Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age
by Daniel H. Pink
“Meaning is the new money.”
It is also the new path to a good job — and therefore to money — according to Pink. Well, part of the path. Design, story, symphony, empathy, and play will also be crucial on the road to professional (and personal) success.
Yes, really. Pink explains that these “high-concept” and “high-touch” aptitudes will be increasingly called upon in the years to come. Why is this? He gives us three interrelated reasons: abundance, Asia, and automation. Larger and larger numbers of folks are living amidst abundance — we have ten different kinds of frozen pizza to choose from, eight different kinds of vegetable peelers, and are far away from the daily struggles of survival. (“We” being his likely reading audience; he is well aware that a culture of abundance hasn’t eradicated poverty worldwide, or even in its own backyard.) As for Asia — well, that is where so many jobs are going these days. Computer programmers in Bangalore make a fraction of what programmers in the United States do. Many white-collar jobs can be reduced to following sets of rules, and they are following the path out of the country beaten by blue-collar manufacturing jobs.
Who needs to worry about this? According to Pink, anyone who has a job that can either be done for less money overseas, or done more quickly by a computer, or is not in demand “in an age of abundance.” In other words, a whole lot of people — from accountants to lawyers to freshly-minted MBAs — who didn’t think job loss would ever be their problem.
Then again, Garry Kasparov never thought a computer could beat him at chess. (Pink calls Kasparov the “John Henry of the Conceptual Age.”)
Pink doesn’t provide an exhaustive examination of these ideas, but a call for investigation. Look over here, he’s saying, try doing things this way instead. For each of the six aptitudes he identifies — there is a chapter devoted to each — he includes a portfolio section, full of ideas and resources in the form of activities, books, and URLs for further exploration. This works well with the more magazine-style layout of the book.
The “whole new mind” of the title — a mind not devoted only to left-brain pursuits (analysis, logic, sequential details) or right-brain ones (creativity, synthesis, big-picture thinking) but employing the strengths of both — is the outcome of these portfolio exercises. It is an interesting metaphor, one that takes Pink from MRI to art class to laughing club to walking labyrinths.
This book is meant to prod readers to reach out past conventional comfort zones. (Or I suppose offer reassurance, depending on the reader’s point of view.) That he does this without sounding like some kind of flaky guru is, I think, impressive. He points out the trajectory from Industrial to Information to the Conceptual Age, with his best guesses for success in these conceptual times. He isn’t offering career success in seven easy steps or your money back, and that probably has a lot to do with why I liked the book. I like questions and sketchy directions better than slick promises. He also said “the MFA is the new MBA” which I truly enjoyed.
Highly recommended for: adults who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, or who know but are sick of people telling them they’ll never making any money/get a job doing that; creative types who flirt with getting “a real job” or office workers who wish they were creative types; people who are more interested in than fearful of change; hiring managers who want to keep smart workers happy; and people who can’t resist playing around with a good metaphor.