Book Reviews

A Whole New Mind—Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age

Author:       Daniel H. Pink
Publisher:  Riverhead Books
Reviewer:  Basil P. Rouskas
                     CEO, NovAspire, Inc.
Stars          4

Stars ratings:
1 Don’t bother
2 Limited value
3 You should read it
4 You should read it, buy it and revisit it often

What is this book about?

This book is about moving into the Conceptual Age, a new age that will require the integration of Left Brain activities (data processing, reasoning, streamlining, and organizing) with Right Brain ones (intuition, synthesis, empathy, and art.) The book defines the competencies that will be needed for success in the Conceptual Age and provides solid evidence on the trends that will shape careers for the next few decades. It is also a rich provider of tools and resources for development of those competencies.

Who should read it?

People who want to understand trends in today’s workplace so they can manage proactively their career, executives interested in long term competitive vigor, and HR executives whose ability to attract, recruit, develop and retain talent will depend on these trends. It should also be read by people who want to understand an emerging revolution and gain the edge to profit from it.

Why should he/she read it?

It is a short, well written, and well documented book that brings the reader to face the forces that have only just begun to surface, but whose momentum and historical necessity are beyond doubt. It defines six competencies (the author calls them “senses”) in easy to remember ways and with powerful stories and examples to drive home the forces that will be shaping our work, career, and global economy.

Instead of denying the phenomenon of outsourcing and attempting to reverse its flow, readers who understand this book will be empowered to accept it and build their businesses and careers in ways that are ahead of the outsourcing flood that permeates every layer of the modern business landscape.

What are the main points?

Left and Right Brain activities are not a new in the literature. But this book found a way to present in layman’s terms the difference between the Left Brain and Right Brain Directed activities of the human mind (The respective chapter is actually described with an unusual context-- the author’s experience undergoing tests measuring the activities of his brain at the National Institute of Mental Health, outside of Washington, DC.)

In the second chapter the author makes a “resolutely hardheaded case designed to appeal to the left part of the brain why three huge social and economic forces –Abundance, Asia and Automation- are nudging us into the Conceptual Age.”

In chapter three the author argues that as society moved from the Agriculture to the Industrial and then to the Information Age, it is now moving towards the Conceptual Age.That conceptual Age is marked by the necessity of integrating High Concept with High Touch.High concept involves the ability to create works of artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities to craft a satisfying narrative and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into new inventions. High touch, on the other hand, involves the ability to empathize, understand the subtleties of human interactions to find and elicit joy in one’s self and in others and to search beyond the everyday activities for purpose and meaning.

Pink identifies the emerging trends towards High Concept - High Touch by giving examples of how, for one example, the curriculum for new doctors is incorporating interpersonal and narrative skills to understand the whole patient. He makes some bold assertions, for one other example, the
demand for the MBA of the future will be replaced by the MFA (Master’s in Fine Arts) and gives examples of some unexpected sources such as Bob Lutz, a former marine and former CEO of GM making statements such as: “ It is more right brain… I see us in the art business…” The book also makes the connection between Emotional Intelligence and success in the leadership circles of the business world, supporting the previous research conducted by Daniel Goleman in his seminal book “Emotional Intelligence”

In short the High Concept - High Touch will be a high-torque force for individuals and organizations to rethink their future, as they are trying to answer and ponder three questions: Can someone overseas do it cheaper?

  1. Can a computer do it faster?
  2. Is what I am offering in demand in an age of abundance?

In Part II the book highlights the six competencies, “senses”, for facilitating the creation of High Concept – High Touch conditions:

  • Design
  • Story
  • Symphony
  • Empathy
  • Play
  • Meaning

Each one of these chapters opens the gates of inquiry into a future that will reshape our careers and our life. I particularly liked the one on “Story” –not surprisingly, I am a poet – and I found fascinating to contemplate how the marketing concepts we use today will need to be transformed
to reach and influence tomorrow’s customer.In addition to the description of the six “senses”, Pink provides a rich collection of “Portfolios” –
chapters with many types of rich resources to develop the “senses” such as books, websites,“laugh clubs”, games, on-line tests, and, yes, even “labyrinths”—you will have to read the book to find out what that they are and where you can find them.

This is a book that is classified under “Creative Thinking” and “Success – Psychological Factors.” I agree. It is also a futurist’s book about a future that is already here. I urge you to read it.