Six Senses for the New Conceptual Age

My friend, Gretchen Baker, has started a coaching business, and she recommended this popular and enlightening book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink. He also wrote the insightful Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Cover A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. PinkIn A Whole New Mind, Pink describes a "seismic shift in our world today in which we are moving from an economy and society built on logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what's rising in its place, the Conceptual Age."

He describes the "six senses" on which professional success and personal satisfaction will increasingly depend:

  1. Not just function but also DESIGN. It's no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that's merely functional. Today, it's economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.
  2. Not just argument but also STORY. When our lives are brimming with information and data, it's not enough to marshal an effective argument. Someone, somehow, will inevitably track down a counter weight to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication and even self-understanding has become the ability to also fashion a compelling narrative.
  3. Not just focus but also "SYMPHONY." Much of the Industrial and Information Age required focus and specialization. But as white-collar work gets routed to Asia and reduced to software, there's a new premium on the opposite aptitude: putting the pieces together, or what he calls Symphony. What's in the greatest demand today isn't analysis but synthesis: seeing a picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole.
  4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY. The capacity for logical thought is one of the things that makes us human. But in a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytical tools, logic alone won't do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow men or women tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.
  5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY. Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games and humor. There is a time to be serious, of course. But too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being. In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play.
  6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING. We live in a world of breathtaking material aplenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.

Pink acknowledges that this vision may seem dreadful, suggesting a hostile takeover of normal life by a band of poseurs in black unitards. He feels that these high concepts, high-touch six abilities that now matter most are fundamentally human attributes.

He believes these abilities have always comprised part of what it means to be human. But after a few generations in the Information Age, these muscles have atrophied. Pink is convinced anyone can master the six Conceptual Age senses.

What a fascinating way to look to the future. Thanks, Gretchen, for recommending this compelling book.


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