A Whole New Mind

8Review by Alice Waagen

Book by Dan Pink

Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2005

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I am a fan of Dan Pink’s work. I started reading his articles years ago when he was a regular contributor to Fast Company magazine. Then, in 2001, he published Free Agent Nation — shortly after I began working as a free agent myself. Reading that book made me feel like a part of something big and current, not just a loner who was crazy enough to leave the ranks of corporate America and venture out on my own.

So it was with eager anticipation that I picked up a copy of Pink’s new book, A Whole New Mind. Let me start with my overall impression: this is a great book. Pink’s writing style is easy to read, more journalistic than academic. He makes his points up front, then supports them when needed with examples, stories and anecdotes.

As he did with Free Agent Nation, Pink blends journalism with futurism. He collects seemingly unrelated trends, facts and figures and weaves them into a prognosis of what is to come. Unlike those of many other futurists, his picture of what lies ahead is plausible and believable, based on keen observations and research.

The premise of A Whole New Mind is that we are shifting from the Information Age, dominated by linear, left-brain thinking, to what he calls the Conceptual Age, which will be ruled by those adept in right-brain abilities.

The impetus behind this shift is threefold:

1. Abundance – We are in an age of abundance, with multiple versions of products and services. Just go to any grocery store and try to purchase toothpaste or deodorant and you’ll see what I mean by abundance. Thus the product that will stand out and grab market share is one that is unique, creative or unusual in some way. Pure logic and reasoning will not help consumers narrow the selection – they will also use some form of aesthetic sensibility to determine their purchase – right-brain logic, as it were.

2. Asia – Outsourcing to other countries has shown us that people elsewhere are now able to perform left-brain tasks like accounting and computer coding faster and cheaper than we can. Thus our competitive edge lies in developing skills and abilities that cannot be transferred to overseas workforces — such as right-brain abilities.

3. Automation – Computers and mechanical automation are the fruits of applying left-brain logic and linear sequencing to machines. Like our overseas competitors, our machine competitors have yet to be able to perform right-brain creative/innovative work.

Pink uses the remainder of the book to describe the six right-brain aptitudes he tells us are needed for high-concept, high-touch work. And this is the real gift of A Whole New Mind: he accompanies the aptitudes with a portfolio of tools, exercises and further readings, all designed to help you grow your own “whole mind” — one that balances left- and right-brain focus. The tools and exercises are themselves very “high-touch” and “high-concept” in that they really do stimulate you into thinking and doing things differently.

The bottom line: A Whole New Mind is a valuable addition to any personal or professional coaching program that is geared toward developing innovation and creative thinking. One could use the portfolio’s tools, exercises and readings to create a personal development plan that truly changes the way one thinks. And changing how we think is not just some soft and fuzzy fad. Just look at examples we see every day of traditional American businesses failing to see new and emerging markets (such as failing to see the need for hybrid cars rather than SUVs). Pink’s message – stop relying on left-brain dominant thinking – may be the most critical shift in organizational learning we’ve seen in a long time.