Processing Pink’s “A Whole New Mind”

Back in June I read Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  I really enjoyed the book, but now it’s time to process and apply. What can I do with this knowledge in my classroom? How can I apply these ideas to the material I deliver? It all makes a lot of sense. I plan to revisit this post to apply it to my classroom.

Rather than regurgitate a mess of quotes, I’m going to cut right to the chase. Pink suggests ways to develop the six senses of the right side of our brains (senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning).

Design: Pink’s first suggestion is to keep a design notebook and carry it along to jot down design ideas. The user is supposed to jot down notes when they see great or flawed design. This activity will give the individual a hightened sense and awareness of design and how things operate. It might even help them redesign something they dislike. Pink gives a nice list of design museums to travel; too bad none are near Wisconsin. 🙂 Well maybe students can create a virtual tour of awesome design in Wisconsin, maybe even Seymour. Actually that sounds fun to me…

Story: Okay, now an English teacher would like this one. Pink suggests writing a mini-saga of just 50 words. Now that’s an assignment my students will do! 🙂 He also suggests trying Storycorps ( I’m entertaining the idea of having my seniors do this. I wonder if they’d revolt. He lists one great storytelling idea that I would enjoy exploring — digital storytelling.

Symphony: You really need to read his book to understand this concept. I think it describes our students so much. The idea of developing your “symphony sense” to to learn to see how things operate together, to synthesize the whole process or picture. He suggest studying this through art, which brings back a flood of memories. I remember feeling my mind come alive in art class as I seemed to settle into a mood, almost as wonderful as a massage! He also suggests entertaining a variety of skills – to explore our boundaries. One can also develop our symphony sense by enjoying the art of metaphors (music to my ears!). I’m not good at writing them, but I always perk my ears when I hear a good one. Lastly, we need to be able to see the big picture when it comes to projects, concepts, dreams, etc…Pink suggest that we actually listen to symphonies. I’ve listened to symphonies while driving, but I’ll usually imagine me riding my horse as its hooves gait along to some beat in the music. In my imagines I can distinctly envision my horse changing direction or gait when the cymbals crash…and that’s when I come back to reality as the minivan hits the shoulder. I’m delighted to see he suggests drawing as an important skill to enjoy.

Pink focuses on empathy being another sense to develop. I’ll admit – in the day to day drone of the school day, I’ve often felt that students aren’t empathic at all. Pink swears that our society feeds off feeling empathetic in sales, product creation, etc. Now THAT I can see. For example, when I go to a hotel I want a location that will understand what it’s like to take two children under 4 to a hotel. I want a kiddie pool, toiletries, free breakfast, quick checkout, crib in the room when I arrive, free internet, non smoking, etc…whatever they can do to show they’re thinking of my relaxation. The tests in his book should be fun (not all the links worked if I remember right), but I did take the fake smile test and I did well. Studying genuiness is interesting and useful in my speech class when we study audience feedback.

Play: I love this section as it seems relaxing and enjoyable. Playing games, instilling humor, and joyfulness are all suggestions by Pink. YES, now I have a reason to show my Seniors endless episodes of Seinfeld. He does advocate gaming…that one is hard for me to jump into. I’m not a gamer. Maybe Wii…I could try that.

Meaning: Again, this sense is an English teacher’s dream. We’re always looking to make sense of human experiences and the meaning of life and our vehicle has often been literature. Everytime I read Thoreau I ponder about my rat race of a life. Pink says this generation seeks this spiritual walkabout as well. Pink suggests we practice gratitude by making efforts to say thanks in meaningful ways through writing and visitation. He also provides a link ( to assess our spirituality, not in a religious sense but just in general. The test has to be scored on paper, but I bet with a little google searching, I could find the test online. Another suggestion provided is to picture ourselves at ninety and consider what we have accomplished and what we would have done differently. Of course, this provides inspiration to lead life to the fullest. This sounds like a student blog entry or even video project to me.

If you want to read the book yourself, you can obtain it from your local library. If they don’t have it, I’m sure it can be found via interlibrary loan. That’s how I obtained my copy. Of course, you can buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Nobel for less than 25 dollars. If you enjoy owning books, but are on a budget, is a great website.