Daniel Pink, in his excellent book A Whole New Mind, proposes that we are entering (or already in) the Conceptual Age, in which businesses need to promote creativity and divergent thinking in order to prosper. The Conceptual Age? What happened to the Information Age? Haven't countless companies established great wealth, and millions of individuals established worthy careers, based on knowledge and information technology? Yes they have. Thank you very much.
But according to Pink, three factors are severely weakening the value of the information-based model in this country: (1) Asia, (2) automation, and (3) abundance.
- Asia: As you know, more and more information entry and retrieval work is being outsourced to Asian countries (read: India) because it can be done so much more cheaply there. That is only going to become more common.
- Automation: As you also know, technology works so quickly and efficiently we mere humans have no chance when it comes to working with information. As Pink reports, because of technology, even safe careers such as law, accounting, finance, and "mainstream" programming are no longer that safe.
- Abundance: Pink's third factor, abundance, is interesting. He claims U.S. consumers have so much (because of the wealth generated during the Information Age) that we are no longer content with simply purchasing more stuff. Instead, we are becoming more interested in products that are truly innovative and/or have added value - beauty, worthiness, meaning, etc. Such products go beyond mere function.
According to Pink's thesis, then, existing and start-up companies need to move past the literal and logical thinking that has driven the Information Age, and instead champion originality and innovation. The subtitle of Pink's book is "Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future." Brain theory, of course, tells us that the right hemisphere of the brain controls our ability to think creatively.
Final Thought: You may work in a company that has already gone in this direction. (Many dot com companies are truly innovative.) If so, we'd like to hear what are you doing. Or we'd simply like to hear what you think of Pink's thesis? Do U.S. businesses need to become more conceptually based?
- Dave Kemper