Mental Echo

Book Review - A Whole New Mind

Created: June 21, 2009 / Updated: June 21, 2009

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink

The focus of this book is how left-brained (analytical) jobs are quickly being outsourced and how right-brained (creative) skills are the differentiator that will either help you keep your job or allow you to flourish in a new role within that job.  Being in the software industry, this definitely rings true to me.  I'm not good at my job if I just sit there and pound out lines of code like a good little code monkey.  I'm good at my job if I can go to the next level, using creative thoughts to design complex systems or interfaces or put myself in the position of the end user and figure out what will make the best experience for them.

My father sent me this book.  He is a former accountant/accounting firm president that is now in his second career as a practice management consultant. (See his website here, incidentally, the site is designed and maintained by yours truly).  The successes that my father and the firm he worked at had was not because they could complete a perfect tax return, it was because they could think beyond that, taking in the full picture of their clients situation to offer then advice in other aspects of their financials and business growth and help them plan for the future.  In fact, these days, you can easily outsource the initial processing of a tax return to India and get the results back in the morning.  If your only skill is being able to process a tax return, watch out, it is likely cheaper to send that tax return half way around the world than it is to have you do it.

The book highlights six areas where right brained thinking matters most and offers exercises on how you can improve your right brain skills.  My personal favorite is the chapter on Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel what they are feeling.  As a software developer, this skill is becoming more and more important to me.  I need to sit there and make decisions based on how the user will feel when they use the tools/programs that I develop.  Will an extra click here matter?  Does this page layout make sense?  How does the user do their job and what will make them more efficient?  These aren't things you learn in college (at least I didn't). These are things you have to work out and start thinking about differently.  It isn't acceptable for software to just be functional, it has to be usable, and highly usable at that. 

The other five chapters pull in additional important themes in right brain thinking.  This is definitely a book that you should read if your job involves mostly left-brain thinking, or if you haven't figured out how to bring the right side of your brain along for the ride.

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