What if the road to success that millions have trod for over half a century—testing, college applications, admissions, graduation and living happily ever after in a life of ever-rising income—is no longer sufficient to ensure continued economic success?
Gather your children around and answer the following questions posed by Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, as you and your children ponder their future:
- Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
- Can a computer do it faster (or more dependably or effectively)?
- Will your children’s careers be offering something that will be in demand in an age of
accelerating abundance (where “more of the same” is insufficient)?
If the answer to number 1 or 2 is yes, or if the answer to number 3 is no, the future economic success of your children may be at risk.
Pink’s book is a clarion call for us to wake to the reality that America has entered a new economic stage, the Conceptual Age, where economic value will be generated not by factories (seen any in your neighborhood lately?) nor by the “knowledge worker” of the rapidly passing Information Age (the sucking sound you hear is jobs flying to Asia).
According to Pink, the emerging economy in Western nations is rapidly driven by the conceptual worker and entrepreneur who has at his or her command not only important skills normally associated with the left hemisphere of the brain—the logical side—but command of skills derived from the creative, right hemisphere.
Pink identifies “six senses” necessary to be increasingly successful in the emerging “high concept, high touch” laden economy.
Design. It is not enough to create a product or service that is merely functional. It must also be beautiful, engaging, or meaningful. Take the automobile. There are more cars in America than people, so building cheap, quality vehicles is wholly insufficient. What must one do? Consider this from BMW: “We do not sell cars; we sell moving pieces of art.”
Story. Our lives are overflowing with information. What is needed is the ability to connect ideas through story that others can relate to in deeper, more meaningful ways. What do we remember best—facts, figures and ideas, or stories that connect them?
Symphony. The application of logic and focus is critical in industrial and information-driven economies. These skills and processes are the ones flying to Asian nations in droves. Of increasing value is the ability to see the bigger picture and create new and innovative wholes.
Empathy. It’s not enough to be a great tactician or specialist. To thrive in the future requires learning how people think, forging relationships and caring for others. Being genuinely aware of the needs of others, being able to connect with others on deeper, more meaningful levels: That is an increasing source of value.
Play. Life is serious enough and challenges abound everywhere. The ability to play, to laugh and enjoy life will become a premium and those who understand and employ this important skill/attitude will be in demand.
Meaning. Take a look around your house and community. We are awash in material goods—so much so that we spend more money on trash bags than ninety countries spend on everything. To plan a career on providing more of the same is preparing our children for yesterday, not tomorrow. Meaning, transcendence, happiness, self-actualization, these are the emerging values.
In Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the first habit is to begin with the end in mind. This key trait is critically important when considering the content and scope of our children’s educational program. We do not want to fall in the trap of preparing our children for the jobs and opportunities of yesterday, as so many of our schools have done and continue to do.
Information Age skills and processes are easy to export overseas or to a state on the other side of the country. Conceptual skills are far more complex, and thus much harder to transfer to others, whether the worker lives in Thailand or a few blocks down the road.
Manfred Smith is TLCI’s Principal Director