Book Review: A Whole New Mind

Book Review: A Whole New Mind

I recently finished reading A Whole New Mind : Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future by Daniel Pink.  I found this book to be one of those books that really makes a lot of common sense, a little like a Malcolm Gladwell book.  The narrative is both compelling and logical.

Pink has two primary objectives in the book.  First, to convince us that the most successful people in the United States will need to be capable of doing more then number crunching and system analyzing (some of the halmarks of successful people in the information age).  He gives three reasons for this:

  1. Abundance – Today, even the average American can be picky when selecting products.  No longer will “anything that works” be good enough.  Products are cheep enough and Americans are wealthy enough, that products have to be compelling for a variety of reasons.
  2. Automation – The coding of jobs that do not require creativity or people skills.
  3. Asia – The outsourcing of jobs that require only minimal amounts of creativity or people skills.

Pink then uses the second part of the book to talk about the 6 skills that he believes will be valuable in the post-information age (which he refers to as the conceptual age):

  1. Design – In the age of abundance, the form of good design is more important then basic function.
  2. Story – You need to be able to make an argument with a story, not a set of cold facts.
  3. Symphony – In the information age, it was all about being able to break down and understand a system.  In the conceptual age it will be about forming compelling systems from disparate parts.
  4. Empathy – You need to be able to understand your fellow man.
  5. Play – You have to be able to gather value from more then just your 9-5.
  6. Meaning – Because we no longer have to fight for survival (have abundance) we need to figure out how to derive higher level meaning from life and work.

I COMPLETELY agree with section 1, but I don’t find it to be a wholly unique thought.  There are a number of authors writing similar themes about the current shift away from the information age.  Two I have read are Richard Florida (who discusses the movement in terms of changing workplaces and cities) and Seth Godin (who discusses the movement in terms of marketing/advertising).  I find most of the value of the book is in section 2, but I don’t agree with everything that is said there.  I don’t so much believe that his 6 traits are wrong, just that each of the 6 have far from equal value and the way he explains a couple of them (especially “meaning”) seems narrow to me.

Bottom Line:  It’s a well written book and it’s a light read.  If you are interested in this shift from “information economy” to “creative/conceptual economy” then it’s worth a quick read.  If you are working the kind of job that can be done by a computer or be outsourced, you may want to read it for both some perspective on what’s happening and some ideas on how to improve your skills for the new marketplace.