A Whole New Mind

A Whole New Mind Cover
A Whole New Mind
by Daniel Pink http://www.danpink.com.

Daniel Pink has written a very interesting book about the coming shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. He makes an interesting claim that the Information Age is already over and a new way of doing business has begun. The book is mostly about business principles, but it has a lot to say to churches and church leaders (something I’ll tackle in an upcoming post).

The Claim

The basic thesis of the book is that for the last century or so we have been developing a corporate society that is based on and dominated by what Pink calls “L-Directed Thinking” or a mindset that is predominately associated with the Left Hemisphere of the brain, the side that deals mostly with logic, language, math, structure, and that kind of rationality.

Nevertheless, Pink argues that key forces are working to necessitate a shift in American business from “L-Directed Thinking” to “R-Directed Thinking” or a kind of thinking that involves the creative, playful side of life.

Abundance, Asia, and Automation

The three forces at work in the world today are Abundance, Asia, and Automation.

Abundance refers to the fact that people in America pretty much have everything they need and most people have just about everything they want. Abundance, though, isn’t really about what you posess. It’s about what is available to you. No matter what you might want, here in America, you have an abundance of choices. There isn’t just one mp3 player, there are hundreds. There isn’t just one type of shampoo, there are thousands.

In the midst of all this abundance, consumers are looking for something that stands out. Particularly, consumers are no longer looking to buy a product. They are looking for an experience. From the store they shop in to the color of the product, they are looking for an experience that gives meaning and significance. At the core, people make purchases based on the meaning or significance they perceive when they make the choice. That’s why companies like Target are having such great success with their practice of getting high-level designers and architects (like Michael Graves) to design their toilet brushes!

Though Pink separates the two, Asia and Automation seem to me to be two sides of the same coin. Basically, the point is that through outsourcing jobs to Asia and through the increasing sophistication of computer automation, routine, by-the-numbers kinds of tasks are moving away from America. Manufacturing, computer programming, customer service, and many other kinds of industries are taking jobs away from America and handing them to Asian workers or automated systems.

Therefore, the end result of these three factors is that work in America needs to shift from making products (or computer programs, or in fact, any other kind of deliverable) into making meaning and to do so, Pink argues, requires “a whole new mind” or one that can employ six core “right-brain” skills or, as he calls them, “senses.”

The Six Senses

The most beneficial part of the book comes in part two where Pink addresses the practical skills we need to develop to flourish in this new world of ours. He mentions six skills, calling them “senses” and then, after describing each one, he lists some resources, tools, and examples of how a person can improve their capacity for that particular sense.

These lists alone are perhaps worth the cost of the book, and though I got my copy from the library, I’m considering purchasing it just to have these hard-copy lists at hand. For the time being, though, I’m just writing them down here for myself and anyone else who might be interested to pursue these things further.

Incidentally, the six senses are as follows: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.

Design

One of the more important claims of Pinks book is that the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree is taking over the MBA in terms of significance in our world. He notices that design is becoming the most important aspect of products and stores these days. In fact, you can see the truth of this claim by noticing how successful stores like Target (for selling designer products at low prices), Best Buy (for creatively designing their stores), and Apple (for the outrageous success of their iPod and other well-designed products.

You can also see the impacts of bad design by considering the poorly designed ballots in Florida that caused so much confusion during the Presidential election of 2000.

In order to improve our sense of design, Pink makes the following suggestions:

Story

The second sense is the sense of story. Good stories instantly connect with people on a heart level and last in both our conscious mind and our subconscious for far longer than pure facts and figures ever will. We think in stories, we live in stories, and we love stories.

Some suggestions for improving our ability to appreciate story and create our own are as follows:

Symphony

Symphony is the art of seeing things as they really are in relation to the other things around them. Pink’s primary illustration is the groundbreaking work done by Betty Edwards in her book Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain.

Her claim is that we tend to see the world through symbols, and this is especially evident when we attempt to draw anything. Try it yourself, and draw a self-portrait. You’ll quickly see that most people don’t draw their nose and lips and eyes. Instead they draw symbols of their eyes, a symbol for their lips and a symbol for their nose. Her drawing method trains people to see relationships between objects and not to abstract those objects into symbols. Her method is remarkably successful at helping non-drawers become at least capable of drawing a self-portrait. Mr. Pink even shows us the progress he made when he took a seminar based on her techniques.

Basically, the skill of symphony is in seeing the whole as a whole, seeing pieces in relationship to each other, and not seeing the pieces all by themselves. Next time you look at the FedEx logo, try to find the forward facing arrow hiding in the negative space.

Here are suggestions for improving your skill of symphony:

  • Listen to great symphonies
    • Beethoven’s 9th
    • Mozart’s Symphony No. 35
    • Mahler’s 4th Symphony in G Major
    • Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (with real cannons and church bells)
    • Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major “Surprise”
  • Visit a newsstand and grab 10 publications that you would otherwise never read. Skim them and look for connections with your own life.
  • Learn how to draw — http://www.drawright.com or http://www.the5line.com
  • Keep a Metaphor Log (write down metaphors you encounter throughout your day)
  • Create an Inspiration Board: “When you’re working on a project, empty your bulletin board and turn it into an inspiration board. Each time you see something that you find compelling… tack it to the board.”
  • Books:
  • Do something you can’t do and experience the beauty of making a mistake
  • Look for Negative Spaces (in logos, designs and all around you)

Empathy

Empathy is basically the skill of being able to stand in another person’s skin and experience the world from their perspective. It is the part of us that wants to yawn when we see another person yawn. It’s the part of us that winces when we watch someone get whacked with a stick on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Empathy is necessary in this new “Conceptual Age” because people are looking for products and services that truly connect with them, and that means businesses must be able to experience life from the perspective of their customers (empathy) in order to provide the products and services those customers are looking for.

To develop the skill of empathy, here are some tools:

Play

Corporate life used to be all about stodgy seriousness, but now playful work environments are becoming not just more prevalent, but also more necessary. What with the increasing demands on work and home life, and the attendant stress, we need playfulness to keep us productive.

Pink claims, however, that play is more than a tool to be used to increase productivity. Instead, play itself is a primary industry. Games of all sorts are a major business, and the Army has turned to using video games as a recruitment tool.

Even more than all that, playfulness, humor, and joyfulness are the cornerstones of a creative life. To develop the skill of play in your own life, Pink recommends these things:

Meaning

Viktor Frankl wrote his seminal work, Man’s Search for Meaning
after being released from a Nazi concentration camp where he saw people survive against incredible odds because they had a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Pink addresses the significance of having meaning in our lives, whether by religion or otherwise. More than that, he talks about how we need to look at life from the perspective of a higher meaning and how to do so enriches our lives including extending our actual lifespan.

To help us develop a sense of meaning, purpose and spirituality, he recommends these exercises:

Conclusion

I think there are a lot of great points in here for leaders of any sort, but in my next post, I will try to examine what value this book has for Christian leaders in particular.