Daniel Pink – A Whole New Mind


Pink claims that there is a “seismic shift” in the types of aptitudes that make people successful in this day and age. Because of what he calls “Abundance, Asia, and Automation” (Chapter 2), left brain-driven skills such as linear thinking, analytic hard logic, and step-by-step methods of problem solving are no longer enough to make a person stand out in their field. Pink says that if you find yourself doing a job in which someone overseas could do it cheaper and/or a computer can do it faster, then you are in a precarious spot. In order to save your job and to be more satisfied with the work you do, as well as with the quality of your life overall, you should strive to develop or refine six fundamental right-brain aptitudes (51):[1]

  • Design – A combination of utility and significance (70)
  • Story – “The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative” (66)
  • Symphony – “synthesis,” “crossing boundaries,” “combine disparate pieces into an arresting whole” (66), inventive juxtaposition (130)[2]
  • Empathy – “allows us to see the other side of an argument” (160)
  • Playhomo ludens
  • Meaning – “Our fundamental drive, the motivational engine that powers human existence, is the pursuit of meaning” (217). The top tier of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (225).

Pink claims that we have moved out of the Information Age, and into the “Conceptual Age.”[3] In his words, “We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathetic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age” (1-2). Overall, Pink encourages an inclusive approach to living and working in the Conceptual Age. It’s not that we need to develop the right-brain aptitudes to the exclusion of the left-brain ones. The point is, we need both.

Key Differences between the Left and Right Brain

Left Brain

Right Brain

Brocca and Wernicke’s area


“The right hemisphere is the picture; the left hemisphere is the thousand words” (19)

Literal meaning / Manifest content (in psychoanalytic terms) Metaphors, figurative language / Latent content


“’The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing’…The left side is the fox; the right side is a hedgehog” (22)

Big picture / Gestalt
Sequential Simultaneous

Link obviously connected elements to establish something already known Link apparently unconnected elements to create something new. In Flow, Csikszentmihalyi says, ‘”creativity generally involves crossing the boundaries of domains’” (135).
Homo seriosus (Lanham)

Homo sapiens – man the knower (Pink)

Homo rhetoricus (Lanham)

Homo ludens (Pink, Huizinga)

Quotes & Ideas Pertaining to Interface Design and UX

“It’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful, abiding by what author Virginia Postrel calls ‘the aesthetic imperative’” (33, emphasis mine).[4]

“In an age of abundance, appealing only to rational, logical, and functional needs is woefully insignificant…Mastery of design, empathy, play, and other seemingly ‘soft’ aptitudes is now the main way for individuals and firms to stand out in a crowded marketplace” (34).[5]

One way in which these aptitudes manifest in an instructional setting is being developed by Robert Sternberg. The Rainbow Project (now called the Kaleidoscope Project) is “an alternative SAT” which was designed not only to address issues related to the gap in performance between races and socioeconomic classes, but also to be a more precise indicator than the SAT is of college success. Sternberg’s test, which “doesn’t aim to replace the SAT—only to augment it,” engages students’ narrative and emotional literacies by asking them, for example, to create captions for New Yorker cartoons, to write a short story around a given title (such as “The Octopus’ Sneakers”), and to figure out how to persuade others in real life situations (such as helping them move furniture) (59-59).

“’Learning isn’t about memorizing isolated facts. It’s about connecting and manipulating them’” as is the case in video game play (193).

“Many aspects of video gaming resemble the aptitude of Symphony—spotting trends, drawing connections, and discerning the big picture…Experiences with [RPGs] can deepen the aptitude of Empathy and offer rehearsals for the social interactions of our lives” (194). Games also have a Story structure (“’games are the literature of the twenty-first century’” (195), and are often beautifully Designed.

Utility + Significance = Design

– “Utility requires significance” (79, emphasis mine)

– Cases in point: toaster (80), hospital of the future (82, and my experience on the project in Jan’s class)

We “consume experiences, not things.” – Karim Rashid (92)

Symphony is the underling drive behind my entire project, since it calls (like Lanham does in “The ‘Q’ Question”) for a both/and grammar, a gestalt (136): We need to understand how to adapt technology to users AND how to adapt users to technology.

Interfaces are satisfying if they can imbue Meaning. If they are gratifying to interact with (226).

My Questions

1. In terms of creating persuasive interfaces, how does the aptitude of Design combine both usability and user experience? How can Design interpellate users, and persuade them to act in their best interests in virtual environments?

2. In what ways is Story an interpellative construct? How are stories persuasive?

3. If Bogost’s concept of procedural rhetoric is an interpellative construct, how does it keep from being destructively persuasive (i.e. coercive, manipulative), since it is defined by being rule-based, and since being rule-based is inherently non-empathetic?

3A. How does (or can) procedural rhetoric as an interpellative construct demonstrate emotional literacy?

1.  From what I understand at this point, there’s overlap here between these aptitudes, and what defines a sticky idea in Made to Stick. Those elements are Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, and Stories.

2.  Symphony might have more resonance when I get to Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences because Pink writes that the best way to understand symphony is to understand drawing. Both are about relationships. Both are a way of seeing (131).

3.  Richard Lanham makes a similar claim in The Economics of Attention. Substitute ‘conceptual’ with ‘attention,’ and you’ve basically got Lanham’s thesis.

4.  Pink quotes from Postrel’s The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Values is Remaking Culture, Commerce, and Consciousness. This sentiment is more or less echoed in Norman’s Emotional Design. I’d have to see exactly how Postrel defines ‘the aesthetic imperative,’ but it might also link up with Bourdieu’s notion of ‘cultural capital.’ It also has obvious syntactic similarity to Kant’s ‘categorical imperative.’

5.  This might be an extension of Pine and Gilmore’s thesis in The Experience Economy. They claim that creating a memorable user experience is the way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. But how is that experience generated? Through utilization of some combination Pink’s right-brain aptitudes.


~ by ahatter on September 3, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: