Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Whole New Mind: From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age

Daniel Pink's latest book seems to be out in both paperback and hardcover with slightly different titles. The hardcover version is A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. The paperback version is a tad more recent and has a more sensationalistic title: A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future. The best place to go to learn more information about the book is Dan Pink's website (and blog).
From what I can tell, much of what Pink concludes is a result of the same sort of things that Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) and Peter Fingar (Extreme Competition) and John Hagel and John Seely Brown (The Only Sustainable Edge) discuss in their respective books:

In the new "flattened world" of Globalization 3.0 the only way to get ahead and stay ahead is to innovate faster than your competition. And the keys to rapid business innovation are to "connect and collaborate!"
So those who have the skills to see the big picture, connect with others, effect collaborative synergy, foster creativity and innovation (or innovate and be creative) are the skills that will be in highest demand (and commanding the "cushiest" employment arrangements.

Pink claims we are in the process of moving from the Information Age, where we have access to, are driven by, and overloaded with hoards of information vying for our attention, into the Conceptual Age where we put it all together and figure out what it means in the smaller and larger context of our lives and our interconnected personal and professional networks. The essential skills needed to survive and thrive in the Conceptual Age are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. The book then describes in more detail what those are and how we can try to develop and hone them for ourselves.

An excerpt from 800ceoread.com summarizes the book:
A Whole New Mind looks at the right brain/left brain differences and shows how those historical issues are radically changing. As I learned during a weekend in Vermont with Tom Peters, Dan Pink also believes that: "The MFA is the new MBA." Pink points out that design and traditional "right brain" thinking will be the course of the future. The first part of the book gives a primer on how the brain works with great stories from Pink on how his brain was scanned and stimulated and how the different parts of his brain responded. He then goes into pages and pages of supporting stories and examples from his extensive research. Excellent reading!

Pink states that we are entering the Conceptual Age and to prepare for it we need to improve six essential abilities. They are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. These abilities are the chapter heading for the final six chapters. At the end of each of the chapters, Pink has a Portfolio which is a combination of tools, exercises, and further reading culled from his research and travels that can help you sharpen each sense.
If that piques your mind for more of Pink's "Whole New Mind," here is an excerpt from the Introduction to the book:
The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

This book describes a seismic – though as yet undetected – shift now underway in much of the advanced world. We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age. A Whole New Mind is for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emerging world – people uneasy in their careers and dissatisfied with their lives, entrepreneurs and business leaders eager to stay ahead of the next wave, parents who want to equip their children for the future, and the legions of emotionally astute and creatively adroit people whose distinctive abilities the Information Age has often overlooked and undervalued.

In this book, you will learn the six essential aptitudes — what I call “the six senses”—on which professional success and personal satisfaction increasingly will depend. Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. These are fundamentally human aptitudes that everyone can master—and helping you do that is my goal.


A change of such magnitude is complex. But the argument at the heart of this book is simple. For nearly a century, western society in general, and American society in particular, has been dominated by a form of thinking and an approach to life that is narrowly reductive and deeply analytical. Ours has been the age of the “knowledge worker,” the well-educated manipulator of information and deployer of expertise. But that is changing. Thanks to an array of forces—material abundance that is deepening our nonmaterial yearnings, globalization that is shipping white-collar work overseas, and powerful technologies that are eliminating certain kinds of work altogether—we are entering a new age. It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life—one that prizes aptitudes that I call “high concept” and “high touch.” High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

As it happens, there’s a convenient metaphor that encapsulates the change I’m describing—and it’s right inside your head. Your brain is divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, textual, and analytical. The right hemisphere is simultaneous, contextual, and synthetic. Of course, we enlist both halves of our brains for even the simplest tasks. And the respective traits of the two hemispheres have often been caricatured well beyond what the science actually reveals. But the legitimate scientific differences between the two hemispheres of the brain do yield a powerful metaphor for interpreting our present and guiding our future. Today, the defining skills of the previous era—the metaphorically “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age—are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous—the metaphorically “right brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning—increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. For individuals, families, and organizations, professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind.

I wonder if I'm one of those "Right-Brainers" or not. Alas, I am right handed -- tho I swing a baseball bat, tennis racquet, and golf-club with a lefty grip. Of course one can have and/or hone these skills regardless of one's "handedness." My Meyers-Briggs type indicator is INTP. That is allegedly the "innate architect" type: Architects are highly analytical, but also somewhat artistic (i.e. creative) and need to see the bigger picture and how it all connects together; they can also narrow their focus too much on the "worlds of the mind" that they strive to create. If it helps any, I used to be a dancer in a previous life (my Mom was a dance teacher and I was classically trained since the age of 4 in modern, ballet, jazz, and several other forms of dance).

Perhaps there is yet hope for my future! All indications thus far are that my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son are left-handed. :-)

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