A Whole New Mind

posted December 7th, 2009 by Janet Graham - 2 Comments

The subtitle of A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink is “Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”.  Pink believes we are moving from an economy and society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age. In his book, he describes six essential aptitudes — what he calls the six senses – on which professional and personal satisfaction increasingly will depend. The six senses are Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. He believes these are fundamentally human abilities that everyone can master — and helping the reader do so is his goal.


Pink reminds us that our brains are divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, logical and analytical. The right hemisphere is nonlinear, intuitive, and holistic. Pink says the well established differences between the two hemispheres of the brain yield a powerful metaphor for interpreting our present and guiding our future. “Today, the defining skills of the previous era — the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age — are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous — the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning — increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders. For individuals, families, and organizations, professional success and personal fulfillment now require a whole new mind.”


He discusses the left and right hemispheres of the brain and offers four key differences between them.


  1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body.
  2. The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous.
  3. The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context.
  4. The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture.


He says the contrast in how our cerebral hemispheres operate yields a powerful metaphor for how individuals and organizations navigate their lives. Some people seem more comfortable with logical, sequential, computer-like reasoning. They tend to become lawyers, accountants, and engineers. Other people are more comfortable with holistic, intuitive, and non-linear reasoning. They tend to become inventors, entertainers, and counselors. He says these individual inclinations go on to shape families, institutions, and societies.


He refers to the first approach as L-Directed Thinking. He says: “It is a form of thinking and an attitude to life that is characteristic of the left hemisphere of the brain — sequential, literal, functional, textual, and analytic. Ascendant in the Information Age, exemplified by computer programmers, prized by hardheaded organizations, and emphasized in schools, this approach is directed by left-brain attributes, toward left-brain results”. He calls the other approach R-Directed Thinking. And says: “It is a form of thinking and an attitude to life that is characteristic of the right hemisphere of the brain — simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, and synthetic. Underemphasized in the Information Age, exemplified by creators and caregivers, shortchanged by organizations, and neglected in schools, this approach is directed by right-brain attributes, toward right-brain results.”


Pink believes: “In the “Conceptual Age”, we will need to complement our L-Directed reasoning by mastering six essential R-Directed aptitudes. Together these six high-concept, high-touch senses can help develop the whole new mind this new era demands.” In his description of them he compares them to the L-Directed equivalent.


  1. Not just function but also DESIGN.
  2. Not just argument but also STORY.
  3. Not just focus but also SYMPHONY.
  4. Not just logic but also EMPATHY.
  5. Not just seriousness but also PLAY.
  6. Not just accumulation but also MEANING.


He believes these six senses will guide our lives and shape our world. He says these high-concept, high-touch abilities that now matter most are fundamentally human attributes and have always comprised part of what it means to be human. However, after a few generations in the Information Age, these muscles have atrophied. In his mind, the challenge is to work them back into shape. In his book, he has a chapter devoted to each of the six senses and at the end of each chapter he offers a collection of tools, exercises, and further reading materials which are intended to send us on our way to developing a whole new mind. I intend to share with you over the next several weeks, one or two of the exercises related to each of the six senses which resonated with me.


I hope you enjoy them!! Please share your thoughts, comments, questions, feedback on this book or any other in the Resources section of the Forums.

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2 Responses to “A Whole New Mind”

Comment from Catherine Marshall
Time December 8, 2009 at 9:04 am

I loved this article because I see the realities of L- and R- thinking in my business frequently. As a green home builder I think my biggest challenge is to fight the stereotypes of green houses as utilitarian and generally unappealing compared to conventional new homes. These are likely created by L-thinkers. In contrast, I am working to create a design concept for a green home that is R-thinking driven: lots of design quality to allow the physical house to tell a story about green values, and makes the principles behind sustainability very accessible to the average person. Let’s see if it works!

Comment from Hattie-san
Time December 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm

From an educator’s perspective the first budget cut is always to programs that involve right brain thinking, ( art, music, dance, drama, etc) which is an educational catastrophe to my way of thinking. Too bad there were not more Pink’s creating gov’t legislation and applying it to education.

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