March 10, 2011 Articles

Book Review: Reevaluating Right-Brain Thinking

The author of Whole New Mind claims that a successful life depends on both hemispheres of the brain working together.

By Dorothy M. Pritchett

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

By Daniel H. Pink

Riverhead Trade (March 2006)

ISBN 978-1594481710

If you are a successful woman lawyer and stand out from your peers, you are probably very good at analyzing information, persuading others, writing logical explanations, and demonstrating academic excellence. These characteristics of left-brain thinking are important, but they are no longer sufficient, according to author Daniel H. Pink in his book A Whole New Mind.

For women lawyers who want to be stay ahead of the business development curve, this book provides strategies. For women lawyers who feel somewhat disappointed with the practice of law, this book offers insight. For women lawyers who long for more creative avenues within the practice of law, this book gives hope. Your time has come!

Pink, a graduate of Yale Law School, believes that successful individuals (and not just lawyers) who master storytelling, interpreting emotions and nonverbal expressions, recognizing patterns, and seeing the big picture will be the business leaders of the future. These right-brain characteristics will no longer be dismissed as secondary to left-brain logical reasoning.

He emphasizes that both sides of the brain work together, and a successful life depends on both hemispheres of the brain. Lawyers, as Pink points out, are more comfortable with logical, sequential, computer-like reasoning, i.e., left-brain thinking. Inventors, entertainers, and counselors are more comfortable with holistic, intuitive, and nonlinear reasoning, i.e., right-brain thinking. Pink explores the changing world of different professions by using right-brain and left-brain terms as metaphors.

The author describes himself as a strong left-brained individual who joyfully never practiced law. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Northwestern University and worked as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore in the White House from 1995 to 1997. He also served as an aide to U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. He writes articles about business and technology for the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Wired. This New York Times bestselling author has also written Free Agent Nation and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

A Whole New Mind is a mix of stories and resources on the topics of science, economics, and history that guide the reader from the current Information Age to a future Conceptual Age of creators and empathizers. One portion of the book gives the left-brain logical explanation of how our economy moved from agriculture to manufacturing to technology (i.e., the Information Age). There is also the right-brain presentation of stories about abundance, automation, and the role of Asia in bringing about a new Conceptual Age with right-brain characteristics.

It describes the Conceptual Age where “meaning is the new money.” The currency of the future economy will be inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning. The author outlines six specific abilities (“senses”) to complement left-brain thinking: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Pink uses a variety of illustrations to demonstrate how each of these abilities impacts our present economy and will influence our future. With each of the senses, he provides useful guides for activities, things to read, and places to look.

It is not surprising that Oprah gave 4,500 copies of this book to Stanford University graduates when she delivered their commencement address. The book will make you smile, rethink career goals, and, if you are more comfortable using right-brain thinking, jump for joy.