I recently spoke at a brunch celebrating the Alliance Theater’s 30th anniversary. My remarks centered on the best selling book, A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink. After hearing Pink speak last spring at the national Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, I eagerly read his book.
According to Daniel Pink, “the MFA is the new MBA.” He claims that left brain skills (skills that focus on logic, analysis, mathematics) are necessary, but no longer sufficient in this rapidly changing world. Today, we are moving from an Information Age to a Conceptual Age. Pink argues that in the past century, so-called “knowledge workers” have ruled—lawyers, doctors, accountants and engineers who got paid for putting to work what they learned in school.
But now, US knowledge workers have intense competition in China, India and other countries. Big corporations are outsourcing computer programming, tech support—even accounting services. Hospitals are sending CAT scans to be read by radiologists overseas.
This new Conceptual Age requires more adept right brain functions: understanding the context around the facts, the relationships between ideas. . . the BIG picture. When I was growing up there was great stress on focus and specialization, which created angst for generalists like me. But according to Pink, this in-depth knowledge of a single area no longer guarantees success. In the future we will need those who can see beyond the individual puzzle pieces to envision the whole picture. People must learn to see connections between things that may seem diverse and separate, linking uncommon elements to create something new. And now more than ever, there’s a widespread search for meaning and purpose, something that people discover through the arts.
Not surprisingly, Daniel Pink is being enthusiastically embraced by those of us who value the arts, who know in the deep core of our beings that there is an intrinsic value to the arts which has gone unrecognized by mainstream society. Here is a respected author who not only gets it, but who has appeared on CNN and NPRr, who is going around the country declaring his message of innovation and change.
With our lives overflowing with information and data, knowledge alone is no longer enough. Communication, persuasion, and the ability to turn facts into a compelling story is the key to success.