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A Whole New Mind: Learning to Excel in the Modern Workplace

I recently discussed Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind. His book focuses on the change in the American workforce in which left brain linear thinking jobs are being automated via technology and shipped overseas where labor is cheaper. My intention is not to scare professionals like lawyers, engineers, and programmers, is to alert them to the fact that the new way to excel in these fields is to tap into their more creative right brain thinking. This will allow these professionals to create new services and products that can’t be replicated immediately overseas.

Pink asserts that we are entering the “the conceptual age.” An age whose main characters are the creator and empathizer, attributes of right brain functioning. He characterizes this age with the notion of “high concept, high touch.” High concept meaning the “ability to create artistic or emotional beauty, detect patterns, craft narratives and combine unrelated ideas into novel inventions.” High touch involves the ability to “empathize, understand subtleties of human interaction and pursue purpose and meaning.” So the question becomes: How do I tap into that creative right side of my brain?

After investigating that very question, Pink devised an answer by creating the “six senses.” These are six specific high concept and high touch aptitudes that he feels “are essential in the new era.” The six senses include: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

  • Design: Products in the new area need to be more than just functional to sell. It needs to engage consumer by beauty or emotion.
  • Story: Information age means more than an effective argument that will meet a counterpoint is needed. Compelling narratives created by using persuasion, communication, and self understanding will be more noticeable.
  • Empathy: Logic will always be part of the human experience. However, people who thrive will be able to understand others and how they respond/behave, create relationships, and show caring for others.
  • Play: Most of the highly respected left brain professions are all about seriousness. New research reveals that there are many health and professional benefits to having fun.
  • Meaning: In a world of abundance and material things, many people are looking towards purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.

In the first two parts of this column I discussed Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind; a book that discusses how to create in a global marketplace. He introduced the “six senses” as a way to increase your high concept and high touch aptitudes. These aptitudes are related to right brain functioning, something he believes is crucial in the current conceptual era.

I touched briefly on the six senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. The following are ways that Daniel Pink prescribes to develop your right brain aptitude. It may feel a little like homework, but it actually is a lot of fun and the benefit of improving your perspective is well worth it.

Design: Become aware of your environment.
1. Keep a design notebook and write down the design elements that work for you in the environment around you and the ones that don’t. If you hate writing notes, take pictures instead.
2. Read design magazines and visit museums. Get a sense of what feels good to you. Go to open houses and pay attention to layouts that work and others that feel crammed.

Story: Explore different ways of telling stories.
1. Write a mini saga: stories that are only fifty words long.
2. Record yourself or family member telling a story.
3. Go to storytelling festivals.
4. Tell stories digitally with pictures and sound.

Symphony: The ability to put together the pieces and invent something new by detecting patterns and combining elements.
1. Listen to classical music such as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
2. Draw. Books like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards will help hesitant drawers.
3. Keep a metaphor log and list metaphors you encounter in print and daily conversation.

Empathy: The ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and intuit what the person is feeling.
1. Read Paul Ekman’s book Emotions Revealed to learn how to decipher the emotions on people’s faces.
2. Take an acting class. Not your style? Buy the CD-Rom “Mind Reading”; originally developed for people who have difficulty reading emotions and want to learn how, it is now used by actors, illustrators and people who want more insight.
3. Volunteer.

Play: No longer seen as a distraction from working and learning; games, humor, and joyfulness are contributing positively to society.
1. Join a laughter club.
2. Play right brain games. Tecmo’s Right Brain Game determines your brain dominance and challenges you to complete increasingly difficult level of right brain functioning.
3. Play some video games for fun, but skip the excess.

Meaning: The abundance of information and technology has led many people to increasing meaning in their lives through creating happiness and spirituality.
1. Show gratitude for the people in your life who have helped you along your life path.
2. Examine roadblocks in your current life. Compile a list of some of the important changes you’d like to make and what’s keeping you from realizing them.
3. Look at how you spend your time and decide what activities add value to your life.

By Laura Tirello for YoungMoney