Six Senses to Rule the Future


Being a fan of Dan Pink, I was surprised to discover a book of his which I hadn’t read. A Whole New Mind was first published in 2005 and given the book was future focused “Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The World”, I was immediately concerned that I wouldn’t be held captive on each page.

Wrong. Yes, I was immediately proven wrong, with the first section of the book craftily educating me of the differences of the left and right side of the brain. We flippantly make references to these differences in my game, but to truly explore the research, albeit in laymen’s terms, was fascinating, again. As a reminder:

Left Hemisphere ‘L’ = sequential, logical and analytical

Right Hemisphere ‘R’ = nonlinear, intuitive and holistic

This week's book: Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind

The reasoning behind the intrigue to write the book boiled down to the forces of the three As - Abundance, Asia and Automation. We are saturated with consumerism and people are now searching for more meaning in their life; Asia competently completes so much of the worlds ‘L’ work at lower costs forcing world workers to master abilities which can’t be shipped off shore and with the world almost being automated it reinforces the need to develop aptitudes that computers can’t do better, faster or cheaper!

In the Industrial and Information Age, we required the ‘L’ capabilities to power us to produce data which is now not enough. For those who want to flourish in the future, the once thought frivolous capabilities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness and meaning will be needed as people seek your new mind.

The research into our brain continues and fast forward to 2016, we now know that our brain can be manipulated, retrained and even rejuvenated however what differentiates us from other animals is our ability to reason analytically – our ‘L’.

I was intrigued with learning that the ‘L’ is sequential and specialise in text and the ‘R’ is simultaneous and specialises in context – for me, this highlighted our ability to speed read. I finessed this many years ago and only since launching into my self-imposed reading challenge that I realise how helpful this ability is (along with touch typing). I can look at a paragraph and quickly see the meaning.

Keeping it simple, what is most important to note is that whilst this book is highlighting the need to master the ‘R’ we need to appreciate the ‘L’ is just as important. Our ‘L’ handles what we say in life and the ‘R’ focuses on how it’s said – I’m glad I have both minds working together and I am open to learning how to make them both more effective.

So, the main content of the book focuses on the future requirement for the Conceptual Age, characterised by the creator and empathizers and to survive this age, we need to supplement our abilities with high concept and high touch aptitudes from the ‘R’, which Pink calls, “the six senses”.

A one page summary of Dan's book: A Whole New Mind

The crux of the book is to master these:

Design – it’s about bringing pleasure, meaning and beauty to our lives – you must be an agent of change. Wow, this is a big ask but design is a classic whole minded aptitude. It provides personal fulfilment and professional success by making differentiation possible at so many peoples’ fingertips which will in the future change the world. It is so rewarding to create something which is beautiful, whimsical and or emotionally engaging. Development opportunities include: read design magazines, keep a design notebook, sketch an idea of a solution to an annoying household item, go to the guru and check out , visit a design museum, be choosy with things which should delight you not impress others. I’m taking the family on a world tour soon and I’ve added some of the book’s suggestions to our itinerary.

Story – represents a pathway to understanding, think the interest in genealogy and scrapbooking, both popular in the late 90s and 00s – appeasing the hunger for context enriched by emotion. Even today we are still learning that bullet points and PowerPoints are overshadowed by rich stories of peoples’ lives. Development opportunities include: reading great stories found in Aesop’s fables, or fast forward to Gabrielle Dolan a Melbourne author, play photo finish by selecting a photo and fashion a tale about it.

Symphony – the ability to put together the pieces, to synthesize rather than analyse to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields, to detect patterns and invent something new by combining elements (think innovation). Development opportunities include: listen to great symphonies (I struggled with this), buy and browse through loads of magazines (love this idea), learn to draw (I did this a while ago – check out, keep a metaphor log, create an inspiration board and master brainstorming.

Empathy – imagine yourself in someone else’s position and what that person is feeling. I love this: it is the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes and to feel with their hearts. Empathy is an ethic for living; understanding other human beings and it’s a universal language which connects us beyond country and culture. I’m currently coaching a Nurse and it’s highlighted how such a profession is amazingly empathetic, quite different to doctors whom I’ve also worked with!  Development opportunities include: participate in the Empathy Quotient to determine if you have a male or female brain (we’re more empathetic!) - Eavesdrop on strangers conversations, walk for a day in a colleagues life (great for CEOs to play), take acting classes - actors are good if they understand the emotional expressions of their character and Volunteer – a direct way to imagine yourself in someone’s situation.

Play – injecting laughter, games, humour and joyfulness into your day will provide what the ‘L’ cannot.  We don’t need explained how laughter, humour and joy make us feel however it’s interesting to consider how on-line game playing make us more effective at what we do, boost productivity and enhance job satisfaction. Development opportunities include: join a laughter club (there’s one on skype!), if you haven’t played an on-line game, do so with your kids (that’s my plan for today), and go and be a big kid in a playground!

Meaning – the final essential aptitude in this Conceptual Age is captured in Viktor Frankl’s 1984 book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Have you read it? It is the drive that exists in all of us and the two common denominators shared by many are Spirituality and Happiness. The latter is of interest given the momentum of the positive psychology movement. Development opportunities include: Using a Gratitude journal and saying ‘thanks’ more regularly, list important changes you’d like to make in your life and problem solve by replacing ‘but’ with ‘and’, take a Sabbath – don’t work or use anything technical and be mindful, read Man’s Search for Meaning or Flow by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, check how you use your time – are your values aligned with your time and Picture Yourself at Ninety – What does your life look like when you view it from that vantage point.

So, I asked Dan Pink which of the six senses has he observed in the past 10 years have had the most traction since his book launched and he responded with (much to my delight) – “Hmmm. Good questions. IMHO, they all work together – that is, they’re ingredients in a soup rather than rungs on a ladder. But, if I had to pick one, I’d go for Symphony.

I’m concerned that we haven’t made enough effort to find ‘meaning’ in our lives. Whilst all six senses make a great soup, we need to boost the flavour with purpose. And this is why I do what I do in my practice. 

I absolutely adored reading and delving into the portfolio of tools, exercises and ordering further reading suggested. I have accumulated so many ‘to do, think and act’ items that I will need to rework my life planner to fit them all in – especially while I continue to read all the amazing books recommended.

Dan signs off the book with “good luck in the new age of art and heart” which summarises it nicely however I was taken by his reminder from Viktor Frankl’s powerful imperative: Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”