October 18, 2007
Daniel Pink: Right Brain Now Needs to Win
Daniel Pink was on the PopTech stage this afternoon talking to us about 'empathy.' I met him last night at the opening reception on the waterfront where we talked about his background to-date, largely writing business books and political speech writing.
I learned that he recently finished a book called A Whole New Mind, which he summarized for the small handful of us circled around him, an idea he expanded upon in detail in today's talk.
Says Pink, "there are three things about every great speech: "brevity, levity and repetition." He adds humor to his talk early on, in the middle and at the end although he doesn't note that. He says he finds the saying "an image is worth a thousand words" very annoying. "Perhaps correct," he says, "but annoying."
He goes on, "sometimes," he says, "a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures. My job is to be the connected issue between science and understanding the way our minds function."
His research and notion is this: the abilities that dominated came out of the left hemisphere in the last century. "This is why my parents told me to go to law school," he notes, "it was something to fall back on."
Today, those abilities still matter, but they matter less. "Recognize that this is an argument, one way to look at it," says Pink. As a logical sequential person himself, he decided to study these aspects analytically. "It's a cause and effect argument." he suggests.
Pink has come to the conclusion that the shift has moved from dominance on left brain abilities to right brain abilities because of three things:
He reminds us how abundant our country is today compared to the last generation. "Did our parents and grandparents have an issue with 'too much stuff?'" he asks the audience. "The storage industry is worth $20 billion today."
People have gotten much richer in our society but they are not fulfilled or happier by increased wealth. There were certain kinds of jobs that we were pushed into by the last generation, i.e., if you can write down the steps and it has an answer, it has become routine. Routine means that the role can easily be moved offshore at a quarter of the price or less.
What happens to routine work, like an unattested divorce? "It gets shipped overseas or becomes automated," Pink says. He shows us a number of examples of where this is the case, such as Complete Case.com, and 123Divorceme.com.
There were a million tax returns done in India last year, and more and more Americans are doing their taxes using software programs like TurboTax (once again, what was important in the last generation is now being automated). Left brain abilities are necessary but not sufficient.
He suggests that the more we encourage right brain over left brain abilities, the more likely we are to see a significant impact on humanity and the human condition. Don't you think we need to go there? Then again, I'm a little biased since I am and always have been a right brain.
He ends with an interesting quote on prosperity by Robert William Fogel:
"Propersity has made it possible to extend the quest for self realization from a minute fraction of the population to almost the whole of it."
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I am jealous that you are attending Pop!Tech. I am stuck catching it via the streaming video.
While I missed the early sessions, Daniel Pink's presentation resonated the most for me so far. I read his book, Whole New Mind, a few years ago and it articulated many of my thoughts regarding education. However, his talk was a great reminder and summary why we need to rethink what we value in an education.
The analytical, logical skills are still important, but they (as was pointed out today) represent the HOW in innovation while the creative, empathetic is the source of the WHAT.
To that end, I did not hear Pink suggest (as you did) that "we encourage right brain over left brain abilities". I think his point was that both are essential for "impact on humanity and the human condition" but that society has been slow to recognize the importance of the "right brain" abilities. Thus we need to better respect, celebrate, promote, and teach "right brain" abilities, not at the expense of "left brain" abilities but as an essential complement.
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