Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

A MUST-read

I just finished reading a book and, since I’m not quite loud enough to climb to the tallest peak and shout it to the world, I’ll say it here: Every person should read this book.

While that sentence may be pregnant with hyperbole, I really am that pumped about the content of this book.

It’s AA Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink. No book has made this kind of impact on me since Good to Great.

I found out about this book from one of the tech blogs I read. When I looked into it, I saw high praise for it from the likes of Tom Peters and Seth Godin and immediately went to Amazon and bought it. It’s also gotten impressive reviews since its release.

I’ve been recommending this book at the end of my “Next Big Thing” seminar, not because it’s directly tied to the topic, but because it illustrates many of the bigger societal issues involved in The Shift.

Pink uses the first quarter of the book making the case that we’ve moved from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age – or from an emphasis on left-brained (sequential, literal, functional, textual, analytic) to right-brained (simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, synthetic) careers. His simple laymen’s explanation of the functions of the brain is fascinating, and drawn on mountains of research.

His evidence is distilled in three points:

...three forces are tilting the scales in favor of R-Directed [right-brained] Thinking. Abundance has satisfied, and even oversatisfied, the material needs of millions – boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individuals’ search for meaning. Asia is now performing large amounts of routine, white-collar, L-Directed [left-brained] work at significantly lower costs, thereby forcing knowledge workers in the advanced world to master abilities that can’t be shipped overseas. And automation has begun to affect this generation’s white-collar workers in much the same way it did last generation’s blue-collar workers, requiring L-Directed professionals to develop aptitudes that computers can’t do better, faster, and cheaper.

Pink’s answer for those currently in or thinking about left-brained careers is to consider a more high concept/high touch direction. The next three-quarters of the book are dedicated to the six senses that will be required to succeed in this emerging age:

  • Design: “Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.”
  • Story: ”...the ability to place facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”
  • Symphony: ”...symphony thinking is the ability of composers and conductors to corral a diverse group of notes, instruments, and performers and produce a unified and pleasing sound…seeing the big picture is fast becoming a killer app in business.”
  • Empathy: ”...the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts.”
  • Play: ”...the most effective executives deployed humor twice as often as middle-of-the-pack managers.”
  • Meaning: “People have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they have the means but not the meaning…start taking spirituality seriously and start taking happiness seriously.”

But Pink does more than describe each of the senses. He ends each section with a list of resources, suggested reading, and exercises to develop them deeply into your life.

Alan Webber, the founding editor of Fast Company, endorsed the book like this: “Read this book. Even more important, give this book to your children.” As I was reading the book, I was thinking the same thing. I’m definitely making this a summer read for my kids.

Pink has a great blog on the book that continues to point out and explore these issues.

Do yourself a favor and give this book to your CEO. He/she is undoubtedly thinking about ways to keep the organization relevant as it moves into the future. If you are the CEO, buy it for your execs and managers and do a book club exploration of its implications on your organization.


  1. Thanks for the tip, Mike! Looks like great stuff. If you haven’t see it yet, check out The Experience Economy. Looks like it shares a lot of the same themes.
    Brian    Friday, October 14, 2005    #
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