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Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future

Lawyers. Accountants. Radiologists. Programmers. Engineers. That’s what our parents told us to be when we grew up. But Mom and Dad were wrong. The future now belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. So says Daniel Pink, author of the compelling must-read, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

A Whole New Mind - Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future“The era of ‘left-brain’ dominance—and the Information Age that it engendered—is giving way to a new world in which artistic and holistic ‘right-brain’ abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind.”

In his book, Daniel describes a seismic shift that—while not yet fully realized—is already underway in much of the modern world. We are rapidly moving from an economy and culture built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to one built on the creative, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place: the Conceptual Age.

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank out code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who would crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.

As we transition from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, these people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

Three increasingly powerful trends are propelling us toward this new age:

  1. Abundance: Material abundance has freed millions of people from the struggle for mere survival, and is instead deepening our yearnings for less rational, non-material sensibilities—beauty, spirituality and emotion. For businesses, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be aesthetically beautiful, unique, and meaningful.
  2. Asia: Globalization is taking on new meaning, as more and more companies ship white-collar work overseas. Engineering, computer programming and even accounting are being done by twenty-five year-old Indians—just as well, if not better; just as fast, if not faster—and for the wages of a Starbucks employee.
  3. Automation: Powerful technologies are eliminating certain kinds of work altogether and proving that they can replace human left brains. Software is a “forklift for the mind.” While it may not eliminate every left-brain job, it will destroy many and reshape the rest. If a $500-a-month chartered accountant in India doesn’t swipe your comfortable accounting job, Turbo-Tax will!

To ascertain the impact of these three forces on your own business, ask yourself the following three 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 affluence?

Thanks to these three factors, among others, we are entering a new age. It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and new approach to life—one that prizes aptitudes that Daniel calls “high concept” and “high touch.”

“High concept” involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.

“High touch” involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the mundane in pursuit of purpose and meaning.

The best metaphor for this seismic shift in thinking is actually right inside your head—the two hemispheres of the human brain. The left hemisphere is sequential, logical, and analytical. The right hemisphere is nonlinear, intuitive, and holistic. You must have both in order to function properly, but our society has been heavily dominated by L-Directed thinking. As the three huge social and economic forces: Abundance, Asia, and Automation continue to propel us into the Conceptual Age, people who master these high concept, high touch, or R-Directed abilities will set the tempo of modern life.

This book identifies six essential aptitudes—”the six new senses”—on which professional success and personal satisfaction increasingly will 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 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 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 I call Symphony. What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis—serving the big picture and, crossing boundaries, 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 woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.
  5. Not just seriousness but 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 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.

Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning.

These six senses increasingly will guide our lives and shape our world. The high-concept, high-touch abilities that now matter most are fundamentally human attributes. After all, back on the savanna, our cave-person ancestors weren’t taking SATs or plugging numbers into spreadsheets. But they were telling stories, demonstrating empathy, and designing innovations. 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. The challenge is to work them back into shape.

In my opinion, this book is a must-read for anyone in the creative industry, no matter what discipline. Additionally, the practical strategies, examples and even hands-on exercises found at the end of each chapter are an invaluable resource for any business owner who wishes to thrive and succeed in the rapidly-approaching Conceptual Age.

Click here to check it out on Amazon.com!

Published on August 11, 2007  •   Related Tags:  Articles, Reviews

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