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« The Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program | Main | Stray Sunday Thoughts »

Revisiting Pink and “Conceptual Age” Skills

A Saturday Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. The original post from October 4, 2005.

In my August 22, 2005 blog entry, I did a short review of Daniel Pink’s new book A Whole New Mind in which he lists six right brain “senses” he believes successful workers in a post-information age economy will need to have.

Pink’s “senses” (DESIGN, STORY, SYMPHONY, EMPATHY, PLAY, and MEANING) were on my mind this weekend when working on a “serious” paper for the National Library Board of Singapore conference*. The topic is “The Knowledge Worker Redux” and it was a great chance to reflect on what skills our students need to successfully compete in a global economy.

First, I am going to be bold and add a seventh “sense” of my own to Mr. Pink’s list:

7. Not just knowledge, but also LEARNING. Unless a person develops both the ability and the desire to continue to learn new skills, to be open to new ideas, and to be ready to change practices in the face of new technologies, economic forces, and societal demands, he or she will not be able to successfully compete in a global economy.

In the age of educational accountability, we seem to be gearing all our instructional efforts to helping students master left-brain skills, since that is what tests usually measure. But to what extent do we and should we also be developing design sense, storytelling abilities, the ability to synthesis information, empathy, the use of humor, and the ability to detect the importance of the information learned? How do we create true “life-long learners?” What emphases, using Pink’s model, might schools and libraries wish to cultivate in the “conceptual age” worker?


  • Offer art classes and activities
  • Assess not just content, but appearance of student work
  • Teach visual literacy


  • Ask for student writing in the narrative voice.
  • Teach speaking skills.
  • Use storytelling as a part of teaching.
  • Give students opportunities to both hear and tell stories.
  • Honor digital storytelling as an important communication format.


  • Design classroom projects that cross disciplines.
  • Ask for the application of skills and concepts to genuine problems.
  • Use inductive learning strategies (learning by doing).


  • Emphasize reading literature about people from other cultures and socio-economic groups.
  • Give students service learning and volunteer opportunities or requirements.
  • Give students the opportunity to take part as an actor in theater productions.
  • Design group projects.


  • Teach with games, including computer/online games.
  • Teach with simulations.
  • Offer a variety of athletics and physical education classes.
  • Offer participatory music classes.
  • Teach through riddles and jokes, and encourage students to tell them.


  • Offer classes in comparative religion, myth and legend.
  • Teach ethical behaviors as a part of every project.
  • Asking for writings to include statements of personal values.


  • Teach processes, not facts.
  • Allow students to research areas of personal interest (and tolerate a diversity of interests).
  • Give students the ability to learn in non-traditional ways (online, early enrollment in college, apprenticeships).
  • Make available clubs and organizations for students to join in which students learn non-academic skills.
  • Provide access to a wide range of information sources.

Our society and educational system sadly sees many of the opportunities listed above which develop “conceptual age” skills as “extras” – frills that are often the first to be cut in times of tight budgets. It’s tragically ironic that we are doing a disservice to our students as future workers and citizens by doing so.

Other “conceptual age” skills? Other things schools should be doing to help kids practice those that Pink enumerates?

*The paper went on to appear as an article in Teacher-Librarian magazine.

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References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
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    Some readings on the topic ....The Knowledge Worker ReduxA paper written for the 2005 National Library...
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    Response: The World Is Flat
    I spent today in a School Improvement Team meeting.  Our principal is very interested in the book...

Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for your comments and encouragement Doug. This is a great post. In my more recent conversations I do feel like some teachers and parents and business people are starting to try to make sense of the whole education mess. I just hope it festers some and begets a strong reaction. I've said for years that people feel like education needs to change fundamentally as long as it's about the same when you get done so I'll recognize it. Maybe they're finally getting that it has to really change - Well I can hope anyhow : )
June 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Crosby
excelent information about senses.
May 25, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermike

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