A Whole New Mind

May 16, 2006 by

A Whole New Mind by Daniel PinkIf you’re reading CMS, you’re proving your interest in how your church can impact your community–and probably also how culture is impacting your church.

With that in mind, I highly recommend reading a book that made waves across the business, sociological, and Internet spheres last year. A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age by Daniel Pink (that’s the hardcover, the paperback has a new subtitle, Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, and some new material). No other business book has had a more intense impact on me since Good to Great.

I found out about this book from one of the tech blogs I read. When I looked into it, I saw high praise for it from the likes of Tom Peters and Seth Godin and immediately went to Amazon and picked it up. It’s also received rave reviews since its release.

So, you may ask, “Mike, why are you recommending this book here at CMS, since it looks like just another business book?”

Glad you asked.

It is more than a business book. It unveils a significant shift happening in business—and society as a whole—that will affect you and your ministry in the near future. I bet it already has.

But there are so many spiritual aspects to this book. Even though the author doesn’t personally land on any particular religion, he draws many conclusions on the spiritual state and nature of today’s citizen in the advanced world. This alone is critical intelligence for church leaders.

Pink uses the first third of the book making the case that we’ve moved from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age—or from an emphasis on left-brained (sequential, literal, functional, textual, analytic) to right-brained (simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, synthetic) careers. His simple laymen’s explanation of the functions of the brain is fascinating and drawn on mountains of research.

As a church leader you may wonder why you need to know any of this.

First, because these are issues affecting every one of your congregants. Empathy alone is a great reason to read it.

Second, the issues raised in this book will affect your church—from how/who you hire, to how your lay leaders will act/react, and how these shifts in society will affect expectations toward your ministry in the future.

Third, this book will help you reexamine how you do ministry, and how it may need to adjust to better connect with the real needs of people in your community.

His evidence is distilled in three points. The first two are pretty evident:

Asia is now performing large amounts of routine, white-collar, L-Directed [left-brained] work at significantly lower costs, thereby forcing knowledge workers in the advanced world to master abilities that can’t be shipped overseas. And automation has begun to affect this generation’s white-collar workers in much the same way it did last generation’s blue-collar workers, requiring L-Directed professionals to develop aptitudes that computers can’t do better, faster and cheaper.

His third point caught me by surprise, and seemed so out-of-place in a business book:

Abundance has satisfied, and even over-satisfied, the material needs of millions—boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individuals’ search for meaning.

By “abundance” Pink means that people in the developed countries are reaping more money and possessions than at any time ever. But it’s just not satisfying us:

Abundance has brought beautiful things to our lives, but that bevy of material goods have not necessarily made us much happier. The paradox of prosperity is that while living standards have risen steadily decade after decade, personal, family, and life satisfaction haven’t budged. That’s why more people—liberated by prosperity but not fulfilled by it—are resolving the paradox by searching for meaning. As Columbia University’s Andrew Delbanco puts it, “The most striking feature of contemporary culture is the unslaked craving for transcendence.”

Sounds like something off the Christian Booksellers best-seller list, doesn’t it?

Researchers of such things have consistently identified Millenials as having a deeper need for meaning and transcendence, perhaps as a result of growing up in such abundance and seeing its lack of fulfillment in their parents.

Pink’s answer for those currently in or thinking about left-brained careers is to consider a more high concept/high touch direction. The next two-thirds of the book are dedicated to the six senses that will be required to succeed in this emerging age:

  • Design: “Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.”

    More churches need to employ more designers.

  • Story: “…the ability to place facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”A lot of churches do well at this already—some need help
  • Symphony: “…symphony thinking is the ability of composers and conductors to corral a diverse group of notes, instruments, and performers and produce a unified and pleasing sound… seeing the big picture is fast becoming a killer app in business.”Most boards/elders could use a good dose of symphony.
  • Empathy: “…the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts.”Many people enter ministry because empathy is one of their gifts—too many, however, still need to fully grasp empathy’s part in ministry with a deeper impact.
  • Play: “…the most effective executives deployed humor twice as often as middle-of-the-pack managers.”Most churches could stand to get a sense of humor, huh?
  • Meaning: “People have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they have the means but not the meaning–start taking spirituality seriously and start taking happiness seriously.”It would be easy to assume that churches have this down pat, but maybe we communicate it irrelevantly?

As you can see, that last sense resurrects the spiritual tone from the Abundance section. Here are some excerpts:

As I mentioned in Chapter 3, the mammoth baby boom generation is reaching a demographic milestone. The typical boomer now has more of her life behind him than ahead of him, prompting the searching of souls and the reevaluation of priorities. The specter of terrorism hovers, offering reminders of life’s fleetingness and raising questions of its purpose. Meantime, technology continues its unrelenting march, deluging us with data and choking us with choices. All these forces have gathered into a perfect storm of circumstances that is making the search for meaning the sixth essential aptitude of the Conceptual Age.

Wow. I know we hear this plenty in the Christian realm, but it’s affirming to hear it from outside our worldview.

Pink quotes others who say this is the “Fourth Great Awakening”: “A transition from material want to meaning want is in progress on an historically unprecedented scale—involving hundreds of millions of people—and may eventually be recognized as the principal cultural development of our age.” (Gregg Easterbrook, as quoted in the book).

He cites examples of this movement in the medical field and in the business world, both in business as more employees want meaning with the money, and as business, with the proliferation of yoga studios, evangelical bookstores, and “green” products as examples.

Dan Pink has a blog on the book that continues to this day to point out and explore the issues raised in the book with relevant links.

And don’t just get this for yourself. Get it for your senior pastor, board/elders, staff—it would make an excellent group reading project.

Finally, you should also check out Mark Oestreicher’s (Youth Specialties’ president) review of this book—I thought I would reprint his last section, which isn’t directly from the book, but is an equally important shift affecting contemporary ministry:

Many sociologist and culture writers are talking about a major shift in identity, from…

An identity rooted in individual and national (I am autonomous, I am how I define myself. “I did it my way”. The Marlboro Man. Anything larger than me is a nationalistic connection.)


An identity rooted in local and global, or what some emerging leaders are cutely calling “glocal” (I am defined as part of a ‘local’ community—but local isn’t geographic, it’s however I define my community; and, I see my identity more rooted in being a citizen of the world than in being a citizen of my country.)

Obviously, this has massive implications for us in church leadership and youth ministry leadership, as most of our theologies, approaches, assumptions and methods are built on individual/national identity frameworks.

Post By:

Mike Atkinson

Mike Atkinson has been in Internet marketing and strategy since 1995, with Youth Specialties and as a consultant, and serves as the webmaster at his church. Check out his site, blog, and article series on improving church web sites.
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3 Responses to “A Whole New Mind”

  • Book: A Whole New Mind

    Here is a book for us RIGHT-BRAINED people: A Whole New Mind, why right-brainers will rule the future. I am ordering one right away after reading Mike Atkinson’s post at the blog Church Marketing Sucks. Check out this book review: A Whole New Mind. Any…

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  • Jonathan
    May 17, 2006

    If you’re interested in more of the glocal side of the equation, you should check out the book Transformation by Bob Roberts Jr. Subtitle: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World
    Here’s the link to amazon.

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  • Jason Schwanz
    May 20, 2006

    I just finished this book, and thought it was very insightful and on the mark with the shifts I have seen in our culture. As I was reading it I was even thinking about how churches could benefit from recognizing the shift as much as businesses.

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