A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age – Dan Pink

From danpink.com:

Lawyers. Accountants. Computer programmers. That’s what our parents encouraged us to become when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. That’s the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times.

In this insightful and entertaining book, which has been translated into 20 languages, Daniel H. Pink offers a fresh look at what it takes to excel. A Whole New Mind reveals the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend, and includes a series of hands-on exercises culled from experts around the world to help readers sharpen the necessary abilities. This book will change not only how we see the world but how we experience it as well.

From Wikipedia:


  • A Whole New Mind is Pink’s second book.
  • The book is a long-running New York Times and BusinessWeek bestseller that has been translated into 20 languages.
  • The book was named Best Business Book of 2005 by Strategy + Business, The Miami Herald, 800-CEO-READ, and Fast Company.
  • The book is part of a general movement in management literature to increasingly accept creativity and innovation as a source of business value.



Part 1 – The Conceptual Age

1. Right Brain Rising
2. Abundance, Asia & Automation
3. High Concept, High Touch

Part 2 – The Six Senses

Introducing the 6 senses

4. Design
5. Story
6. Symphony
7. Empathy
8. Play
9. Meaning 


Key Concepts from wikipedia:

A historical narrative starts the book outlining four major ‘ages’:

  1. Agricultural Age (farmers)
  2. Industrial Age (factory workers)
  3. Information Age (knowledge workers)
  4. Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers)

The fourth stage is where Pink focuses on how businesses can be successful.

Pink references three prevailing trends pointing towards the future of business and the economy: Abundance (consumers have too many choices, nothing is scarce), Asia (everything that can be outsourced, is) and Automation (computerization, robots, technology, processes). This brings up three crucial questions for the success of any business:

  1. Can a computer do it faster?
  2. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?
  3. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?

When these questions are present, creativity becomes the competitive difference that can differentiate commodities. Pink outlines six essential senses:

  1. Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  2. Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument. Best of the six senses.
  3. Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  4. Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  5. Play – Bringing humor and light-heartedness to business and products.
  6. Meaning – the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself.

 I have included a practical “What To Try/Do” after the extended summary section.

Extended Summary – Quotes from the book

1. Right Brain Rising

“Drawing is not really very difficult,” she said. “Seeing is the problem.”4 And the secret to seeing—really seeing—was quieting the bossy know-it-all left brain so the mellower right brain could do its magic.
– Betty Edwards

What distinguishes us from other animals is our ability to reason analytically. We are humans, hear us calculate. That’s what makes us unique. Anything else isn’t simply different; it’s less. And paying too much attention to those artsyfartsy, touchy-feely elements will eventually dumb us down and screw us up.

1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body

2. The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous

3. The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context

4. The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture.

Fear & Loathing in My Amygdalas

With one located in the left hemisphere and the other in the right, the amygdalas are ever on the lookout for threats in our midst.

My brain, then, is not merely ordinary in its looks. It is also ordinary in its actions. Both sides work together—but they have different specialties. The left hemisphere handles logic, sequence, literalness, and analysis. The right takes care of synthesis, emotional expression, context, and the big picture.

A Whole New Mind

L-directed thinking & R-directed thinking, instead of left-brain thinking & right-brain thinking

2. Abundance, Asia and Automation

most developed nations have devoted considerable time and treasure to producing left-brained knowledge workers.




Chess is in many ways the quintessential left-brain activity.

 3. High Concept, High Touch

Organizations must ask themselves 3 questions:
1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
2. Can a computer do it faster?
3. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?

To paraphrase Buffalo Springfield, there’s something happening here—and what it is is becoming more clear.

While Harvard’s MBA program admits about 10 percent of its applicants, UCLA’s fine arts graduate school admits only 3 percent. Why? A master of fine arts, an MFA, is now one of the hottest credentials in a world

the rules have changed: the MFA is the new MBA.
(Master of Fine Arts / Master of Business Administration)

Today we’re all in the art business.

According to the latest research, IQ accounts for what portion of career success?…
between 4 and 10 percent


Part 2 – The Six Senses

Introducing the 6 senses

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 emotional 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 somewhere will inevitably track down a counterpoint to rebut your point. The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative.

3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY.
Much of the industrial and information Ages require 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 I call Symphony. What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis – seeing the big 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 analytic tools, logic alone won’t do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man 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 an real life, we all need to play.

6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING.
We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. 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.



John Heskett, a scholar of the subject, explains it well: “[D]esign, stripped to its essence, can be defined as the human nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.”

Design is a classic whole-minded aptitude.

“Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.”
—PAOLA ANTONELLI, curator of architecture and design, Museum of Modern Art

“At Sony, we assume that all products of our competitors have basically the same technology, price, performance, and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another in the marketplace.
–Norio Ohga



Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.
–Roger C. Schank

As Alan Kay, a Hewlett-Packard executive and cofounder of Xerox PARC, puts it: “Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we’re all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories.”

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
–Barry Lopez (author of “Arctic Dreams”)



Many engineering deadlocks have been broken by people who are not engineers at all. This is because perspective is more important than IQ.
Nicholas Negroponte, MIT

Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art.
— Twyla Tharp

Seeing the big picture is fast becoming a killer app in business

one remarkable recent study found that self-made millionaires are 4 times more likely that the rest of the population to be dyslexic. Why? Dyslexics struggle with L-directed thinking and the linear, sequential, alphabetic reasoning at its core

Dyslexics think differently. They are intuitive and excel at problem-solving, seeing the big picture & simplifying… They are poor rote reciters, but inspired visionaries.
–Sally Shaywitz

I say: Get me some poets as managers. Poets are our original system thinkers.
–Sidney Harman



Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling. It is the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts.

Empathy isn’t sympathy – that is, feeling bad FOR someone else. It is feeling WITH someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person.

Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence, published about the same time that Clinton uttered his empathic words, signaled the beginning of this shift. Goleman argued that emotional abilities are even more important than conventional intellectual abilities—and the world took to his message.

Empathy is largely about emotion—feeling what another is feeling.

reading facial expressions is a specialty of our brain’s right hemisphere.

People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of their mind
William Butler Yeats

You just can’t fake a Duchenne smile. And while you can improve your empathic powers, you can’t fake Empathy either.

The rise of Empathy has even begun to color parental advice. In a recent survey of Australian information technology managers, 90 percent said they would not recommend that their own children pursue careers in the L-Directed field of software engineering. What would they recommend their children do instead? “I’d rather my kids opt for nursing as a profession,” said James Michaels, who works for a telecommunications company in Sydney. “It has both global and local demand.”

“The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.”


 The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression. To Play is to act out and be willful, exultant and committed as if one is assured of one’s prospects.
—  Brian Sutton-Smith

Indeed a growing stack of research is showing that playing video games can sharpen many of the skills that are vital in the Conceptual Age.

Play will be to the 21st century what work was to the last 300 years of industrial society – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value.
Pat Kane 

Humor embodies many of the right hemisphere’s most powerful attributes – the ability to place situations in context, to glimpse the big picture, and to combine differing perspectives into new alignments.

“There is no question that a playfully light attitude is characteristic of creative individuals.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It’s time to rescue humor from its status as mere entertainment and recognize it for what it is—a sophisticated and peculiarly human form of intelligence that can’t be replicated by computers and that is becoming increasingly valuable in a high-concept, high-touch world.

The goal of his clubs is “thought-free” laughter. “If you’re laughing, you cannot think. That is the objective we achieve in meditation.” The meditative mind is the route to joyfulness. Joyfulness differs from happiness, Kataria says. Happiness is conditional; joyfulness is unconditional.
— Dr. Kataria


People have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning.
Viktor Frankl

One of the most powerful and enduring works of the last century – Frankl’s book, “Man’s search for meaning“… It is both a window into the human soul and a guide to a meaningful life..
Frankl argues that “man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.”

Our fundamental drive, the motivational engine that powers human existence, is the pursuit of meaning. Frankl’s approach – called “logotherapy,” for “logos,” the greek word for meaning – quickly became an influential movement in psychotherapy.

Inglehart believes that the advanced world is in the midst of a slow change in its operating principles, “a gradual shift from ‘Materialist’ values (emphasizing economic and physical security above all) toward ‘Postmaterialist’ priorities (emphasizing self-expression and the quality of life).”
(Ronald Inglehart)

Whatever we call it—the “Fourth Great Awakening,” “Post-materialist” values, “meaning want”—the consequences are the same. Meaning has become a central aspect of our work and our lives.

But there are two practical, whole-minded ways for individuals, families, and businesses to begin the search for meaning:  start taking spirituality seriously and start taking happiness seriously.

“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…”
The Dalai Lama 

If you depend on spirituality alone to battle cancer or to mend broken bones, you deserve the disastrous results that will follow. But a whole-minded approach—L-Directed reason combined with R-Directed spirit—can be effective.

Most of the executives defined spirituality in much the same way—not as religion, but as “the basic desire to find purpose and meaning in one’s life.”

“Happiness,” Viktor Frankl wrote, “cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

Among the things that contribute to happiness, according to Seligman, are engaging in satisfying work, avoiding negative events and emotions, being married, and having a rich social network. Also important are gratitude, forgiveness, and optimism. (What doesn’t seem to matter much at all, according to the research, are making more money, getting lots of education, or living in a pleasant climate.)
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman 

A Pleasant Life is only one rung on the hedonic ladder. At a higher level is what Seligman calls the “Good Life”—in which you use your “signature strengths” (what you’re great at) to achieve gratification in the main areas of your life.

“A labyrinth is an escape for the right brain,” says David Tolzman, who designed and built the Johns Hopkins labyrinth. “As the left brain engages in the logical progression of walking the path, the right brain is free to think creatively.”

“We live in such a left brain world . . . and here’s this whole other world that we must integrate in order to meet the challenges of the next century,” Artress has said.
(Dr. Lauren Artress)

As Viktor Frankl could have told us, the ideal life is not a fear-fueled pursuit of cheese. It’s more like walking a labyrinth, where the purpose is the journey itself.


Things to try:


  • Keep a design Notebook (carry w/ you everywhere)
  • Channel your Annoyance
  • Read design Magazines (Ambridextrous, Dwell, HOW, iD, Metropolis, O, Print, Real Simple)
  • Become a design detective
  • Participate in the “Third Industrial Revolution”
  • Visit a Design Museum (Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum – NYC, Design Museum – London, MoMA – NYC, Victoria & Albert Museum – London)
  •  C-R-A-P-ify your design (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity)
  • Put it on the table
  • Be Choosy – choose things that will endure & are a pleasure to use
  • Write a Mini-Saga (extremly short stories – JUST 50 words)
  • Whip out the tape recorder (get a friend to tell stories)
  • Visit a storytelling festival
  • Get “One Story” – got ot amazon.com / use kindle
  • Riff on opening lines
  • Play photo finish (craft a story from a “random” picture)
  • Experiment with Digital Storytelling
  • Ask yourself: “Who are these people?” (people watching.. create a story for the people…)
  • Read good boks..

  • Listen to the great symponies (Beethoven’s 9th, Mozart’s 35th, Mahler’s 4th i G Minor, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture, etc….)
  • Hit the newsstand (buy magazines you never noticed before)
  • Learn how to Draw (book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition)
  • Keep a Metaphor log
  • Follow the links (internet browsing)
  • Create an Inspiration board
    (when working on a project)
  •  Do some Real brainstorming (quantity, wild ideas, defer judgement,…)
  • Look for negative spaces
  • Test yourself (Empathy Quotient, Spot the fake smile (BBC), EQ tests…)
  • Study (Paul) Ekman (leading expert on facial expressions)
  • Eavesdrop
  • Empathize on the job
  • Take an acting class
  • Get “Mind Reading” (CD-ROM)
  • Don’t outsource your empathy (create your own birthday/wedding/ etc.. cards)
  • Volunteer
  • Find a laughter club
  • Take James Thorson humor test
  • Get Your game on – play video games
  • Go to school playground and watch kids play
  • Dissect a  joke (why was it funny?)
  • Say Thanks – Gratitude works!
  • Take the 20-10 test – created by Jim Collins (“Good to Great”)
  • Measure your spirit (Spiritual transcendence scale / INSPIRIT)
  • Take a Sabbath – one day a week.. no email/work/telephone…
  • Books: “Man’s Search for Meaning” – Victor Frankl, Authentic Happiness – Seligman, Flow – Csikszentmihalyi, “What should I do with my life?” – Bronson, Mindfulness – Ellen Langer, “The Art of Happiness” – Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler
  • Visit a Labyrinth – http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/
  • Log your time – see what you spend time doing
  • Dedicate your work – not only authors should have all the fun!
  •  Picture yourself at ninety


Fantastic book! – Everybody with the slightest concern for the future should read it.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: