Oprah Talks to Daniel Pink
Oprah: Let's start with the bold statement you make on the cover of your book: Why will right-brainers rule the future?
Daniel: In many professions, what used to matter most were abilities associated with the left side of the brain: linear, sequential, spreadsheet kind of faculties. Those still matter, but they're not enough. What's important now are the characteristics of the brain's right hemisphere: artistry, empathy, inventiveness, big-picture thinking. These skills have become first among equals in a whole range of business fields.
Oprah: Does this mean that left-brainers are going to be out of work?
Daniel: Not necessarily—but it does mean that people like me have some work to do. I happen to be extremely left-brained; my instinct is to draw a chart rather than a picture. I'm trying to get my right-brain muscles into shape. I actually think this shift toward right-brain abilities has the potential to make us both better off and better in a deeper sense.
Oprah: You write that after living through the agricultural, industrial, and information ages, we've entered the conceptual age, in which creators and empathizers will lead. How have what you call the three As—abundance, automation, and Asia—ushered in this new era?
Daniel: In the same way that machines have replaced our bodies in certain kinds of jobs, software is replacing our left brains by doing sequential, logical work. And that brings us to Asia, to where that work is being shipped. In Asia you have tens of millions of people who can do routine tasks like write computer code. Routine is work you can reduce to a spreadsheet, to a script, to a formula, to a series of steps that has the right answer.
Oprah: So you suggest that right-brain aptitudes, when complemented with left-directed thinking, can result in a whole new mind. Because we've entered a conceptual age, where meaning and harmony, design and purpose are going to be more significant to the world than formulaic thinking and activities. After I read your book, I thought, 'This is my time.'
Daniel: That's how a lot of people have responded: that the world has come to them. In this country, the "smart" people have these logical, linear abilities, while right-brain people are often seen as flighty, spacey, artsy-fartsy.
Oprah: They're viewed as being "woo-woo."
Daniel: Yes, exactly! I'm not much of a woo-woo guy, so when I used my left brain to look at the facts, it became clear that the scales are tilting. My generation's parents told their children, "Become an accountant, a lawyer, or an engineer; that will give you a solid foothold in the middle class." But these jobs are now being sent overseas. So in order to make it today, you have to do work that's hard to outsource, hard to automate. Ultimately, here's what is heartening: The right brain is finally being taken seriously. The Dalai Lama is doing joint projects with neuroscientists. People like Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor [the Harvard-trained brain researcher who chronicled her stroke in the book My Stroke of Insight], who have incredible street cred in neuroscience, are offering their stories.