A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

Our economy is changing due to “abundance, automation, and Asia”. Since I read this 10+ years after it was written, perhaps it already has changed.

  • Abundance – Most people are moving up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When basic needs are met, we move beyond function and logic.
  • Automation – Computers can do algorithmic tasks fast and cheap. They don’t need health insurance or workman’s comp.
  • Asia – A low wage for Americans is a high wage in other parts of the world. Technical work can be outsourced on the cheap easier than ever before.

About our professions, products, services, etc, we must ask 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 abundance?

High Tech is no longer enough

We also need what Dan Pink calls “High Concept” and “High Touch”. I love this concept when thinking about my job – you can’t get by in the engineering field with only left-brained technical abilities.

  • High Concept – “The ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft satisfying narratives, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into novel invention.”
  • High Touch – “The ability to empathize, 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 quotidian (ordinary), in pursuit of purpose and meaning.” 

The Six Senses

How do you improve on concept and touch? You work on Pink’s Six Senses, “the essential R-directed aptitudes”. You develop these to develop A Whole New Mind. 


It’s no longer sufficient to create something that’s merely functional. It’s good business and personally rewarding to add beauty, emotion, whimsy. Invent new things, give the world something it didn’t know it was missing. Look for bad design in the world and fix it. Keep a design notebook.


An effective argument is not enough. There is always a counterpoint or different set of perceptions. Sometimes, there is even a different set of facts (e.g. Republican denial of climate change science). The essence of persuasion and communication is the ability to craft a compelling narrative. The ability to place facts in context and deliver them with emotional impact.


Focus and analysis are not enough. We also need synthesis – seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, combining disparate pieces into a new whole. Learn to draw. Keep a metaphor journal.


Logic is not enough. We also need to understand what makes people tick and see things through their lens. Forge relationships, care for others. Empathy is being with someone (in the hole with them), not sympathetic or sorry for them. We need to be able to move freely on the detachment (left-brain) / attunement (right-brain) spectrum.


There is a time to be serious, but we should have some fun too. Play is good for your creativity, productivity, and well being.


Accumulation and achievement are not enough. We also need fulfillment. Purpose. Self-transcendence, A spiritual journey.

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