Five Minds 03/31/2009

I just finished the book Five Minds for the Future, so I thought I'd give a little summary of what it was about.  Basically, it outlines five types of skills and ways of thought that Dr. Gardner feels are important to develop in this changing world.  As technology changes the way we live, it also changes the way we need to think about things.  Gone are the days when it was crucial for knowledge to be retained through rote memorization, for in the real world, we have search engines to help our memories.  However, the ability to process large amounts of information is increasingly important as we are bombarded with more and more entries to the world's database.

The Disciplined Mind
This one is talking about discipline in the sense of an area of study as well as in the sense of the attribute.  Not only is it important for people to master a general breadth of knowledge, they need to specialize in something later in life that they will delve into deeply.  Their subject matter should be examined carefully, from as many angles as possible, to get the best understanding of the ideas held therein.  Comprehension and ability to apply the knowledge learned to new situations is what truly mastering this discipline means.

In addition to that, there should be a pursuit of knowledge with persistence and care.  A diligent attitude towards studies in the chosen profession would lead a disciplined mind to continue learning and improving beyond typical educational standards.  It usually takes at least a decade of studies to truly master any given discipline.

The Synthesizing Mind
This type takes knowledge from different disciplines and is capable of compiling it in a way that is useful and understandable.  To truly do this well, there needs to be a goal in mind, with a starting point and strategy to go from there.  After drafting and feedback, revisions can be made all along the way until the goal is reached.  This requires the ability to pick out the important information from everything that is available and arrange them in a way that makes sense of all that knowledge.

In businesses, this is important to be able to do in identifying where the company is going.  It can be accomplished a number of ways: consulting experts, doing studies, or running focus groups.  New information that arises must be recognized if important and then incorporated into the previous database of knowledge.  Professionals need to constantly be adding to their repertoire in meaningful ways.  This taps into the organizational and categorizing skills.

The Creating Mind
This one comes from someone who has had a certain mastery of material and now takes that knowledge a step further by adding something novel to the equation, whether new questions or new solutions.  It is affected by the cultural surroundings and social field, i.e., what is recognized as a good creation and who judges that?  Creativity needs to be taken in context, as unappreciated creations will not do much to contribute to society.

True creators are far and few between and though there are plenty of people who have the depth of knowledge needed, very few actually innovate.  This type of creation requires a certain dissatisfied state of mind that drives innovation.  Creators are not afraid of failure, for they are motivated more by the need to affect change.  It requires space and flexibility that may be at odds with established regulations and often, rules need to be broken.  The curious mindset of a child should be preserved and encouraged, so things are considered from all angles.

The Respectful Mind
This is the one that requires people to be sympathetic to each others' differences.  There needs to be an effort to understand each other and not just tolerate, but accept and appreciate differences.  Acting that way is not enough, but actually feeling that way will lead to positive, supportive results.  This means that working with others, despite whatever their personal backgrounds and histories might be, can be effective and productive.

This should be seen in all aspects of life, in dealing with every single person.  There should not be a bias towards certain groups of people and tolerance or even avoidance of others.  It is a state of mind that transcends boundaries and looks beyond initial categories and groupings.  This is what allows us to fit into society and truly grow and learn from each other.

The Ethical Mind
This one is the most abstract and requires a lot of thinking and reflection about the role we play in our lives at work and as a citizen.  They should always be striving towards good actions and good deeds.  Good in the sense that is of high quality, good in the sense that it is responsible to the community, and good in the sense that it is meaningful and of value.  Of course, personal standards of what is "good" vary, so it is difficult to measure.  To truly exemplify this quality, a person would stay true to their personal ethics even if it is not beneficial for themselves.

An understanding of the values of the profession is also paramount and adhering to them is crucial, even if others are not.  This is, of course, much easier to do with good role models throughout life.  Support should be both horizontal and vertical, coming from friends and peers as well as parents and leaders.  Society works best if it is moral and the institutions within it uphold certain standards.  The biggest threat are trends that deviate from ethical work.

A few other notes:
~Sometimes it is not easy to identify someone who is truly disciplined or creative because there can be convincing fakes.
~Creativity is like chaos and synthesis is like order.

And there you have it, my interpretation of what this text was preaching.  It pretty much boils down to what you are going to need to arm yourself for the new world and thrive in it.  I generally agree with the concepts, though I am certainly open to there being even more minds that we will need to cultivate in the future.