A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel H. Pink (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. 288 pp)
An author of 4 books on the changing world of work, Daniel Pink earned his B.A. from Northwestern University and a J.D. from Yale Law School. In 2011, Thinkers50 ranked Pink one of the 50 most influential business thinkers in the world. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children.
How Then Shall We Work?
It seems all parents urge their children to earn a marketable degree. Even though evidence exists which confirms the importance of a college degree of any kind helping workers earn more over the average lifespan, parents want a degree to count. Sure you can specialize and succeed, but it is much easier to earn a healthy living with a marketable degree.
Moreover, the current economy stiffens the job market. Those with liberal arts degrees seem to struggle even more in the job search. In reality, it looks like the economy benefits the left-brained thinkers at the expense of the right brainers. For Daniel Pink, such realities must drastically shift if the United States will remain a viable economic option on the world stage.
On the whole, I enjoy Pink’s argument in A Whole New Mind. To a certain extent, his principles serve as the foundation of my line of work.
The Left Brain
It is true that most M.B.A. programs have focused exclusively on left-brained skills. With an M.B.A., you learn the metrics, analysis, and strategies necessary to diagnose the effectiveness of a business. But I believe leadership needs more skills in the toolkit.
Business leaders excel at the rational often by setting aside the emotional. Since design and aesthetics cannot be measured, it’s not worth their time. Pink affirms my belief that such a position is untenable.
The Right Brain
Design matters greatly! The emotional foundations around why a business ought to exist inspire leaders, employees, and customers alike.
Therefore, I find it crucial to influence companies toward a holistic notion of strategy linking left- and right-brained thinking.
A Fatal Flaw
However, I believe A Whole New Mind contains a fatal flaw, a line of reasoning suppurating beneath the surface.
Put simply, Pink assumes the next American business revolution surrounds a shift toward right-brained business. Americans no longer outsource menial jobs; they now outsource left-brained high level work. As such, the only high level jobs left are right-brained.
“Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can’t do cheaper, that powerful computers can’t do faster, and that satisfies one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age” (31).
But, there is nothing holding back these countries with cheaper labor from providing right-brained jobs. Our nation holds no monopoly on creative thinking. If another nation wanted to offer creative services at a cheaper price, how could the U.S.A. compete? Pink seems to think the outsourcing nations want the left-brained jobs and we have a competitive advantage at right-brained work. Perhaps, this position works for now. But I highly doubt it will remain an uncontested universal truth.
Where to Go from Here?
Yes, our economy is shifting and the potential for liberal arts students and right-brained thinkers is high. But is the solution as simple as urging companies to high right-brained workers? I’m not convinced.
In summary, I enjoyed reading A Whole New Mind. Pink’s arguments bolster my line of work and I appreciate the reinforcement. However, I disagree with Pink’s assertion that right-brained work is an American-centric vision. We don’t have exclusive rights to creativity. If you lean toward right-brained thinking, read this book because it will inspire you. If you lean toward left-brained thinking, read this book because it will stretch. When you read this book, remember to think globally. These principles are universal.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5