Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

a whole new mindA Whole New Mind

By Daniel H. Pink
Narrated by Daniel H. Pink

Daniel Pink manages to get a Yale law degree but acknowledges graduating at the bottom of his class.  The inference is that he is more of a “right” brain rather than “left” brain thinker. Rather than practicing law, he writes books and conducts motivational lectures.

“A Whole New Mind” is brain candy; i.e. sweet but not nourishing. Pink’s premise is that business management in the world needs to change from “left” or “right” brain thinking to “whole” brain thinking. His theoretical point is that IQ is primarily a left brain activity that processes thought linearly and fails to grasp the “big picture”, the gestalt of a business enterprise.

Pink’s argument is that education needs to change to accommodate a new view of cognitive understanding and consequent action. IQ is not the only, not even the most important, measure of social progress or business success. Pink argues that art is as important as science in the education of future American business leaders. He argues that a world of abundance makes design one of the most critical components of American business success in a “knowledge is power” world.

There is a sophistic musicality, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, in Pink’s analysis of the future of American business. He suggests that Americans need to quit worrying about technological jobs gravitating to China and India by adjusting the American education system to increase liberal arts classes for business leaders to revitalize America’s moribund economy.

Pink refers to Peter Drucker, a renowned business consultant, in his book. Peter Drucker broadly characterized business objectives and success as understanding what the customer wants, delivering more than what the customer expects; and in the process making a return on investment that allows abandonment of successful business models for invention of new business models that are as successful, or more successful, than the abandoned business models.

Drucker clearly believed that education should be based on student’s strengths rather than weaknesses. If a child has a proclivity for art then teachers should enable the child to explore what they are most interested in exploring. The general population is not going to be equally interested in art and science or equally strong in “left” or “right” brain thinking. Where Pink jumps the railroad track is when he argues that design is as much or more important than function. Organizations are entities designed to capitalize on “left” and “right” brain knowledge workers; i.e. organizations draw on a “whole” brain made up of individual contributions.  Jobs had a vision for Apple but it took an organization to make his vision a reality. To argue that America cannot compete with China or India because of cost differences in technological manufacturing is a “red herring” that obscures the importance of building on human strengths rather than wasting time educating for failure.

Geniuses in science, mathematics, and arts will continue to be born in America and throughout the world. A business culture based on designer/leaders will not provide the means for America to prosper in the world market. Changing an education system to enable productive human strengths to grow and multiply will create successful leaders in a world that is sorely in need of them. It is not a matter of teaching “left” and “right” brain skills; i.e. it is enabling human strengths, whether “left” or “right” brained, to become the best they can be.

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