• Mel Butcher

The Book I Wish I'd Read Sooner

row of books on a table - angle shows bottoms of the books rather than the spines

I want to tell you about a book I wish I had read when it was published.

I only just read this book last year. The observations and predictions of the book were far ahead of its time. Though, I can imagine how people seeing it when it was first published could have dismissed it as a ploy, something to market to the right-brained among us whose talents are easily dismissed as good for nothing more than the pursuit of hobby or amusement...

2005... 16 years ago... Daniel H. Pink published these words:

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind -- computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch the numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of mind -- creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.

He goes onto describe how we were (are) moving into a new age.

We had the Industrial Age, which greatly shifted work opportunities and the ability for the average person to buy goods.

Then came the Information Age, marked by the rise of white collar work and the birth and growth of the internet. It forever changed commerce and lit the fire of globalization irreversibly. Arguably, most people in 2005 believed that wasn't going away anytime soon. Some still believe that today.

What could possibly be next?

Pink calls it the Conceptual Age.

He predicted the Conceptual Age would be marked by people with a different set of strengths. Here are 6 of them:

  • Design - We're not talking about CAD here. The industrial age brought us access to many goods. Then came choice. Choice of goods and aesthetics is at an all time high. The design we're referring to here, therefore, is that of making something beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging in some way. Example: Pylones

  • Story - You might be able to bring the facts and a solid argument. But in today's noisy, short attention span world, your value will come from being able to craft a narrative that engages minds and hearts.

  • Symphony - Think orchestration, not instruments. The Conceptual Age will require more people who can process complexity, see the bigger picture, and organize it into a new whole.

  • Empathy - Consider how traditional engineering has evolved. Large organizations that have the resources have set up their own shops overseas, in places like India and the Philippines, to take advantage of educated workforces that will work for substantially smaller wages than their US counterparts. Some see this as "wrong". But look closer. What it's actually done is create new opportunity. We need leaders who can cross cultural divides to unite teams that span continents. One important strength to do this successfully is empathy.

  • Play - If you're reading this, it's unlikely you work in a factory or that you ever will. Those who can bring the levity of play will have more creative outcomes for their own work product and their team's.

  • Meaning - With all of the bad amplified by media and its consumers, we might forget to look at the good. The truth is that the revolutions of the Industrial and Information Ages have brought more health, food, care, and knowledge to more places around the globe. With more people having the comforts of a domestic life, more people search for meaning. It will take a leader, in fact many leaders, to bring it to them.

If you are brave enough to draw a map, people will follow.

-- Seth Godin



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