A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink explores the capabilities of the brain and spirit in this conceptual age where high touch and high concept aptitudes are gaining serious ground. Emotional intelligence is becoming just as important as IQ due to abundance, outsourcing, and automation. People are now required to use both sides of their brain. L-Directed Thinking pertains to sequential, literal, functional, textual, and analytic thinking. R-Directed Thinking is simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, and synthetic. No longer can we just be knowledge workers. We must be attuned to the big picture, how things work together, patterns, and above all, the synthesis and meaning of life.
Daniel Pink details six concepts, which he calls The Six Senses, that will help people survive and thrive in this adapting and often uncertain world.
The Six Senses
Whether a building, a toilet bowl cleaner, or a website, design affects our day-to-day lives. Pink describes the ideal design as beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging. Function is no longer enough. Librarians have a plethera of design issues to consider every day – interior design of the library, website design, marketing materials design, message design, and instructional design- to name a few. Library websites play a huge role in getting users to use the library resources and take advantage of librarians’ expertise. In many ways, we’re competing with Google. That’s tough competition! The more intuitive and attractive the site is, the better the experience for the library community. Pink’s Portfolio section provides useful activities you can do to increase your design palette, from keeping a design portfolio to help you stay attuned to design that works to the C-R-A-P-ify method which can come in handy when creating promotional materials for libraries.
Pink expresses the concept of story perfectly with this quote, “When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact” (p. 193). Stories live at the library through books, video, and people. The reference desk is often the place where students and community members tell their stories. Listening to peoples’ stories is one of my favorite things about my job and often necessary in order to glean what they need help doing/finding/getting. “I need information on ethics,” for example, usually comes with a story. It’s a librarian’s responsibility to figure out the story.
The ability to relate concepts, make patterns, and synthesize embody the symphony aptitude. Relationships are at the core of symphony. Boundary crossers, inventors, and metaphor makers are able to pull ideas together from seemingly unrelated concepts. Librarians must be boundary crossers in their profession. They are often called up to bridge the gap between faculty departments, communities, and concepts. Seeing the big picture comes into play when we think about information literacy. Yes, we want students to know how to search in databases or how to do an advanced Google search, but really, our goal is to make them independent, self-directed lifelong learners. More importantly, our goal is to inspire them to be curious about the world around them. Pink’s Celebrate Your Amateur section revels in the idea that we are all learners, forever. Marcel Wanders writes, “I am best at what I can’t do. It has become my ability to feel strong and confident in these situations. I feel free to move, to listen to my heart, to learn, to act even if that means I will make mistakes” (p. 157). It reminds me of Char Booth’s comment recently in a lecture for our TransTech course, “Stay brave and vulnerable.”
The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is paramount in libraries and in life. It ties with the story aptitude in so many ways. Just listening to someone’s story can put you in the position of understanding their perspective. Subtle clues like facial expressions can tell you how someone is feeling- if they’re overwhelmed or confused. In teaching, it’s necessary to read people’s faces to gauge their level of engagement, their comprehension, and their annoyances. A librarian can learn to adapt their sessions based on these reactions. Empathy also comes into play when it comes to workplace relations. Learning to work collaboratively with colleagues takes openness and delicacy. Being open to your colleagues’ perspective can sometimes make all the difference in how you interact.
Play is monumental and necessary. It adds a joyfulness and positive spirit to any learning process. Just the fact that it’s called play provides a light-hearted mindset. Introducing play into a library instruction can be freeing for students. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to research. Every topic will lead you in a different direction and having the openness of mind to follow a topic through all the tangents, nooks and crannys, and caveats should be fun – not a chore. Pink mentions laughter as one of the key elements in having a spirit of play and I am a firm believer that trying something new and knowing that you will most likely make a fool of yourself – but everyone else will too – inspires laughter and openness. On the right is an image of me trying flying trapeze last fall, and yes, it was slightly terrifying the first time. But the second and third time, pure excitement and freedom! My friends and I laughed and played during the entire experience. When teaching or learning new things, play can make all the difference in the experience of learning.
The This Emotional Life series on PBS recently took on the topic of Happiness. It relates so well to Pink’s section on Meaning. We are all looking for the key to happiness and it comes from our social relationships – whether that’s parent/child for an infant, friends, colleagues, or partners. We want to feel fulfilled and supported in our lives. So, it seems, relationships are also the key to meaning, in addition to symphony. When a relationship is off at work, at home, in your life, it affects you. Meaning and mindfulness also go hand in hand. Simply being more mindful through labyrinths, through empathy, through perspective from gratitude, by giving yourself the permission to play and rest, dedicating your work, and re-claiming your priorities as Pink suggests, can create a framework for what you want your life to look like. At some point, it will become second nature and you’ll be living the life you seek.
As the words flow through my mind after writing this, I stop on these. Openness. Mindfulness. Vulnerability. Heart. Relationships. Empathy. Perspective. Life. Going through your life, your career, it is necessary to reflect on yourself, your relationships, your career, and your contribution to society. Even if you lead a small life, like me, you can glean little things every day that serve to enrich your life and fire up both sides of your brain.
Booth, C. (2011) Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. Chicago: American Library Association.
Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Riverhead Books.
Terri Rieck Artemchik is an Adjunct Librarian at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. She is currently enrolled in the Post-Master’s Degree Certificate Program at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science and received her MLIS from Dominican University in 2011. Terri’s interests include emerging technologies, digital services, information literacy, and Learning 2.0.
Note from Michael: This is an example of the “Context Book” assignment from #hyperlib.