Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Book Review - A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink argues in his new book, A Whole New Mind, that America is moving from an information age to a conceptual age and those who want to succeed must use their entire minds now. Pink sees the increase in abundance, affluence and outsourcing to Asia as a revolution in civilization. It mean that what worked in the 20th century most certainly won't work in the 21st.

Lawyers. Accountants. Radiologists. Software engineers. That's what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of "left brain" dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which "right brain" qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate.

Pink believes that only folks with well-rounded brains will succeed. The conceptual age means people will not just have to make a better mousetrap, they will have to make design the mousetrap (and outsource the actual manufacturing to China), and convince others the new mousetrap will not only make their lives easier, but also make them fall in love with it, too.

In order to successfully negotiate this new Conceptual Age, people need to develop skills that they don't normally have.
  • Design - utility enhanced by significance
  • Story - delivering facts in context to deliver them with emotional impact
  • Symphony - seeing relationships between seemingly unrelated things
  • Empathy - concern for others
  • Play - having fun at all times
  • Meaning - changing values from materialistic to post-materialistic

I find Daniel Pink's analysis to be very compelling. I, likewise, see Asia, abundance, and affluence as permanently changing western civilization, but I'm not convinced that Pink's 6 points are the key to preparing for the 21st century. Certainly, in the realm of consumer goods, Pink's 6 points are certainly true. I do want something special from my plasma screen television or iPod.

However, in the 21st century, we are facing some serious Global Issues and I'm not sure that story, symphony and design are going to solve them. How will Meaning help defeat global poverty? How will Play bring about stopping endemic diseases and global killers? How will Empathy help solve massive trade disparities between North and South? How does Story reverse dramatic climate change?

A Whole New Mind is a good read. If you are a member of Gen X, like me, you should read this because your job will change over the next 30 years and it will most likely require some of the elements Pink has identified. However, Pink's Whole New Mind or his conceptual age doesn't offer any insight into how this fundamental revolution will change the world as we know it.