Book Review–How Dan Pink gave me a Whole New Mind!

I loved this book!  It was an interesting read that drew me right in from the introduction. And I read it in a day which is saying a lot since I don’t usually feel drawn to non-fiction, nor do I usually tear through it like that. 

The premise of the book is that we are fast leaving the Information Age and left-brain dominated thinking behind and moving toward the Conceptual Age and right-brain dominated thinking; and that this is a good thing.  Daniel Pink then explores what he terms the Six Senses.  Each sense gets a chapter of discussion and then is followed by a portfolio of activities for readers to explore their concept of that sense.

And without further delay, the senses are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning

In the chapter on Design, Pink states, “We may not all be Dali or Degas. But today we must all be designers.” (p. 69) This struck me right between the eyes because I would not consider myself an artist, yet through my computer work and my scrapbook layouts, I would consider myself a designer. And even if I don’t become the next Isaac Mizrahi or Kate Spade, by developing my sense of design can help me learn to solve problems, understand others, and appreciate the world around me (p. 74). 

In his example of Story, Pink asks the reader two questions. One we can answer by remembering a fact and one by remembering a story—well guess which one most everyone remembers? Yep, the story one.  Stories are how we remember because our brains have an internal mechanism to remember information in this format because we can place the facts in context and connect emotional impact to them. This quote was interesting to me–“Stories amuse; facts illuminate. Stories divert; facts reveal. Stories are for cover; facts are for real.” (p. 102) I love to tell family stories of growing up and funny things my niece and nephews have done AND I love to scrapbook; thus I figured my sense of Story was already pretty well developed.  However, I do need to see how to use this sense in building a new business and making contacts with people that turn into paying presentations.  In the Conceptual Age argues Pink, stories will be important and if we ignore them we will have problems both personally and professionally.

At first Symphony was a little scary since I have a basic understanding of music as an appreciator and only an occasional creator with my voice and my guitar, but then I saw that it incorporated much more than my first impression of the sense.  Symphony is the ability to put together the pieces into a coherent whole, to see relationships between things not often paired together, to see patterns not obvious to everyone, and to invent new things by trying something in a novel way.  These are exactly the skills we need to be teaching our 21st century students instead of preparing them for tests to measure how effective politicians think schools are.  Hopefully, through my professional development of teachers, I can encourage more people to develop these skills in our next generation of thinkers.

Empathy is the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hears. (page 159) It is a sense that many Americans do not develop because they are so focused on their individual needs and wants, yet it is what makes us human and what brings us joy. (page 165)  Helping other people requires that we develop not only communication skills but the skills of touch, presence, and comfort to be fully present for others when they need us.

I love that Play is a sense!  I often refer to my preparation for a workshop as “playing with cool tech stuff.” And play is more than just goofing off—it is games, humor, and joyfulness.  I love playing games either against myself like crosswords or logic puzzles or with groups like Trivial Pursuit or Encore. 

Meaning came together for me long after I had finished the book, bought another one to send to a friend, and heard that Karl Fisch was going to Ustream his students live Skype Chat with Dan Pink as a culminating activity for their study of the book.  Meaning is that which we live for.  This chapter mentions spirituality and happiness as vehicles for finding that meaning, but for me as an educator I found immense meaning in the opening of a classroom so the rest of the world could see students participate in an amazing conversation about the world in which they live with the author, Dan Pink.  They asked great questions and a few of them disagreed with Pink and told him why. It made me see what every teacher should be striving for in their classroom—students making meaning from their knowledge.

Final thought

After reading this book, I realized that the book StrengthFinders 2.0 in which I had taken an online survey to identify my five strongest traits was a business or left-brain leaning take on the senses described by Daniel Pink.  For example, had identified my strongest trait as Strategic which is very similar to Symphony.  Other strengths identified for me were Learner, Activator, Communication and Connectedness. In these I see various aspects of Story, Play, Empathy, Meaning, and even Design.  I hope that through doing the activities suggested in the portfolio sections of the book I can continue to develop my 21st century senses.