Slowly, I am catching up on reading presentation-related classics. This holiday I read through Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind.
The subtitle of the book: "why right-brainers will rule the future" is an overly simplistic summary of the main idea. The book's content is more nuanced. In the "conceptual age" 2 skills are essential:
  • Solving problems in a way that nobody has ever done before
  • Persuading other people, spreading ideas [here is where the link to presentation design comes in]
Why? In current society, supply of goods and ideas is overwhelming. In order to stand out you need to develop a unique edge. The only way to get this edge is through developing "right-brain" skills such as desgn and story telling. "Left-brain" skills such as accounting, diagnosing a patient, applying legal rules are repitive and can increasingly be automated or outsourced to countries with much lower labor cost. A whole new mind is a mind that has a combination of left-brain and right-brain skills.
Some additional thoughts:
  • I think that people will have to learn the boring, repetitive left-brain skills in order to reach the next level of creativity. You need to read and write in order to write a book. You need to understand financial accounting in order to solve a strategy problem. You need to understand how large corporate structures work in order to deliver a presentation that convinces the Board. For example in the field of presentation, I think it is actually the entry of left-brainers into the field that was traditionally dominated by "creatives" that is causing the changes that we see now.
  • There will always be a large number of repetitive left-brain jobs that will not be automated/outsourced, and unfortunately a large group of people that have to do them.
  • It is hard for people to cut themselves free of left-brain corporate environments econcomically. Academia pay is poor. There are only so many spots available at companies such as Google that give their employees free time to work on whatever they want. Not everyone can build up skills that can be marketed in a freelance model profitably.
  • The most successful engineers, accountants, lawyers, surgeons had the combination of left and right brain skills that Daniel is talking about.
In summary, and purely from the point of presentation design, Daniel Pink's book is not a standard reference book like the ones listed in the column on the right of this web site. However, it will open your eyes for a very important idea. It is essential reading for parents though: the biggest issue it raises is the one of the education system.
Another reason to buy the book is the wealth of recommendations for further reading that are spread throughout the story.
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