I can see it now – mathematicians, accountants, engineers and doctors all sitting around at lunch time in their new careers as petrol pump attendants and hamburger flippers while the artists, designers and outrageously dressed run the corporate world.
Well, perhaps that’s not quite what Daniel Pink was getting at with this book. In fact the first part of the title does say what he’s getting at and the second part, well that’s the section of the title that makes you buy it.
The book itself is also in two parts – the current problematic situation entitled ‘The Conceptual Age’ and the solution called ‘The Six Senses’.
The current problematic situation…
… is down to three things: abundance, Asia & automation.
Abundance: in the western world we are short of very few things. In fact for the most part we have an opulent abundance of ‘things’ whether it’s cars, computer mice, orange juice or toilet brushes – the range and choice of options is often staggering. There is no doubt that we can do mass production.
And in a world of abundance, where you can get a thousand different chairs that all function perfectly well holding you off the floor, a great way to compete, is through design. Imagine a designer toilet brush! Oh yes, absolutely – why else would you pay £22 for a 10 pence cents of plastic?
Asia: in countries like India and China, there are millions of people with access to education and skills that match that of the west. If you pair that with a lower cost of living you can see why outsourcing and off shoring to Asia is a growing trend. If the skills exist and they are cheaper to obtain, then why not? OK, I’ve simplified it somewhat but that’s the essence of the Asia part of the argument.
Automation: finally, computers are not sitting on their Loral's, or their chips. They just keep getting faster and software gets more sophisticated – if your job could be done by a computer, watch out… you may have noticed that they’re happy to work 24 hours a day for very little pay… your job could be automated.
Daniel’s summary about whether your role is safe is in the form of three questions:
- Can someone overseas do it more cheaply?
- Can a computer do it faster?
- Are you offering something that satisfies the non-material desires of an abundant age?
Before tackling the solution consider this.
We’ve come from the the industrial age of factories and efficiency where the individuals were characterised by their physical strength & personal fortitude into the knowledge worker age. Where we have achieved our current state through our proficiency in L-directed thinking – that is left brain directed thinking. And now, we’re entering the conceptual age where the individual starts are creators and empathizers with a mastery of R-directed (right brain) thinking able recognise patterns and create meaning for our fellow humans.
So, what are the aptitudes of this conceptual age?
… is down to six high concept (rather than low level detail), high touch (close to human) senses, where we all need proficiency:
- Design – not just function
- Story – not just logical argument
- Symphony – not just focus. The ability to see the bigger picture and put disparate things together to form new solutions and products.
- Empathy – not just logic
- Play – not just seriousness
- Meaning – not just material accumulation
Each of these areas has it’s own chapter which includes a handy and extensive ‘how do I improve my ability’ section. For example, for symphony one of Daniel’s suggestions is to learn to draw - and he recommends a book and course by Betty Edwards called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (I’ve already ordered my copy). And under meaning one of the suggestions is to read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” (which is an absolute must-read; I delayed reading it for a few years thinking it would be too morbid – the context is Frankl’s experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp – I wish I hadn’t delayed).
On one or two occasions I thought that Daniel had included too many examples (if I’d been reading the book, rather than listening to the audio I would probably have skipped a few pages) – but even if you don’t read all of the detail in every section, I have no hesitation in highly recommending it – particularly, if like me, you’ve trained yourself well in l-directed thinking!
Format: Book 248 pages, Audio 6hrs 15mins and DVD 55 mins
Author: Daniel H. Pink