A Whole New Mind

The subtitle is Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, which is not an accurate portrayal of his main point. More on that in a few. He starts by explaining that your right brain handles all those artistic and creative things while your left brain takes care of the analytical and factual side of things. This country was built by strong L-Directed thinkers, he says, who brought us into the Industrial Age and carried us through the Information Age. But now, in this age of “abundance, Asia, and automation,” (the Conceptual Age as he calls it) being L-Directed may put one at a disadvantage to those with R-Directed abilities.

Here are his words:

But let me be clear: the future is not some Manichean [of or characterized by dualistic contrast or conflict between opposites] world in which individuals are either left-brained and extinct or right-brained and ecstatic – a land in which millionaire potters drive BMWs and computer programmers scrub counters at Chick-fil-A. L-Directed Thinking remains indispensable. It’s just no longer sufficient. In the Conceptual Age, what we need instead is a whole new mind.

So you can see what I mean when I say his subtitle is inaccurate and kind of pandering. His publisher wanted to sell more books so they have to lead with the shocker I guess. He’s not saying that the world will be run by creatives. He’s saying that the world will be run by people who can combine L-Directed thinking and R-Directed thinking in an optimal manner. You have to be balanced or you will wither. You have to have a “whole new mind.” I agree with that.

But first Mr. Pink, don’t be hammering on Chick-fil-A because that’s a good company with a stellar chicken sandwich. Pink got on my nerves early in this book for some reason, but he redeemed himself quickly. I was involved right off the bat because this is stuff that I take to heart. I try to be balanced; balance in all aspects of life is important to me. I aim for spreadsheets with design sensibilities. I’m a finance guy who owns a Mac. I’m a quant head who loves writing. This balance stuff hits home for me. Getting the right brain to compliment the left brain; I love it, but need to get a heck of a lot better at it.

Pink explains that we are moving into this Conceptual Age where “abundance, Asia, and automation” have led to a scenario where many L-Directed skills can be outsourced to low-wage countries. As a people, we need to augment our L-Directed skills with more high-concept, high-touch skills. This will lead to excellence in both our personal and professional lives. He says that you have to ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?

I think you know what the right and wrong answers are. The wrong answers mean “you’re in deep trouble,” according to Pink. So let’s get started on building those high-concept (design, story, symphony) and high-touch (empathy, play, meaning) skills. He calls them the “Six Senses” and devotes a chapter to each with examples and exercises. It’s great stuff. Here they are:

  • Design – functional is important, but so is creating something “that is beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.”
  • Story – you can’t convince unless you can “fashion a compelling narrative.”
  • Symphony – analysis is not as important as “seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an interesting new whole.”
  • Empathy – being logical only gets you a portion of the way there, to thrive, you need to “understand what makes your fellow woman or man tick.”
  • Play – “laughter has enormous health and professional benefits.”
  • Meaning – in a “world of breathtaking material plenty,” there are more significant desires than “accumulation.”

He digs into every one of these. He then finishes all six chapters with a Portfolio section where he goes through five to ten exercises that expand on each skill. I’ve been all about self-help in the last six months and this is great complement to the concept of mastery and to Gitomer’s plain talk about hard work and skill building. This book is on a different plane though because it delves into the sublteties of the type of skills you need to master. Left brain vs right brain, analytical vs creative, hard vs soft; the differences are subtle and you really have to know yourself to figure out where you are lacking or excelling. And it’s an important distinction.