March 24, 2005
News & Opinion: BOOK REVIEW: A Whole New Mind
Author: Dan Pink
Reviewer: johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)
In A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink writes how right-brain thinking (artistic, empathic, and contextual) is replacing left-brain thinking (functional, literal, and analytical) as we evolve from the Information Age into the Conceptual Age.
Pink compellingly argues the left-brain powered business engine of the Information Age has resulted in an abundance of everything and in an environment where automation gains have become so efficient and so prevalent that we can now outsource previously un-outsourceable white collar jobs to Asia and beyond.
The crux of his argument is, ... weve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now were progressing yet again to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.
This society of creators, empathizers, and meaning makers signal the dawning Conceptual Age. And according to Pink, survival in this Age "... depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers cant do cheaper, that powerful computers cant do faster, and that satisfies one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age.
To make his argument resonate with both R-directed thinkers (right-brainers) and L-directed thinkers (left-brainers), Pinks divides the book into two sections. The first section is more factual storytelling (for L-directed thinkers) while the second section is more contextual storytelling (for R-directed thinkers).
When asked, through an email exchange we had, if he purposely designed the book this way, Pink responded...
"The first three chapters advance an argument -- and a rather hard-headed, linear argument at that. If I have any hope of convincing people -- particularly the people who are hardest to convince and most in need of convincing -- I felt I had to do it on their (L-directed) terms. The final six chapters are, as you say, more contextual. If folks don't buy what I'm saying in the first three chapters, they're not even going to make it to chapter 4. But if they do get there, I wanted to give them a slightly different ride."
A Whole New Mind is an important must-read business book. However, it is not without one major flaw. Pink posits everyone has the ability to develop R-directed aptitudes and to that end, he dedicates sections of the book to exercises, tools, and articles to help us improve our right-brain acuity. Great idea, but the execution is not so great because many of his suggested action items are online links which are either dead or dead-ends.
For example, Dan references a very intriguing design manifesto from Karim Rashid and he gives us the link to Karims website so we can learn more about it. However, I spent a good amount of time digging deep into Karims website and couldnt locate his 50-point guide to life and design. (Drats.)
But this flaw shouldnt stop you from reading A Whole New Mind. In fact, you should start reading the book if you find yourself agreeing with any of the following statements:
Youve never truly understood what Tom Peters means when he screams, They say Get an MBA. I say Get an MFA. You're a knowledge worker (in the Peter Drucker sense) and want to know what the future holds for the knowledge worker class. You want to gain greater context into Richard Floridas Rise of the Creative Class treatise. You seek to know how best to firewall your professional-self from being displaced by the forces of off-shoring.
To summarize, Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind is an important book which deserves the immediate attention of every cubicle monkey and corner-office executive working in business today. It'll teach you how to thrive in the emerging Conceptual Age where "... the 'right brain' qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfullness, and meaning -- increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders."
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.