Daniel Pink


Daniel Pink writes about story as a key competency in the new conceptual age. He writes about the importance of narrative in selling and in communication generally and about how we respond at an emotional level to story. We therefore remember a story where we may forget the facts.

Even doctors are getting into the action. Narrative medicine is become a popular and effective way to solve medical mysteries. One of my favourite doctor TV shows, House, uses this approach as they unravel the mysterious diseases that plaque their patients.

Narrative mediation has been a popular means of assessing resolving conflict for more than 20 years. Teaching as a profession has embraced story telling as an instructional method since the time of Socrates and beyond. Most cultures pass on their mysteries and puzzles through stories.

Stories are important and if you can learn from and teach with stories you are ahead in the conceptual age. This week I completed my first novel. It is a story I wrote for my grandson, a speculative fiction set in 2025 to encourage him that his future is his to design and with the competencies that Pink revealed to us in his story of the whole new mind; design, empathy, symphony, transcendence, imagination, narrative and yin and yang which represent balance to me, my grandson and you both have a bright DESTINY to look forward to.

Tell a story today. Practice story telling and watch how people respond. People listen to stories and relate to them finding equivalents in their own lives. What is your story?

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So play is somehow new again. Canada’s government is advertising to promote the return of Play. We are encouraged to take our children outside and bring back play. Daniel Pink is also encouraging us to play in our work, to use our imaginations in a way that will free us from conventional ways of thinking. It is another of the competencies he has identified for the whole new mind.

Imagination, the kind that is truly free form, unbounded physical, emotional and intellectual freedom is fun. Letting go is liberating and can inform who we are and how we think, feel and do things. I encourage you to imagine, to play with ideas and then to act on those thoughts in ways you may have limited before. It is another way to connect the two sides of your brain.

In PULSE you find Imagination in the miracle question. “If a miracle happened …” we ask “how would you know?” I love that question and where it takes people. It takes them beyond what they know and are experiencing and feeling now to what they MIGHT know, experience and feel if they allowed themselves.

Today, allow yourself to be, do or feel something new.

When Daniel Pink writes about transcendence he calls it MEANING. He identifies it as one of the six competencies for the new world we are creating for ourselves. Whether you call it the Conceptual Age or the Post Materialist Age things are different then they were 20 years ago. Pink refers to the work of Victor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning”, a profound book which I read years ago when my own search for meaning and purpose began. Frankl survived the concentration camps of World War II where many did not. There he learned that no one could take away the feeling of contentment he could raise in himself. He could be happy even for a moment in the memory of a loved one in those unimaginable circumstances. He could find meaning in a desire to live out his purpose and could endure more than others because of his belief that his situation was temporary, that the work that he did in documenting his journey was important for the world to see.

Pink suggests that it is not material wealth but pursuit of spirituality and happiness that lead to fulfillment in life. So in an age of abundance, why can’t we find happiness? That is a question that Pink poses. He identifies the trend toward looking for happiness through the increasing number of book titles and websites aimed at providing the “Answer.” Pink looks to the Dali Lama as an example of pursuit of happiness and spiritual fulfillment. The growth in the audiences who flock to meet with the Dali Lama and the joy that is spread in his presence id another indication to Pink that people are hungry for meaning in their lives. Pink believes that taking spirituality and happiness seriously are two key aspects of being competent in this new age.

I have changed Pinks word for this concept, MEANING, to a word he also used in his chapter on meaning. I like the work Transcendence because it indicates the crossing over to a new way of being that occurs when people realize that wealth has not created happiness for them. A song from my past comes to mind with words like “if that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing…” Formulae for meaning and happiness abound but finding a place in your own world where you can be happy and purposeful daily takes a shift in thinking and a willingness to make that shift.

How do we learn to transcend the daily grind to find meaning in it, to create purpose for ourselves and to live our lives deliberately, as Victor Frankl did? How can we be content and happy like the Dali Lama? For me the answer is not as important as the question. The question that has always moved me is “What else could you be doing?” or “Where else could you be living?” or “Who else could you be?” Do answer these questions, we need to think and feel and do things differently. We choose. We choose different questions for ourselves. We listen deeply for the answers from within or notice the answers in the outside world more acutely. We develop an acumen for finding joy and purpose all around us. We transcend the mundane world we may exist in now to LIVE on purpose in the world that is right before our eyes, right there in our grasp, right there in our daily experiences.

Love is all around you.

What does that word mean to you? Symphony orchestra comes to mind. The blending of sounds from different instruments to create melody and variation and sound that move people to heights of joy and sadness, music that tells a story, draws a picture, creating a perfect mixture of the right notes and volume. Symphony is like design with sound.

A synonym for symphony is harmonious.  I think Daniel Pink intended it to be more than harmonious sounds.  From his book I get the impression he is talking about harmony and symphony as experienced in sight and sound … pleasing to the eye and the ear, to the heart and the body and the mind.

I like the concept of symphony.  It is well structured magic.  There is a formula for writing a symphony.  A symphony is an extended piece of music for orchestra, especially one in sonata form. Usually there are four movements in a symphony.  They are played by symphonic orchestras, with sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments.  the sounds of the different instruments are organized to create beautiful melodic sounds.  There is structure and sometimes, although not always, music and not noise is produced.  if you have ever listened to the warm up of a symphony or a rehearsal you know things are not always performance grade.  Maybe that is what Pink was trying to get across.. the idea that practice is necessary to create beautiful music together… that we need to work together to find our sound, our contribution to the work and the world. Working together we can generate the same kind of well structured magic as symphonic orchestras do.

That is what happens in PULSE conversations … well structured magic.  There is a formula.  There are movements ( four).  There are sections represented by the roles being played.  We follow the score or process…and we create harmony.

How do you create symphony and how to you learn to strengthen your ability to do that in your life?  You listen for it.  You identify it and its elements and then you work at recreating it.  That is almost exactly what I said to our participants in this weeks PULSE training.  Relax and listen so that you can hear the patterns … the melody… in the conversation.  You will know when things are off key or tempo and you will begin to understand what needs to happen to create the balance and the harmony, the blend of sounds, words and actions that align to make symphony.

The E in DESTINY is for Empathy. It is another characteristic that Daniel Plink is predicting we will need in this new world of ours. Empathy is a skill that can be developed and it is also something that we learn in our family of origin. It is often confused with sympathy, but feeling sorry for someone is not the same as feeling what they are feeling… working to understand the world from their perspective. Getting over into the other persons shoes takes an ability to let go of your own perspective as the only possible one. Some people get stuck there. They can’t seem to grasp that the world is not as they see it and experience it. They don’t know that other people experience it differently.

I think that is why teaching the Enneagram is so important. It teaches people to value what they are not. It creates the awareness of different perspectives which explain the different reactions and responses that people have to the same stimulus. That is my sociological bent on the Enneagram as a tool for looking at the social struggler and the social behaviour in conversation with others. You can teach people to be aware of the differences. Is someone coming toward you or moving with you or moving away? Are they oriented to the past, the present or the future? Their direction and orientation will help you determine what they are looking for in the social acts like conversation.

Knowing the Enneagram helps increase the likelihood that you will develop a sense of empathy and an ability to relate in a deeper more meaningful way with others. It allows you to see the world from that perspective by practicing that very skill.

I remember an observation exercise in my PhD program where we were asked to describe an object from one position in the room. The task was to describe exactly what you saw and not what you knew was there. Then we moved to a new position and again described just what we saw. It was a powerful exercise which I repeat in our classes but we look at a situation rather than an object and we physically place ourselves around the circle of the Enneagram describing the situation from the perspective we are standing on before moving to another position and making a different assessment from the new perspective. It is a powerful exercise to improve our skills related to empathy.

Daniel Pink talks a lot about why empathy is important in our new world and about how it is a right brain activity. The facts on the left side of the brain being analyzed or experienced on the right side to create a connection with another human being and their experiences is not something you can out source or ask a computer to do. It is a human experience and those who are good at it will thrive according to Pink. It is something that PULSE professionals do.

Design is the D in DESTINY which is my pneumonic for remembering Daniel Pink’s strategies for developing a “Whole New Mind.” Design is about learning how to pay attention. Pink invites us to look at our favourite kitchen utensil and design a better one. Just noticing how things have both form and function and how one compliments the other is a step toward understanding the importance of design. How many design have you experienced of the concept related to chair? There is no chairness in the word and lately in our world the things we sit on do not always come with four legs, 2 arms and a back.

Design requires both sides of your brain to work together. To work, what ever you are designing needs the left side of your brain to evaluate the functionality of the thing. To look good and have aesthetic appeal what ever you are designing needs your creative right brain to see and understand the form.

Just thinking about design lets you look at the world differently. In our world there is more emphasis on the integration of form and function and so we have beautiful cars, homes and even coffee makers. Everything we buy has a style that suits us. We choose from endless varieties of everything. Where once, when you needed a toaster you had little or no choice at your department store, we now have isles lined with choice or toaster to fit the form and function that you are looking for. We have signature styles and preferences that define us and are defined by us.

Think about what you like and why. Why this pair of shoes and not that one. Why this washing machine and not that one. What are the consistent themes in your life? What are your colours and shapes… the ones that recur in your life? For instance I rarely choose flowers as a pattern. I prefer clean lines and geometric shapes. That goes for the clothes that I wear and the home furnishings I select.

Play with design. Notice it in the department store, on the avenue and while visiting show homes. Notice shapes and colours and contours and space Use the right side of your brain to appreciate the form and the left side of the brain to evaluate the function.

I have been traveling from Calgary to Edmonton and back a lot. I try to listen to good music or a good book on the road. it makes the three-hour trip quicker somehow. This last trip I dug out a set of CDs from 2007. Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” is a wonderful exploration of the left and right hemispheres. He talks about what we need to survive in this high touch and high concept age and he outlines seven sets of attitudes, skills and Knowledge that each of us will require to be successful in this new world we are living in. Being who I am and wanting to remember the seven items in order to share them with others I have re-ordered them and renames a couple to come up with an easier to remember version…

Design

Empathy

Symphony

Transcendence

Imagination

Narrative

Yin and Yang

I will talk about each of them in the blog entries that follow this one. Because I didn’t talk notes in the car and I will have to listen again to the book in a note taking environment to comment on them.

I do want to comment on the tone of the book today. It was published in 2007. Daniel Pink’s voice is on the CDs reading the unabridged version of the book. His tone is hopeful and inspired and contains none of the post 2008 concern we have all learned to live with. I was fascinated by this difference in emotion about a future that seemed to be full of endless growth and possibility. It was a reminder that things can change suddenly or they can take 5 years.

By the way … I am retiring from PULSE. I am not leaving my blog but I have found that there are others who can manage the PULSE programs. Marjorie has accepted this month’s assignment and I am confident she will provide excellent instruction to our new PULSE professionals.

I will continue to write and coach from time to time. I will also accept guest appearances from time to time but I have decided that it is time for me to free myself to finish the books I have started and the ones that are still swimming in my thoughts waiting for a chance to escape onto the page or screen or drawing board.

It was a combination of the re-reading (listening to) Daniel Pink’s wonderful book and my time in bookkeeping class that brought me to a place where I can say goodbye to PULSE. Like a child who has grown and is moving out. I believe there are PULSE influences all around the world and that people like you – PULSE professionals – will continue to use it. Write me a note to let me know how you are using it and please keep reading the blogs. I do appreciate the feedback.

Take good CARE. Curiousity, Appreciation, Responsiveness, and Empathy are your friends in conversation. That’s another new acronym. Hope you like it.