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A Whole New Mind


A Whole New Mind
by Daniel H. Pink

Dan Pink described his former job as a speech writer for various politicians (including Al Gore) by saying that the main reason he ended up doing the speech writing was that he was a fast typist. He also joked that none of the campaigns he worked on were winning ones, so he needed to find something else to do.

This light, self-effacing style blends well with Pink’s subject matter in A Whole New Mind, where he makes the argument that “Right Brainers will rule the future”. In fact he uses the illustration below to plot the course of mans history from the perspective of work life.

Man initially became a farmer during the Agriculture Age, then a factory worker in the Industrial Age and a knowledge worker in the Information Age. Pink suggests that the new age dawning is the “Conceptual Age” where it will simply not be enough for people to process information using their Left Brain. The rise of Asia – especially India and China – as places where such processing can be done much less expensively will see outsourcing become a huge issue and many jobs lost in the Western world.

Unless people become smarter! The Conceptual Age will be the era of creators and empathizers (Right Brain skills). Pink is not saying that doctors need to become painters – his final illustration might make that point (to a Left Brainer) – but he is saying that everyone needs to develop their Right Brain skills to simply stay in the race.

The practical side of this idea is well illustrated when he produces figures to show that, in the highly litigious United States, where people are very quick to sue their doctor when things go wrong, doctors who empathize with their patients are rarely sued (even when things do go wrong). In fact, medical students in many nations are taught these days that a good bedside manner is vital to keep insurance premiums down, yet those doing the teaching might not themselves understand the difference between forced friendliness and genuine empathy.

Pink lists “Six Senses” people need to develop to qualify as effective “Right Brainers”: Design in addition to function; Story in addition to argument; Symphony (the ability to put the pieces together) as well as focus; Empathy as well as logic; Play as well as seriousness; Meaning as well as accumulation. By developing these senses, people have a chance of not only vastly increasing their worth as an employee or colleague, but also adding much more meaning to their lives. At the end of each of the six sections on the “senses” Pink includes some interesting exercises to help develop that particular skill set.

Of course, Pink won’t get an argument from the alphaeight institute since this work can be closely identified with the institute’s training strategy and focus.

A Whole New Mind contains – as a work promoting creativity should – a range of powerful anecdotes and, where necessary, figures to illustrate each point and a wealth of interesting dinner party discussion material. More importantly, it makes its points powerfully and with story in addition to argument and symphony as well as focus.


“My favorite business book” – Thomas L. Friedman author of The World is Flat

“Long on readable analysis and exercises to build right brain skills” – Newsweek

“An audacious and powerful work” – The Miami Herald