information that is sequential, textual, and that lends itself to computer-like analysis.  The Conceptual Age, on the other hand, is fueled by right brain modes of thinking which rely on context, relationships and sees the big picture.  The two sides of the human brain work together, not in isolation.  The point Pink is making is that privileging left-brain-style thinking is no longer adequate to compete and thrive in the Conceptual Age.  We need to nurture the right-brain-styles of thinking that have been scorned in the past and combine it with left-brain-styles.  Hence the idea of a WHOLE new mind. 

Most traditionally left-brain dominated fields such as accounting, programming, and even some legal and medical specialties are easily outsourced.  People choosing careers would be wise to look for jobs that cannot be automated and instead look towards professions that call for high concept and high touch (those that emphasis compassion and inspiration).  In short: the MFA is the new MBA. 

Part Two looks at each of Pink's Six Senses in detail.  These are right brain directed aptitudes that will grow in importance in the Conceptual Age:
1. Not just function but also DESIGN
2. Not just argument but also STORY
3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY
4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY
5. Not just serious but also PLAY
6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING

Each aptitude has it own chapter full of stories about people, professionals, pop culture and ends with a section of recommendations, exercises, and questions/concepts to ponder.  I really enjoy these end sections because they challenge me to think about things I may have never thought about and to think about old things in new ways.  Even if you don't agree with Pink's ideas on the reasons why and the ways how our Age is being transformed, these recommendations will probably be a refreshing opportunity to work your brain in new ways and enhance the way you see, understand, and live in the world.

One funny anecdote regarding DESIGN: the paperback version of A Whole New Mind has a cutout outline of a head's silhouette on the front cover.  It looks cool, but its also right where people hold the book to open it.  The result?  Many of the copies at the bookstore where I work are torn and now not in sell-able condition.  The designer had a great idea--it looks cool--but it isn't practical.  The utility of the design is faulty.

I recommend this book to seekers: people who are contemplating their first career, to those pondering new careers, and to folks who like to challenge themselves and who think about how they think as well as how the world turns.

Pink has a new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, which came out in late 2009.

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