Thursday, August 18, 2005

Book Review: A Whole New Mind

The year's not over, but I might be ready to name my favourite book of the year already. It's A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel Pink, the author of Free Agent Nation.

In a nutshell, the book says the future will be more right-brained. Well, R-directed thinking, as he puts it. Because even the most "right-brained" activity still involves your left hemisphere too.

What does it mean for your thinking to be more R-directed? It means picking up on the new six senses that are transforming our world: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning.

Why do we need these six senses? The three A's: Asia, Abundance and Automation. In short, the knowledge-focused jobs of the late 20th century (for instance, just about anything to do with programming computers) are either being automated or outsourced to countries like India and China with a cheaper and very numerous workforce. Meanwhile, an abundance of choice is making it difficult for products and services to compete in the marketplace - the ones that do well, usually have an R-directed element to them.

As you can tell, A Whole New Mind is very well-organised. And it's entertaining to read, too. Especially if, like me, you have an underactive left hemisphere and feared that it will disadvantage you in the business world.

Now I can tell people with pride that I took an all-arts course in my final year of high school. If they ask me what good Music, Art History and Classical Studies did me, I'll just point them to A Whole New Mind!

I am, of course, being a little tongue-in-cheek. Pink never suggests we'll have no use for L-directed activities or thought processes; instead he says left and right need to work together like never before.

What's really exciting about A Whole New Mind is that it's not just theory: this stuff is really happening.

Just a few examples from the book:
  • GM is about art, not transportation.
  • New school tests are being introduced to supplement the heavily L-directed SAT tests, and these new tests, emphasising emotional and interpersonal abilities, close some of the racial and cultural gaps that show up in SAT tests.
  • Laughter groups are free to attend!
  • Hospitals and Public Housing organisations are seeing the importance of design to health and well being.
  • Doctors are (finally!) understanding the value of empathy and listening to their patients' stories.
  • Video games are good for kids.
There's a lot going on to connect the two hemispheres, and it's very exciting.

So A Whole New Mind is part theory, part practical examples and reportage, and part guidebook, to show you how to incorporate the vital six senses into your life.

In case you needed any more persuading, Po Bronson calls it "very important" and Tom Peters calls it "a miracle". Go buy the book already!


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