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A Whole New Mind- Book Review

1 October 2009

Dr. Moria Levy

This book is captivating and groundbreaking in its conceptualization, delving into the forthcoming post-knowledge workers' era. Gifted to me by Eyal Sasson, I express my gratitude to him here.

My anticipation for the book was high, given its accolades as a bestseller by The New York Times and BusinessWeek. Renowned figures in the literary and journalistic realms, such as Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), hailed it as a miraculous work—original and profound. Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) even declared it his "favorite business book," among other praises from notable personalities.


The book's core message revolves around the idea that the Asian world competently executes the tasks of knowledge workers at a more economical rate than the Western world. To secure the next competitive advantage, the Western world must introduce a new value proposition centered on utilizing the brain's right hemisphere, which is responsible for creativity and non-logical aspects.


Pink elucidates specific abilities and provides tools to enhance "right-wing" thinking. It is important to note that the comprehensive summary doesn't cover all aspects, including the origins of ideas and their thinkers, often presented in lists of recommended books and places to explore.


The book explores the following key topics:

  • The right side of the brain

  • Causes of change

  • Design

  • Story

  • Symphony

  • Empathy

  • Play

  • Meaning


I wholeheartedly recommend this book for everyone to peruse. A small caveat: Strengthening the right side of the brain does not equate to neglecting left hemisphere activity, a misconception that some critics have erroneously made. In any case, I hope you have an enjoyable reading experience utilizing both sides of your brain. I strongly urge you to delve into the complete book afterward.


The right side of the brain

The book's point of departure lies in a global transformative shift—an unacknowledged yet evident change poised to redefine the operations of the advanced world. Departing from the logic and linear thinking that characterized the age of knowledge and knowledge workers, we are ushered into an era marked by inventive, empathetic abilities and an overarching perspective—an era aptly termed the conceptual age.


The exploration of the brain and its functions is grounded in research but presented in language accessible to readers. While both sides of the brain perform various functions uniformly, such as coordinating body movements, distinct thinking methods differentiate the right hemisphere from the left. Training the desired side of the brain becomes achievable when comprehending these differences:

  • The serial left lobe recognizes characters and words; the right hemisphere perceives pictures simultaneously.

  • The left hemisphere specializes in text (what is said); the right hemisphere specializes in context (how shall we say).

  • The left lobe analyzes details; the right hemisphere integrates the picture.

  • The left hemisphere specializes in categories; the right hemisphere specializes in in-between connections.


While it may be tempting to discuss each brain hemisphere in isolation, it's crucial to recognize them as two facets of a shared brain designed to collaborate. Their synergy is what bestows them with power. The key lies in leveraging both left- and right-oriented thinking—an approach that accentuates one side without dismissing the other.


Causes of change

Peter Drucker coined the term "knowledge workers," and their way of thinking undeniably influenced our age's character, leadership, and social profile. However, three pivotal factors are steering us toward the transition to the New Age:

  1. The Culture of Abundance: Our society is marked by abundant possessions—numerous portfolios, various clothes, and readily available designer wear. We possess many cars, surpassing even the number of individuals with driver's licenses in the US. This culture dictates that it's insufficient for an engineer to design a functional item; products must captivate our attention and wallets. Increasingly, products appeal to right-wing thinking, emphasizing aesthetics, excitement, and more.

  2. Asia: This vast continent is home to substantial numbers of workers, not only in textiles but also in programming, medicine, and accounting. The sheer quantity and lower wages have spurred the outsourcing phenomenon, with many professionals migrating to the other side of the world for implementation.

  3. Automation: Computers are progressively mastering various tasks, from playing chess to performing precise and rapid activities through robots. New software that can develop itself is emerging, potentially replacing actions performed by professionals like accountants and lawyers. The author suggests that the relative advantage of these professionals should now come from integrating right-wing thinking. High concept, the ability to produce artistic and emotional beauty, and high touch, the ability to understand nuances and be attentive to others, are two concepts the author highlights for achieving comparative advantage.


The confluence of knowledge and trends, Asia, and automation propels us into a new era—the conceptual generation. Emotional intelligence is no longer a novel term, and art schools are becoming more competitive than medical schools. As we enter this new era, success requires individuals to understand and enhance their operational skills through six senses.


Design

Design can be defined as an inherent aspect of human nature, shaping and molding our environment to meet our needs and imbue our lives with meaning. It has evolved into a service that caters to our practical requirements and has become a crucial component of business success and personal fulfillment. Design plays a critical role in the culture of abundance, continually evolving and influencing, with the potential to change the world, according to the book's author.


Evolving trends in design encompass:

  1. Democratization of Design: Shifting from catering exclusively to the elite to becoming accessible to the masses.

  2. Business Competition Shift: The focus transitions from competing for time, quality, and money to competing for uniqueness and design.

  3. Impact on Critical Issues: Design can contribute to addressing crucial global concerns like global warming and fostering a green environment.


The design remains resistant to outsourcing or automation, ensuring its sustained ability to create added value.


Tools for developing design capabilities include:

  • Maintain a design notebook to record inspiring and less appealing encounters.

  • Engage in personal exercises to enhance the design of troublesome objects.

  • Read design magazines (see the book for recommendations).

  • Analyze workspaces to comprehend the sensations they evoke.

  • Visit design museums (a list is provided in the book).

  • Participate in online design games, such as those on the NIKE website for shoe design.

  • Familiarize yourself with the four essential elements of design: contrasts, repetition, alignment, adjustment, and proximity.

  • Choose items based on personal preference rather than mere fashion trends.


Additional tips from Karim Rashid include:

  • Avoid specialization.

  • Assess whether true innovation is achieved before creating something new.

  • Understand the history of the fields you engage in but forget it in pursuing new design.

  • Refrain from saying, "I could have done it."

  • Embrace experiences, as usual, do not necessarily equate to being good.

  • Recognize the three types of people: those who create culture, those who buy culture, and those who don't. Aim to be in the first two groups.

  • Think comprehensively.

  • Value experiences as the most significant part of life, as space and objects can foster new and different experiences.

  • Embrace the present moment, as "here and now" is all we have.


Story

A story transcends mere factual description by introducing two crucial elements to information and knowledge: context and emotions. Linked to high concept, a story enhances our comprehension through context, while its association with high touch lies in the feelings it elicits. The evolving trends related to stories include:

  1. Storytelling as a Business Tool: Organizations like the World Bank utilize storytelling to convey information effectively.

  2. Story as a Business Tool for Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs employ storytelling to distinguish their services in a saturated market.

  3. Story as a Diagnostic Tool in Medicine: Stories assist doctors in diagnosing patients, with advanced medical schools offering courses on this subject.


A story provides a means of understanding that doesn't solely engage the brain's left hemisphere.


Tools for developing storytelling skills include:

  • Craft a short story.

  • Engage in a digital storytelling project, such as www.storycorps.net. Share or listen to stories.

  • Conduct interviews with acquaintances about their lives.

  • Attend Storytelling Festivals (refer to the book for a list), including those with (ML) in Israel.

  • Read short stories (a recommended source is www.one-story.com).

  • Take a given sentence or picture and create a sequel or story around it.

  • Read selected books (refer to the attached list in the book).

  • Additional suggestion (M.L.): Start a blog.


Symphony

A symphony denotes the ability to assemble individual parts of a picture and interconnect them into a unified whole. Symphonic thinking, prevalent among composers, conductors, entrepreneurs, and inventors, involves identifying patterns, traversing various fields to discern obscure connections, and engaging the imagination to link and overlap them. Specialized workshops on painting offer a platform for developing symphonic skills by teaching how to deconstruct an object, analyze connections among its components, and depict them while maintaining accurate interrelations.


Emerging trends related to the symphony include:

  1. Emphasis on Seeing Connections: There is an increasing recognition of the significance of crossing boundaries to identify connections, with reconnection as a pathway to entrepreneurship and innovation.

  2. Big Picture Vision in Business: Viewing the big picture is crucial for business success. Integration takes precedence, as computational tools or junior staff can handle details. It also allows for the selection of critical elements for success.


Tools for developing symphonic ability encompass:

  • Listen to great musical compositions (find a favorite list in the book).

  • Explore magazines from unexpected newsstands to broaden your perspective.

  • Engage in drawing exercises.

  • Enhance imagery by collecting metaphors encountered and recording them.

  • Choose a word, play an association game, and generate new words. Explore websites and their links.

  • Take a successful solution and identify additional applications for it.

  • Use a clipboard for inspiration. Attach items and observe connections that quickly become apparent.

  • Read books promoting symphonic thinking (refer to the recommended list in the book).

  • Dedicate time to brainstorming sessions.

  • Act in areas where you are an amateur and may not always succeed. Embrace experimentation.

  • Analyze charts and drawings, focusing on empty areas to glean insights.


Empathy

Emotional identification, or empathy, involves the capacity to envision ourselves in another person's position and experience their emotions. It is the ability to step into another's shoes, perceive through their eyes, and resonate with their heart. It's crucial to distinguish empathy from a closely related concept, sympathy, where we share in someone's feelings without feeling distressed due to their condition. The significance of empathy gained prominence with the publication of Daniel Goleman's book "Emotional Intelligence" and its integration into the speeches of then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.


In contrast to other senses in this summary, empathy isn't merely a vital skill for success in the upcoming century; the book's author considers it a life ethic. Empathy makes us human, brings joy, and imparts meaning (a separate chapter on the importance of meaning is included).

Evolving trends related to empathy include:

Empathy in Disease Treatment: Empathy becomes a significant aspect of disease treatment, complementing medication rather than replacing it.


Tools for developing empathic abilities encompass:

  • Assess your current empathic abilities using various websites.

  • Study the teachings of Paul Ekman in the field.

  • Practice active engagement in thoughts during conversations by discreetly eavesdropping on others.

  • Analyze a person's image by studying the items they hold in their wallet.

  • Integrate and enhance empathy in the workplace and team environment.

  • Learn acting skills.

  • Explore mind-reading techniques (e.g., visit www.jkp.com/mindreading).

  • Volunteer and engage in helping others.


Statistical research indicates that women excel more in expressing empathy than men.


Play

When discussing play, it doesn't refer to the ability to imitate people or characters in a theatrical or cinematic context. The author emphasizes combining laughter and happiness in life and the work environment. In the era of Ford, the renowned automobile industrialist at the start of the 20th century, there were concerns about the potential harm of play to work. Today, it is widely understood that the opposite is true as long as it remains within appropriate limits (M.L.).


Emerging trends related to play include:

  1. Gaming: Game sites have gained immense popularity, with increased engagement in gaming activities. Simulations and games are utilized in the business world as training tools (e.g., for soldiers) and problem-solving instruments. While some games serve only as pastime activities, others can contribute to personal and professional advancement.

  2. Humor: Studies show that humor is strongly linked to the right side of the brain. Humor, both in personal life and business, can reduce hostility and criticism, alleviate stress, improve moods, and facilitate communication of challenging messages.

  3. Happiness: Distinguishing between joy and happiness, the term happiness is used in an absolute and non-conditional sense. Happiness clubs are emerging globally, where people gather, share laughter, and collectively experience moments of happiness.


Tools for developing the ability to play include:

  • Join a laughter club.

  • Attempt to guess the title of a funny cartoon without reading the original text.

  • Assess your level of humor using tools such as tinyurl.com/6t7ff.

  • Engage in play and inventiveness, participating in sites that combine the two.

  • Try games on your computer, video games, or other platforms (refer to the attached list in the book).

  • Visit an elementary school or playground where unconventional work meetings can be held.

  • Play games designed to develop the right side of the brain (e.g., visit www.bluelavawireless.com).


Meaning

"The Meaning of Meaning" is the book's concluding chapter, delving into profound and somber contexts. Fink begins by exploring the significance of meaning, drawing inspiration from Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning." Fink recounts Frankl's history, emphasizing how meaning became a lifeline for him during the Holocaust, saving him amidst the loss of family members.


Evolving trends related to meaning encompass:

  1. Rejection of Materialism: Surveys reveal dissatisfaction with materialism, with over 50% of Americans frequently contemplating the general meaning and the meaning of life.

  2. Search for Spirituality: A growing trend sees people seeking spirituality, whether expressed through religion or alternative values. Even scientific institutions like MIT and Duke University witness discussions aiming to integrate science and spiritual understanding better.

  3. Workplace Preferences Beyond Money: Organizations experience a shift as individuals seek workplaces offering more than financial rewards. Considerations now include a supportive environment and opportunities for self-realization.

  4. Psychological Emphasis on Joy: In psychology and other fields, joy is taken seriously. Researcher Seligman identifies six factors influencing joy, some inherent and others developable. Workplace satisfaction, avoidance of sadness, marriage, and a robust social network contribute to joy. According to Seligman, the highest level of happiness is attained when a person finds meaning.


Tools for developing the ability to search and find meaning involve:

  • Express gratitude to someone and contemplate why they deserve thanks.

  • Reflect on whether you would continue your life in its current aspects if you won a substantial lottery sum.

  • Appreciate your spirituality using www.tinyurl.com/5sz7u.

  • Reevaluate desires you don't pursue and rephrase them positively, contemplating how they can be achieved.

  • Dedicate time to observe Shabbat, a day of withdrawal from work.

  • Read books about meaning (a recommended list is provided in the book featuring Frankl's work).

  • Visit a labyrinth, contemplating wisdom as you journey to its center.

  • Assess whether you are using your time appropriately.

  • Dedicate your work (not limited to a doctoral dissertation) to your loved ones.

  • Envision your aspirations at the age of 90.


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