Friday, December 10, 2010

A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink

I saw here on the TJE website, a list of books that talk about the classics approach to education, but are main-stream today.  I was excited to see the list and ordered a number of them from the library right away.  Go figure!



A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink was the first one I read.  And I really enjoyed the 'right-brained' view of things.  I am definitely a left-brained person.  I have a hard time with imagination and definitely prefer liniar thinking and rules and definite results.  That is something I've been trying to challenge lately, but it does not come naturally.  And this book helped me to see that the creative/right brain side is just as useful as the more practical side. We all, of course, work with both sides of our brain.  But I think most people tend to have one side more dominant then the other-which translates to what we call personality.

Pink's thesis is that in order to survive in the up and coming job market in America and most of the Western world (and the rest of the world eventually), a person must use both sides of their brain in order to offer a goods or service that will allow him or her to have a job that pays more then minimum wage.

He gives 3 questions that need to be answered in order to determine if you will be viable in the workforce in America in the near future.

1.  Can someone overseas do it cheaper?

2.  Can a computer do it faster?

3.  Am I offering something that satisfies the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age?

He gives plenty of reason why those 3 questions need to be asked.  He gave all kinds of stats that show how most jobs in America have transferred to the eastern world where people graduate with MBA and have a much lower cost of living.  So the same job could be done in America for $70,000 or Asia for $15,000, allowing the same quality of living for the worker.  Hence companies like GE, Dell and HP have hired people over-sees instead of America.  My husband works in investment banking and he has told me many stories of jobs being sent overseas because of cost.  I had no idea until a few years ago, but apparently it's a very common thing.  No one in America can pay bills on $15,000 a year, it's just not possible (at least not in the NY metro area).  So how do you make yourself worth the extra $55,000 to a company?  By using your right brain says Pink.

He also gave a lot of examples of how computers are being used to do more and more things that used to be done by the human brain and hands.  Even writing computer programs is being done by computers now!  Go figure.

His last question addresses how you can distinguish yourself from those in Asia and from computers.  People now have the opportunity to have so many things inexpensively, that the only way to get them to choose your product, is to make it beautiful and artistic and to give it some sense of inner meaning.  The guy is definitely right-brained!  :)  Computers can't offer that dimension, and even people in another country can't offer the creation of such things, as they do not know what appeals to different cultures and people.

Make it personal.  Offer something that people can't get anywhere else.  My mother-in-law's consignment boutique  is a perfect example of this.  It's funny how many times I thought about her and her store while reading the book.  I'll have to ask her if she read it.  Her clothes are not cheap.  People could go to TJMaxx or Marshalls and get things for the same price, or even cheaper. But she offers things those places can't.  No malls or traffic.  She and her associates are amazing at outfitting people with wardrobes that they look and feel good in.  She knows her customers names and life stories.  Those are things no computer, or Asian graduate or even a discount store, could offer.  And people love her for it.

"For business it's no longer enough to create a product that's reasonably priced and adequately functional.  It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful.  In an age of abundance, appealing only to rational, logical, and functional needs is woefully insufficient.  Engineers must figure out how to get things to work.  But if those things are not also pleasing to the eye or compelling to the soul, few will buy them.  There are too many other options." 

The last 6 chapters are devoted to teaching 6 'senses' or skills' that Pink thinks a person will need to succeed in the days ahead.  They are all right-brained of course, and some are a little off the wall.  But it was a very fascinating book to read for a left-brainer like me.

The 6 senses are:

1.  Design
2.  Story
3.  Symphony
4.  Empathy
5.  Play
6.  Meaning

He talks about each one in detail.  He gives examples of how they are used in big-business today and then he gives a 'portfolio' after each one of books and other resources for developing these senses or skills.

While I have no desire to go into business at the moment, it's still some good skills to learn and sharpen.  And to keep in mind for helping my kids to get an over-all, truly 'liberal-arts' education.

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