Must Read: A Whole New Mind

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This is one of, if not my favorite business book I have ever read.  I recently picked it up the other day again and plowed through it in less than three days.  In this book, Pink helped me understand once and for all how as a right-brainer I’ve been living in a world of alpha left-brainers. Throughout the book, you learn about six senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Frankly, the six that Pink has selected are nowhere near complete. The list of senses, of lenses through which to view the future and one’s integration with the future, will be somewhat different for each of us. As we move further into the conceptual age, we’ll identify more and more primary concerns that will join this initial list. The transformation is in process; more will surface over time. 

Pink first explains the functioning of the human brain , its left and right sides and what they stand for, in a very simple and non jargon approach. His personal understanding of the functioning of the brain using the MRI scan technology may appear over simplistic to a well trained medical professional or psychologist. But the information is sufficient to guide us through the subsequent chapters that fully engage both the sides of the brain. He argues convincingly that we’re moving from an Information Age to a Conceptual (creative/inventive) Age, because of: Abundance (we’re living at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), Asia (left-brained work is outsourced there because it’s been commoditized, and thus cheaper), and Automation (things that are solved by a strict set of rules–heuristics–are better crunched by microchips). He argues that in the coming age those with more inventive minds will be more valued. 

Pink describes what he calls the “Six Senses” 1) Design–making things not only functional but engaging by design; 2) Story–developing a compelling narrative from the data; 3) Symphony–seeing the big picture and gathering seemingly desperate parts into a harmonious whole; 4) Empathy–fostering caring relationships with our family, friends and colleagues at work; 5) Play–the need to have fun at whatever you do; 6) Meaning–seeking purpose and the greater good seems to define us uniquely as humans.

The examples quoted under every topic are simply great. To cite one such example in the chapter on Story :

The queen died. The king died. (LEFT BRAIN)

The queen died and the king died of a broken heart. (RIGHT BRAIN)

The first line conveys a fact. The second line conveys a story and we can feel the love. Stories combine context and emotion and appeal to our hearts. Unfortunately, most professionals focus on facts. Doctors interrupt patients on an average once in 23 seconds looking only for clinical data. But if they listen to the patients’ stories, the context and emotion can make a big difference, in addition to the facts.

 
Another good example I enjoyed reading is Design. Design is the process of bringing new forms that the world has never seen. It is a combination of utility and substance. The CEO of a major car manufacturer claims that his company is in the art business and transportation is incidental. Design schools are the ones that can transform our products into things of joy. No wonder this profession has started gaining so much attention even in countries like India. 
 
This is a book that can make a huge difference to your personal and professional life, irrespective of what we do for a living. The world so far was dominated by left brained professionals or those whose who predominantly excel in using the left side of the brain. The admission tests to get into the best of today’s professional courses test our analytical, arithmetic and verbal skills. The good news is that we have done well so far. But the bad news is that in the industrial age followed by the information we have utilised only one half of our brain, that is the “left”. Welcome to the conceptual age which demands our “right” and rightfully so.

We now live in an era of abundance (the wide range of goods at rock bottom prices at the neighbourhood shopping mall), Automation ( computers take over repetitive jobs) and emergence of Asia ( off shoring of white collar jobs at fractional costs). Today’s products and services are an outcome of sequential, analytical and logical thought process of the L-centred professions. To succeed in the next age which is conceptual, we need to wake up and kick start the right side of our brain argues the author. For example we need abilities to synthesize not just analyse. Synthesis is the ability to assemble the parts and see the whole thing while analysis is the ability to focus on specifics. The conceptual age needs high concept and high touch, a combination of right side capabilities along with the left side strengths. These then become the winning combination to differentiate, add value and succeed.

The message is clear. The professional of the future is one who can appreciate the finer aspects of life that includes beauty, meaning and happiness.

 
 
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