A Whole New Mind
I have started reading a fascinating book by Daniel Pink called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.Pink's premise is that the world economy is undergoing a seismic shift--above and beyond the current economic perils, which began shortly after this book was published--away from the "Information Age" to what he calls the "Conceptual Age." While the former demanded logical, linear, computer-like capabilities that are becoming more likely to be outsourced overseas or automated, the emerging age is demanding competencies that will address our non-material yearnings and the increasing value we place on "high touch" and "high concept" offerings.
After a brief, unsurprising discussion on how left-brain capabilities have been all the rage for decades at the expense of the artistic and the emotional, Pink asserts that things are no longer a matter of choosing left or right; but of allowing the two hemispheres of the brain to work in concert. The right, however, with its tendency toward the simultaneous, the metaphorical, the aesthetic, the contextual and the synthetic, has been under-emphasized and neglected in the Information Age--and, therefore, some intentional cultivation of its features is necessary for left-leaning braniacs to have sustainable careers and satisfaction in the emerging economy.
To survive in this age, Pink opines, individuals and organizations "must examine what they're doing to earn a living and ask themselves these questions: 1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper? 2. Can a computer do it faster? Is what I'm offering in demand in an age of abundance?"
Pink continues, "If your answer to Question 1 or 2 is yes, or your answer to Question 3 is no, you're in deep trouble. Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can't do cheaper, that powerful computers can't do faster, and that satisfies one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age."
Specifically, Pink calls on those more oriented toward left-brained, linear thinking and talents to develop six essential "right-directed aptitudes." These are:
1. Design. It's not enough for a product, service, experience or lifestyle to be merely functional; it must also be beautiful, whimsical or emotionally engaging.
2. Story. Information and data must be complemented with persuasion, communication and self-understanding.
3. Symphony. Rather than just focusing and specializing, it has become crucial to be able to put the pieces together, seeing the bigger picture and crossing boundaries while assembling "an arresting new whole."
4. Empathy. Logic is not enough, but understanding what makes people tick, forging relationships and caring for others will carry us into the future.
5. Play. There are enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, light-heartedness, games and humor. In both work and life we need to play.
6. Meaning. In what is still an age of material plenty despite the current economic downturn, millions of westerners are pursuing more significant desires such as purpose, transcendence and spiritual fulfillment.
It could be quick to dismiss some of Pink's thesis because of the economic maladies and uncertainties for recovery we are facing. However, I do not believe that a painful recession means we will dramatically reverse-course on the evolution from Information to Conceptual as defined by Pink. While funding and programs that support the artistic, emotional and spiritual are suffering tremendously in these hard times, the fundamental needs and desires of the human heart, mind and soul will not go away...and those who truly embrace "whole mind thinking" and competencies will survive and thrive.
Reading this type of book refreshes my gratitude for how I am wired, and for the education and experiences I have been allowed to have. Degrees in Communications and Divinity. Experience as a writer, pastor, spiritual counselor, businessman, consultant, executive coach and facilitator, woven into a career that I believe adequately synthesizes all of these hats into a larger whole.
Sometimes I get down on myself for having so many right-brained interests and wonder if I will ever get clarity. I so often feel outnumbered by left-brained talent and initiatives and can question my own value. Then I read a book like Pink's, and feel encouraged that perhaps I have been going in the proper directions all along by following not a linear, logical path...but following my bliss, as Joseph Campbell described it.
I remember spontaneously deciding as a college freshman to enter a one-year program that synthesized disciplines such as English, Humanities, Psychology and Biology. Even then, at 18, I was fascinated by how the parts could fit together. It was one of the greatest years of my life and set the tone for trying to think and act holistically.
I look forward to the rest of this book! And blogging about it some more.