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A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink Book Summary, Notes, and PDF

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Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” is a true masterclass on psychology, learning, management, and more. It’s a must-read for marketers, leaders, and anybody curious about the mind. Here are some of the key takeaways I got from reading the book. If you enjoy these tidbits, the book is absolutely FULL of details so make sure to check it out.

Power Of The Right Brain

More and more computers and cheap laborers in Asia are taking jobs that are left-brain dominant. Things like math, manual data entry, and others. It is now more important to have qualities of both left and right brain in order to stand out and succeed.
The 6 Senses: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning are the main areas of the book

Design

Effective Graphic Design (CRAP)

  1. Contrast: If they aren’t the same, make very different
  2. Repetition: Repeat visual elements to show unity
  3. Alignment: Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily, always have some visual connection
  4. Proximity: Related should be close

Effective graphic design can be a big way to stand out. Function and price are the bare-bones needed to enter into the market. Effective design is what actually makes a product stand out.

Great design is both beautiful and useful.

Pink also suggests some great assignments to help improve the design and your thought-patterns around design. Some of these include:

  • Keeping a design notebook: make note of awesome designs and epic experiences, such as buying a coffee and what makes it special or annoying
  • Take something annoying and figure out how to improve it
  • Read design magazines like Ambidextrous, Dwell, HOW, etc.
  • Take a trip to different houses and look at the design. Look at the physical environment, lighting, etc.
  • Stare at something and describe how it affects your senses and emotions and explore why and what parts of the design lead to that.

Story

Stories are how humans remember. Stories capture emotion and show concept and touch. Stories help businesses distinguish their goods and services. In fact, What’s Your Story, is a great illustration of how powerful storytelling can be and how it can be used to your advantage. I’d highly recommend checking that book as well in combination with this one.

One great example is Apple. When Steve Jobs unveiled the Mac or the iPod for the first time, it was a thing of brilliance. He truly mastered the art of storytelling. For example, check out this presentation by Steve Jobs in 2007 where he introduced the iPhone:

The video has close to 8M views on YouTube and is widely considered a cultural moment because of the powerful story that Steve Jobs told.

Assignments:

  • Write a mini-saga (50 words)
  • Visit a storytelling festival
  • Read short stories
  • Craft a story from a random opening line
  • Play “Who are these people”: Look at 2 people nearby. Give them a personality and make up a story about them.

Symphony

Symphony is the ability to put together the pieces. It’s all about synthesizing, not analyzing. The most creative and brilliant minds are able to put together connections that other people won’t. Metaphors are part of symphony. Metaphorical thinking is a key part of this.

Those great with symphony can see the big picture and understand the relationships between relationships. Similar to Steve Jobs in the video above, where he was able to connect the phone with the computer with the music player and introduce one of the most defining devices of all time.

Assignments:

  • Listen to great symphonies: Beethoven’s 9th, Mozart’s 35th, etc.
  • Hit the newsstand: select 10 publications that you’d never read and likely never buy. See what the magazine is about and look for connections to your own life
  • Draw!
  • Keep a metaphor log: write down surprising and interesting metaphors.
  • Follow the links: take a topic or word you find interesting. Type it into Google and follow the links. Select a new link on each page and repeat it.
  • Create an inspiration board: put a bulletin board and anything you find compelling on it

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes and intuit what that person is feeling. Most emotions are expressed nonverbally. The most empathetic people can also subconsciously detect microexpressions or identify fake smiles that occur when people are trying to conceal their true feelings.

Good designers are great a putting themselves in the mind of the end-user.

Assignments:

  • Test yourself! There are plenty of quizzes online to test fake smiles and test for emotional intelligence
  • Study the works of Ekman
  • Eavesdrop and imagine yourself in somebody else’s situation
  • Empathize on the job: imagine people in your life and think about their biggest frustrations, blockers, and more

Play

Games are an extremely underrated part of society. Games can train the mind in very interesting ways. America’s Army was actually created by the Army to get more people to enroll. Game theory is also derived from this.

Laughing is also a very important part of play. Laughing feels good. Even laughing for no reason. If you laugh, you cannot think. It’s almost a type of meditation. There are people who actually just laugh for a minute to start their day on the right foot.

Assignment:

  • Come up with captions for cartoons
  • take a humor test
  • play right-brain games!
  • dissect a joke and see why it was funny

Meaning

People’s drive comes from the pursuit of meaning. People enjoy more when they find the meaning.

Spirituality in the workplace can actually increase productivity and feeling. People work harder, think more creatively, and come up with better ideas when they feel their work has meaning.

Assignments:

  • Say Thanks! Write a letter and say thank you to people who mean a lot
  • 20-10 Test: Ask yourself if you had $20M and 10 years to live, if you’d still be doing what you’re doing
  • Take a sabbath: stop working for a day or two
  • Take a mindful pause before going through doors
  • Dedicate your work to somebody, add purpose and meaning

All in all, A Whole New Mind is a fantastic book and dives into many of the key elements of self-improvement and the human mind. I would highly recommend checking it out!

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