A Whole New Mind

If you only have one minute, take the 20-10 test (originally by Jim Collins). It is included in Daniel Pink’s book: A Whole New Mind, paraphrased here:

Ask: Would I still do what I am doing now if I had $20 million in the bank and knew I had no more than ten years to live? In other words, if I had that money, would I spend my days the way I spend them now? If I had at most ten years to live, would I continue with my current work? What would I do differently in that situation?

If you have more time, read on.


A Whole New Mind accompanied me on my trip to Stockholm to attend the International Conference on Machine Learning recently. This book is authored by Daniel H. Pink, with a powerful subtitle “why right-brainers will rule the future”.  I like the research that Pink did for this book. The references and quotes are evidence for that. Given my limited experience of improv in the last two years, I can vouch for the happiness and fulfillment resulting from exercising both hemispheres of the brain together. No more excuses to procrastinate taking up arts,  painting lessons, choirs etc. No more guilty feeling for not doing much work while brainstorming or contemplating.

Between the choices of not writing a blog entry about the book I read and to write it but very superficially, I decided to go with the latter, for the benefit of revisiting and perhaps improving later. Most of the time when we mentally say “later”, we mean “never”. I am no exception. My summary posts are very much falling behind my reading lately, such that some might require rereading now. Looking from a different perspective, that is a good problem to have. It is a way to filter away books that are not worth reading twice. Meanwhile, I try to balance the solitude of reading/writing with learning/thinking through the dialogues with people and experiences.


Here are the pieces that I found useful and worthwhile of highlighting for myself:


Today, the defining skills of the previous era—the “left brain” capabilities that powered the Information Age—are necessary but no longer sufficient. And the capabilities we once disdained or thought frivolous—the “right-brain” qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfulness, and meaning—increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders.

Excerpts from the “Karimanifesto”, a fifty-point guide to life and design by Karim Rashid:

  1. Don’t specialise.
  2. Before giving birth to anything physical, ask yourself if you have created an original idea, an original concept, if there is any real value in what you disseminate.
  3. Know everything about the history of your profession and then forget it all when you design something new.
  4. Never say “I could have done that” because you didn’t.
  5. Consume experiences, not things.
  6. Normal is not good.
  7. There are three types of beings – those we create culture, those who buy culture, and those who don’t give a shit about culture. Move between the first two.
  8. Thing extensively, not intensively.
  9. Experience is the most important part of living, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is. Space and objects can encourage increased experiences or distract from our experiences.
  10. Here and now is all we got.

Change is inevitable, and when it happens, the wisest response is not to wail or whine but to suck it up and deal with it.

Asking “Why?” can lead to understanding. Asking “Why not?” can lead to breakthroughs.

Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.

Empathy is an essential part of living a life of meaning.

Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate and to connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.

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, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.

A calling is the most satisfying form of work because, as gratification, it is done for its own sake rather than for the material benefits it brings


“The Queen died. The King died.”

“The Queen died. And the King died of a broken heart.”

The first line was fact. The second line was a story. It placed the facts in context, added emotion and made us connect to it by making it memorable.

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.


Design—that is, utility enhanced by significance—has become an essential aptitude for personal fulfilment and professional success.

Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. These six senses increasingly will guide our lives and shape our world.

Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.

Symphony is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair….The right hemisphere operates in a simultaneous, contextual, and symphonic matter. It concerns itself not with a particular spruce but with the whole forest – not with the bassoon player or the first violinist but with the entire orchestra.

Symphonic thinking is a signature ability of composers and conductors, whose jobs involve corralling a diverse group of notes, instruments, and performers and producing a unified and pleasing sound. Entrepreneurs and inventors have long relied on this ability.

The key to success is to risk thinking unconventional thoughts. Convention is the enemy of progress. As long as you’ve got slightly more perception than the average wrapped loaf, you could invent something.

“Get me some poets as managers.” Poets are our original system thinkers. They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obliged to interpret and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how the world turns. Poets, those unheralded systems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow’s new business leaders.

From Professional Amateur, by Marcel Wanders:

Celebrate your amateurness.

I am best at what I can’t do.

It has become my ability to feel strong and confident in these situations. I feel free to move, to listen to my heart, to learn, to act even if that means I will make mistakes.

If you want a creative life, do what you can’t and experience the beauty of the mistakes you make.

Five rules to brainstorm properly, drawn from The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley:

  1. Go for quantity. Good ideas emerge from lots of ideas. Set a numerical goal – say, a total of a hundred ideas.
  2. Encourage wild ideas. Extremism is a virtue. The right idea often flows from what initially seems outlandish.
  3. Be visual. Pictures unlock creativity.
  4. Defer judgement. There’s no such thing as a bad idea, so banish the naysayers. Think creatively first and critically later.
  5. One conversation at a time. Listen, be polite, and build on others’ suggestions.

Empathy is neither a deviation from intelligence nor the single route to it. Sometimes we need detachment; many other times we need attunement. And the people who will thrive will be those who can toggle between the two. As we’ve seen again and again, the Conceptual Age requires androgynous minds.

Picture yourself at ninety:

Set aside a half hour to picture yourself at age ninety and to put yourself in the mind of ninety-year-old you. What does your life look like when you view it from that vantage point? What have you accomplished? What have you contributed? What are your regrets? This isn’t an easy exercise—neither intellectually nor emotionally. But it can be enormously valuable. And it can help you satisfy one of Viktor Frankl’s most powerful imperatives: “Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.”