Why right-brainers will rule this century

While they weren’t brand new cars, Oprah did leave 4500 copies of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Dan Pink on the chairs of the graduating students she was addressing (Stanford 2008). Why?

In her words, “Pink, a former chief speechwriter for former Vice President Al Gore, presents a convincing argument that our country is entering a new era — the so-called conceptual age — during which right-brained skills such as design and storytelling will become far more crucial than traditionally left-brained skills such as accounting and computer programming. While the latter skills are readily outsourced, transformative abilities such as empathy and creativity are crucial in a new age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life.” Dan refers to this evolved era as the Conceptual Age.

I highly suggest reading her CNN article, Why right-brainers will rule this century, which includes a signature interview with Dan Pink, as well as a link to an excerpt from the book, which by the way has been out since 2005.

In this Conceptual Age, Dan suggests that we’ll need to complement our left-brain directed reasoning with six essential right-brain directed aptitudes, thus achieving a whole new mind. Just imagine the kinds of creative places, scenes and events that could result… because they will. Here are the six aptitudes, referred to as the Six Senses, in relation to their left-brained complement:

“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—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 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.”

In the next entry, a look at how these six senses apply to crowdsourcing places for creatives.

  • Catbus

    Not to be a downer, but this sounds like self-justifying wishful thinking. The more I look around at the way things are going, the more I believe that the 21st century will be ruled by people with the money to hire private mercenary armies.

    Environmental degradation, climate change and our ideological investment in the existing system have us on a fast track to social collapse. There are two obvious strategies for surviving the next few decades: aggressively and creatively fighting those three factors in the hope of staving off collapse; and aggressively and creatively planning to come out on top when the collapse occurs.

  • I highly suggest reading the book first :)

    The bottom line is, will reading the book inspire people to be more proactive or more complacent? I strongly believe it will make them more proactive, and that’s really what matters IMO.

  • Robin Spilner

    The problem with this hypothesis is that the path to employment has been cut at its root. With entry level and many middle management jobs disappearing, how does the person with the creative synthesis brain get to a position in a company where they are allowed to be creative and make connections. You can’t just walk into a company and say ” I can connect the dots, I am right brained” and be put into that position. That just leaves lots of education as proof of talent, which is requiring more and more money to obtain. I agree that the right brains should rule the world, I just don’t see how they will get there.

  • There are many possible responses to this, but here’s one:

    The more companies like Apple are viewed as successful, the more right-brained people you’ll see in top management positions.

    Wall Street showed what happens when you get too many left-brained people in top management.

    Our own president told the country that we need fewer graduates aspiring to be investment bankers, and more of them as entrepreneurs and innovators. I guess that’s one strategy he and Oprah had in common :)

  • Robin Spilner

    Entrepreneurs and innovators need capital to start businesses and develop products. This means getting entry level jobs to pay the bills and build resources, unless you were born with a silver spoon or have the right contacts to get venture capital. By limiting innovation to the wealthy few who have capital and can handle the risk we are stifling innovation in this country. Why do you think the internet has been such a great outlet for innovation? It is because the overhead is low and the knowledge resources are readily available. We need to figure out a way to tap innovators from all demographic levels, assess good ideas without expensive credentials, and direct capital to good projects/people.

  • Ah, you’re talking about the ‘Long Tail’. Again, here’s but one such way to address the problem: Building a creative economy using the Long Tail. We’re working on building this web app, but it’s going to come after we build a custom crowdsourced placemaking web app.

  • I read the book a few years back on the recommendation of a real estate developer, so yes there’s hope.

    I did find the book to be inspiring, and perhaps I need to pick it up again, but I’ll check out the interview too. Thanks for the link.

  • I highly suggest reading her CNN article, Why right-brainers will rule this century, which includes a signature interview with Dan Pink, as well as a link to an excerpt from the book, which by the way has been out since 2005.In this Conceptual Age, Dan suggests that we”ll need to complement our left-brain directed reasoning with six essential right-brain directed aptitudes, thus achieving a whole new mind. Just imagine the kinds of creative places, scenes and events that could result” because they will. Here are the six aptitudes, referred to as the Six Senses, in relation to their left-brained complement: