"People who are simply doing routine things in routine ways will have less and less of a place in the world of tomorrow."
Through the miracle of technology, you may listen to Howard Gardner's guided tour of his newest book Five Minds for the Future. I listened this morning and heard Gardner say things that might best be noted by lawyers of this new century — if they want to be effective, influential, and valued. Below are some notes I took while listening but I urge you to listen yourself. You also may read "Mental building blocks for the next century," a Financial Times article about the new book.
My notes of what Gardner said (opinions expressed are, of course, his) . . .
The first of the five is the disciplined mind. It is not only concentrating and learning steadily until one becomes an expert, but also learning to think within at least one discipline. For example, as a scientist, you learn such things as not to confuse correlation with causation; you learn to think within the discipline of science. (I have posted here before about learning to think within the discipline of law.)
A problem is created when you use your discipline to look at the whole world. Gardner gives an example of a lawyer using his legal discipline with his small child, similar to this chocolate milk offense.
Second is the synthesizing mind, taking information from unrelated sources and melding it, thus creating a synthesis. We desperately need this kind of mind in these days of so much information, yet we know little about how to help people learn to synthesize. The synthesizing mind is both important and rare. It knows what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Synthesizing involves putting the information together in a way that works for you and also in a way that can be communicated to others. Gardner believes the synthesizing mind is the most important mind for the 21st century.
Third is the creating mind. You can't simply start to create; you must first master a discipline, which usually takes up to a decade. The creating mind goes beyond what's known. It is is more and more important to go outside the box because what is in the box will be handled in the future by a computer. This mind focuses on new questions, new methods, new combinations,and new disciplinary nexuses.
With the creating mind, it is important to consider your personality and temperament. The creating mind is never satisfied and likes taking risks. It does not quit, regards a defeat as an opportunity, and is energized by criticism.
These first three minds are focused on cognition. The last two are related to policy.
Fourth is the respectful mind. It acknowledges that we have many different kinds of people in this world. The response to differences is, at the very minimum, tolerance, but also very important is respect. People can tell quickly if they are in an organization in which genuine respect is practiced. Children can sense it in others at an early age.
Gardner cited examples of efforts that facilitated respect: reconciliation commissions such as the one set up by Mandela and Tutu, Israeli and Palestinian youth playing music together, the Silk Road Project, and ping-pong diplomacy.
Gardner also mentioned examples of lack of respect: "kiss up, kick down," and jokes at the expense of another group.
Last is the ethical mind. It is an abstract capacity to think of oneself as both a worker and a citizen. And to be able to answer this question: What are my responsibilities in order to live up to these two roles? He described his GoodWork Project; good work involves ethics and excellence, and is engaging. (GoodWork research in law, including some articles.)
Compromised work - while not illegal - is not doing the necessary extra work, not going the extra mile. It is not excellent.
Between the five minds, there are tensions. For example, Gardner openly criticized the president of Harvard which created a tension between his respectful mind and his ethical mind. Of course there is frequently a tension between discipline and creativity. And between respect and creativity since being creative often means discarding your mentor's way.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said character is more important than intellect. Gardner said we do not lack intelligent people today but we do need more people with character.
I will end this post with some words from the Financial Times article mentioned above . . .
Gardner does not suggest he has summarised here the only qualities any of us need to prosper. But he makes a good claim for the importance of the five minds he has picked out. Success in the modern world requires a mastery of professional disciplines. Information overload, and subsequent helplessness, is the fate of those unable to synthesise complex data. Creativity sets us apart from intelligent mach-ines that threaten to make less able humans redundant.
These statements have probably been more or less true for two centuries, but there is an intensity to the nature of the challenge today. More controversially, Gardner argues that people without respect "will not be worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace", while people without ethics "will yield a world devoid of decent workers and responsible citizens: none of us will want to live on that desolate planet".
Note (added April 29, 2007, 9:20 PM Mountain): You may listen to a Harvard Business Online HBR IdeaCast™ of Howard Gardner explaining Five Minds for the Future.