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A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future Paperback – March 7, 2006
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Word to the wise -- you are in for a slightly different book here -- right of the bat, the author walks us through the procedure of having his brain scanned as part of a project conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington D.C. This unorthodox introduction (with four photo illustrations) is welcomed by the reader, as it gives the chapter an introspective quality. Pink shares this experience to illustrate normal brain function -- to note a few misconceptions about the way the brain divides work -- and then posits that while most people integrate both left and right brain activity, R-Directed Thinking will increasingly be relied upon in the future, by people that want to succeed in business or life.
Here is the crux of what Pink is trying to relay. America is currently organized around a cadre of accountants, doctors, engineers, executives and lawyers. These "knowledge workers" excel at the ability to acquire and marry facts to data, and these abilities are typically accrued through a series of standardized tests such as the PSAT, SAT, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT. (As an aside, Bush's test-happy Department of Education only serves to increase the number of L-Directed Thinkers, providing corporations cheap labor in abundance.) Pink asserts this regime of L-Directed Thinking in America is diminishing due to three factors: Abundance, Asia, and Automation.
Our guide Dan conjectures -- that in this age of Abundance -- appealing only to functional, logical, and rational requirements is not enough. Design, empathy, play, and other "soft" aptitudes have become the focal point for individuals and companies that want to stand out above the others in a crowded marketplace. Look no further than Apple's design-triumph, the physically appealing and emotionally compelling iPod, for quick confirmation of this notion!
Looking at trends, Pink concludes outsourcing of white-collar jobs (knowledge work) to nations in Asia will have profound "long term effects" on the economic well-being of Australia, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US. Just as factory jobs flowed out of the country during the eighties, globalization of white-collar jobs will soon follow. Consequently, most Americans will need to come up with a new skill set that is not abundant overseas.
Even if Pink is wrong, and Abundance and Asia aren't transforming America, rest assured that Automation is. In long paragraphs, Pink cites specific examples of how Computer Programming, Law, and Medicine have been radically altered by technology. You'll notice this trend in even simpler venues (like self-checkout at supermarket and department store chains) throughout the US. Implication of Pink's research? Transaction based jobs may soon start declining.
Now here are a few key items worthy of consideration -- when it comes to your present or future career track -- according to Dan. Can computers do it faster? Can overseas labor do it cheaper? Are your skills in demand? Are your skills overly abundant?
Eventually we'll all have to find new jobs, Pink theorizes. The Agricultural Age and Industrial Age have fallen away, and the Information Age is fading fast. We're hurtling into the Conceptual Age, where the majority of jobs will be held by people that create something, or by people that are capable of empathizing with others. Most of these jobs will require care, humor, imagination, ingenuity, instinct, joyfulness, personal rapport, or social dexterity.
Writer Pink explains High Concept, High Touch, avenues of growth that are likely to appear, delves into the importance of gaining an MBA or MFA, and then compares the differences between IQ and Emotional Intelligence in rough metaphor. He then closes Part One with two pages of observation on the baby boomer generation, and their newfound gravitation toward meaning and transcendence, and away from the allure of wealth.
Most of A Whole New Mind actually resides in Part Two, wherein Mr. Pink delineates a complex theory of the "six senses" that one could harvest to build a whole new mind. In Dan's worldview, Design is an asset above function. Story is an asset above argument. Symphony is an asset above focus. Empathy is an asset above logic. Play is an asset above seriousness, and Meaning is an asset above accumulation. After an extensive essay about each of these six components, Pink includes a "portfolio" of exercises (further reading, tools, and websites) that one could call upon to enhance this mindset, all being useful.
In the interest of keeping this review at one thousand words I've concentrated on the first half of the book -- since that is the framework that the book is built around. I will allow you the pleasure of reading the majority of part two on your own, but I'll lightly sketch some factoids that I enjoyed in the "portfolios" accompanying Dan's groupings.
To the author's credit, he is the first that succinctly diagnosed the major problems the Western countries are facing: Abundance, Asia, and Automation. Most people, including intellectuals and high government officials are in the coma state of not sensing the lethal effects of offshore outsourcing of high-tech jobs and R&D to the fundamental wellbeing of U.S. and other Western countries, nor the consequence of automating white collar jobs by the ever more powerful computer hardware and software. This is the first book that I know of that sounded the alarm to the great masses of the coming sea change. For this, the author ought to be congratulated.
The author has a vision that we are moving from Information Age to Conceptual Age. He said that if we have a whole new mind, we can have an economy and society that are built on the inventive, empathic and big-picture capabilities. He stresses that the main characters now are the creator and the empathizer. He argues that we need to move from high tech to high concept and high touch. These are all great ideas. However, the strategies that the author prescribed through the six R-Directed aptitudes, which consist most of the book, while adequate to battle Abundance and Automation, is hardly sufficient to overcome Asia. There are several major shortcomings to the book:
First and foremost, these six R-Directed aptitudes are not the sole possessions of the Western countries. Asian countries have them, too, and can probably master them just as well. The author seemed to forget to constantly validate his assumptions against the three questions he must answer. One of them was: Can someone overseas do it cheaper? This author has a dangerous underestimation of foreigners: "Sure. They can do low-level programming and accountancy but we still come up with the innovation and creativity." He did not notice that R&D are moving overseas to the foreign countries. For this, see [...] for more detail.
Secondly, how does the author know that these six R-Directed aptitudes are the most essential of all possible right-brain aptitudes? He never showed research evidences for these aptitudes are indeed the most important.
Thirdly, the six R-Directed aptitudes are highly subjective, social-dependent and culture-dependent. For example, design is highly culture-dependent. What is deemed elegant and tasteful design in a culture may be offensive to another. A beautiful design to you may be an average one to me. Take another aptitude, story, as another example: the contents of stories are highly culture-dependent. A story that makes sense in one culture may not make sense to another.
Fourthly, the result of developing these aptitudes, if developed to the full extent, is the further fragmentation of our world, for we have divide ourselves into smaller and smaller subjective realms. A side consequence is the fragmentation of the market for goods and services.
Above all, the solution proposed by the author is not going to be able to solve the problem of "Can someone overseas do it cheaper?"
In summary, the author deserves 3 stars for correctly diagnosed the problems, but gave the very incomplete solutions. However, I would encourage the author to continue to search for the solutions for Abundance, Asia, and Automation.
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