Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Develop The Right Brain

Dan Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, offers his vision of how to prepare for competitive success in the Cognitive Age. Explaining that we have indeed evolved from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (his term for the Cognitive Age), Dan Pink builds a grand metaphor for success using the two hemispheres of the brain. Thus, the full title of his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future. Pink tell us:

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest rewards."

These are all skills of the right brain hemisphere while logic and analytical reasoning are left brain skills. Don't let the voice of the last generation's parents cloud your understanding of Pink's statement. He is not saying we should develop right brain skills in lieu of left brain skills. He is not saying that logic and reason and analytical reasoning are not of value. He is saying that our focus should shift and that we should intentionally develop the right brain skills that create better context for the left brain analytical reasoning. Pink offers these six right brain domains to develop in order to be in sync with what is needed in the Conceptual Age: story, design, symphony, empathy, meaning, and play.

Last generation's parents all told us be doctors, lawyers or accountants, all professions traditionally requiring left brain, logical, analytical reasoning. A sure way to scare a parent would be to pursue art. The starving artist was every parent's worst fear. But, what we can appreciate more easily today is that art and design are problem-solving pursuits. Thus, Pink's shorthand for this becomes "the MFA is the new MBA." Employers want people who know how to think, not what to think. Employer want people that see differently because that ensures innovation. Innovation protects relevance.

"Left brain skills are essential, just not sufficient," Pink tells us, for survival in the new economy. Be a lawyer, a doctor, or an accountant. But it is no longer about just having expert knowledge in those fields. It is about being creative and innovative and relationship-oriented as well as expert in whatever field you are in, be it doctor, lawyer, accountant, scientist, geologist, management, -- all fields.

This perscriptive advice has major ramifications for education. Pink admonishes parents, educators, and policymakers firmly is his question, "Are we educating children for our past, or for their future?"

We are not educating kids as well as we could, or should, for the Cognitive Age. If we think we are, we are kidding ourselves. If we don't, what happens then?

No comments: