Left brain, meet right brain: Dan Pink’s Whole New Mind

For a long time I’ve meaning to write up a quick post on Dan Pink’s 2005 bestseller, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. In essence, Pink — trained as a lawyer but making his living as a writer — suggests that a new set of aptitudes will be necessary to succeed in the times to come.

Left brain and right brain

Pink starts by pointing out how “left-brain” dominant occupations such as lawyer, accountant, and engineer have been touted as traditional pathways to steady incomes and professional success.

He then suggests that our technological, economic, and labor market structures are changing dramatically, to the point where a good number of left-brain tasks increasingly are being outsourced or even performed by computer programs. (A software program that can do your taxes is an obvious example of the latter.)

Pink goes on to opine that the attractive opportunities of tomorrow will emphasize creative, artistic, and holistic “right-brain” senses.

The six right-brain senses

Here are the six key right-brain abilities, according to Pink:

  • Design (combining utility and significance to maximize appeal)
  • Story (placing facts in context, delivered with emotional impact)
  • Symphony (“the ability to put together the pieces”)
  • Empathy (putting yourself in another’s shoes)
  • Play (understanding the importance of games, humor, and joyfulness)
  • Meaning (taking spirituality and happiness seriously)

OK, so it’s somewhat abstract

I haven’t put a lot of meat on the bones of this summary of A Whole New Mind, but if you spend some time with it, the examples in the book will fill in the substance.

When I consider Pink’s take on these qualities, I cannot help but think of the marketing success of the Apple computer company. Diehard fans of Macs, iPads, and iPhones probably know what I mean by this. Or walk into an Apple store and see that genius at work for yourself.

In any event, I’m not claiming that I buy into this worldview completely. But I find Pink’s thesis very intriguing and certainly worthy of consideration.

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