Seldom have I had so much fun reading a book. From the Agriculture Age of the 18th century to the Industrial Age of the 19th century to the 20th century's Information Age, Daniel Pink's theory is that the 21st century will move us into the Conceptual Age. In the Conceptual Age, creators and "empathizers" will be the driving force. Creators and "empathizers" can use their "whole" brains.
"Our brains are divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, logical and analytical. The right hemisphere is nonlinear, intuitive, and holistic…And, of course, we enlist both halves of our brains for even the simplest tasks…The "right-brain" qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning- increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders."
Pink asks readers to ask themselves three questions:
- Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
- Can a computer do it faster?
- Is what I'm offering in demand in an age of abundance?
"If your answer to question 1 or 2 is yes, or if your answer to question 3 is no, you're in deep trouble." Pink provides a number of examples to support his theory including: IT outsourcing in India, the emergence of the master of fine arts as "one of the hottest credentials in a world where even General Motors is in the art business."
A recent article in the National Post by Paul Brent discussed current outsourcing trends in the IT world. Companies who outsource are generally doing it for one of three reasons: "financial motivations, access to skills and resources or strategic considerations". The article states that IBM hires an additional 1,000 IT professionals in India each month. "In fact, the computer giant [IBM] has 60,000 employees in India, or about three times what it employs in Canada" Not being a member of the IT world, these numbers were very sobering to me and a validation of Pink's point of view.
So where does the "fun" part come in? Well, the good news is we can build up our right brain muscles. Pink introduces six concepts, or senses, that are, in his view, critical to success in the Conceptual Age:
- Not just function but also design.
- Not just argument but also story
- Not just focus but also symphony
- Not just logic but also empathy
- Not just seriousness but also play
- Not just accumulation but also meaning
The fun begins at the end of each section devoted to one of the six senses where he provides activities and practices to aid in the strengthening of our right brain muscles. Some of the activities sounded like they would be fun at parties: write a short story of exactly 50 words, what would your life be like if you won $20 million or if you found out you only had 10 years to live? Other activities take you to websites where you can test yourself, everything from your "humour index" to your "empathy quotient". Pink recommends museums to visit, books and magazines to read, and websites to visit. Many of the activities he suggests would be very interesting to apply in a work setting:
- Approaches to problem solving
- Guidelines to brainstorming
- Exercises to increase empathy within a workplace team
It was limited time that stopped me, for now, from visiting all the websites. I did take a few of the tests and was pleased to learn that being the one who cracks jokes during the office meeting is a good thing. This is a book to refer to again and again. Even if Pink's theories about the Conceptual Age turn out to be nonsense, and I don't think they are, becoming more adept at "right-brain" activities is not a bad thing. And the journey of self discovery will certainly be interesting and fun.
Book review written by Helen Latimer