Daniel Pink extended his 6th and final right-brained skill, meaning, in his latest book Drive. According to Pink, purpose and meaning are key to motivation.

I grew up in a very L-brained world (stuff that can be measured by SATs or require theoretical and analytical skills) and schools have traditionally favored that kind of brain. Pink calls it the SAT-ocracy, “a regime in which access to the good life depends on the ability to reason logically, sequentially, and speedily.” He states that that system is dying. The reasons, abundance, Asia, and automation. It’s not just all the stuff that’s made in China, it’s the lower cost of L-directed thinking related jobs, such as writing computer code that is being outsourced to places like India. And well, if your job can be automated, it will be. How does one protect themselves from becoming irrelevant? Pink says switch to R-directed thinking.

Pink’s point is supported by other leaders in the field of learning, motivation, and how the brain works. Making that shift isn’t always easy. The world is still dominated by L-directed models. However, companies like Google and Apple (two companies with rather different philosophies and approaches) have seen tremendous growth because of design (iphone), story (seen those “I’m a Mac” commercials?, symphony (it’s not a phone, it’s not a laptop, it’s an ipad), empathy (carefully observing the end user), play (Google’s 20% time),  and meaning (doing it because you want to). Making the shift to R-brained thinking isn’t easy. We are still bounded in many ways by an ever growing curriculum that focuses on a standard set of skills rather than a system of ways to think about things, tests and assessments that focus on one correct answer rather than processes, and a belief that to minimize failures, risks should be minimized.

It’s clear that this last chapter in A Whole New Mind was a catalyst to his most recent book about motivation. Says Pink about managing a successful team, “Motivation 3.0 means giving up control over the process and the outcome.” He points out that many businesses suffer from this and unknowingly encourage apathy and automatons.

My personal efforts in moving from L to R have included both successes and failures. In trying to make meaning of something I care a great deal about today, I let my emotional side get the better of me and made a mistake. But, as we like to to promote to the students at our school that “mistakes are learning opportunities,” I hope I learned something from it.

Or perhaps Oscar Wilde had it right, “Looking good and dressing well is a necessity. Having a purpose in life is not.”


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