Pink makes a case for right brain thinkers in the coming Conceptual Age. The book was published in 2005, so I can only assume that we currently find ourselves in that time now. His predictions for what will come in the future, for the most part, ring right of today’s creative culture and the overabundance of content. We are a consumer culture. Most specifically, what is interesting in the book is his outlay of what he refers to as the six senses important for creators. These senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning are defined with examples of how it has worked for others and methods you can use to broaden your personal understanding of each. If you are a left-brained thinker, this book is a useful guide for both understanding how right-brain thinkers process thoughts and how you might expand your capabilities, should you find yourself in a creative position.
Notes from the text:
The future belongs to creators, empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These are the artists, inventors, designers, storytellers caregivers, consolers, big-picture thinkers. In our current overflow of content creation, this rings true. Most of us are consumers, not makers.
We are moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. It’s not about what we can discover but how we interpret it.
What is important now is “high concept” and “high touch.”
High concept involves the ability to detect and recognize patterns and ideas.
High touch involves the ability to emphasize with others. I’m not sure this has really caught on in mass. Its importance is high, but the ability of others to truly empathize with their fellow man is rare, although I see more of it in the creative community.
The “left brain” capabilities of reason are necessary for today’s society but no longer sufficient to succeed.
James Watson described the human brain as “the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe.” Woody Allen called it his “second favorite organ.” Roger W. Sperry was the first to write about the brain split into a major and minor hemisphere.
Betty Edwards book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, was also instrumental in discovering this idea of two hemispheres, and I remember being handed this while in college. It completely changed the way I drew. Something I used to do often, but less so now.
The right brain is seen as both savior and saboteur.
Reasoning ability is the thing that separates humans from other animals.
The left hemisphere handles what is said, and the right handles how it is said.
There are two types of people in the world, those that believe that everything can be divided into two categories — and the rest of you.
Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge workers,” meaning people who get paid for putting to work what one learns in school rather than for their physical strength or Manuel skill.
There are toll-booths that one must pass through to enter middle-class life, (i.e., PSAT, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc.) However, they only measure left-brain thinking. Virginia Postrel uses the term “aesthetic imperative” to describe that something extra required in business today.
Transcendence in action can be found in prosperous communities lined with a multitude of shopping opportunities. According to the London Financial Times, any job that is English-based in markets such as the U.S., the U.K., and Australia can be done in India. Tom Peters calls software a “forklift for the mind,” for white-collar workers.
In this new conceptual age, the leading players will be creators and empathizers that have mastered right-brain thinking.
Affluence, technology, and globalization are the three forces that have propelled us into new eras (Agricultural Age, Industrial Age, Information Age, Conceptual Age).
If what you are doing for a living can be done cheaper by someone overseas or can be done faster by a computer, chances are you will not be in demand very long.
High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, detect patterns and opportunities. You should be able to bring unrelated ideas together in a novel way.
High touch involves a sincere ability to empathize.
Effective leaders are funny. They can make people laugh, bring enjoyment and positive energy to the workplace.
An alternative SAT being developed by Robert Sternberg called The Rainbow Project, where students get five blank New Yorker cartoons and must craft captions for them.
According to David Wolfe, as people mature, their cognitive patterns become less abstract and more concrete which results in a sharpened sense of reality, increased capacity for emotion and enhancement of their sense of connectedness.
In the information age, the ability to tell stories, demonstrate empathy, and design innovations have eroded, giving it more emphasis in the Conceptional Age. John Heskett describes design as the human nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives. Frank Nuovo calls design in its purest form the activity of creating solutions.
Research from the London Business School shows that for every percent of sales invested in product design, a company’s sales and profits rise by an average of 3 to 4 percent.
Some highlights in the world of creation are to never say that you could have done something, because you didn’t, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is. Two essential lessons that work across all fields of work.
Mark Turner, in his book The Literary Mind, says that narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought.
When facts become more available, they become less valuable. What matters is the ability to put them in context and deliver them with emotional impact.
The hero’s journey (compelling storytelling) involves departure, initiation, and return.
Recommendation to read Robert McKee’s book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
Advertising, counseling, consulting, etc. account for 25% of the U.S. gross domestic product.
When the left brain doesn’t know what the right brain is doing, the mind is free to see relationships and to integrate those relationships into a whole.
The ability to make big leaps of thought is a common denominator among the originators of breakthrough ideas.
Boundary crossers reject either/or choices and seek multiple options and blended solutions. When something is being created, the walls of creation are mobile and not set. It is the setting of these walls which, although required, restricts what can come into being. Trevor Baylis said that convention is the enemy of progress.
The difference between the computer mind and the human brain is the ability to think metaphorically and see relationships that computers could never detect. This is where job security lies.
Being able to find unusual patterns and tell stories of these discoveries in empathic ways is the keys to success in the next age.
When you are working on a new creation, it’s a good idea to start by creating the space as an inspiration for the journey you are about to embark on.
Good brainstorming, according to Tom Kelly, involves going for quantity, wild ideas, visual ideas, deferring judgment, and having one conversation at a time. That last one is difficult in large groups at times. Should work on building upon discussions instead of tangental responses.
Sympathy is often confused as empathy, but they are quite different in their execution.
Empathic responses do not necessarily mean a deviation from intelligence nor a route towards it.
Henry Ford feared mixing work and play, which is very still much evident in much of the corporate world, although less so than a decade ago. Work and play are much more commonly combined today and creates better working environments.
Video games can enhance right brain activity around pattern recognition.
People who laugh together can work together.
According to Viktor Frankl man’s primary concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.
Technology is not necessarily helping make things easier because it is moving to fast. It is instead choking us with choices.
Happiness can be found in gratitude, forgiveness, and optimism.
Say thank you often.
If you knew you had at most ten years to live, would you stick with your current job? WOW. This question changed the direction of my life drastically because what happens if the answer is no?
Contralateralization: Property of the brain such that one side of the body is controlled by the opposite hemisphere of the brain: the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere connects the left side of the body.
Prosody: the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech — provides important information beyond a sentence’s literal word meaning.
Gestalt (I use this word often, but wanted to make sure that I was using it properly!): the whole are not deducible from analysis of the parts in isolation.
Amygdalas: is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nuclei located deep and medially within the temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans.
Neurotheology: refers to the multidisciplinary field of scholarship that seeks to understand the relationship between the human brain and religion.