The Power Of R-Directed Thinking

While we probably have a number of Blended Librarians among the folks who make up the regular readers of DBL, I’m going to assume that the majority of our readers have never heard of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community (on the Learning Times Network) or participated in a Blended Librarians Webcast event. If that assumption is correct then a good number of you would likely miss a post I recently made to the discussion board at the Community. So I’m going to share it here because I think it also has value for those who are interested in using design thinking to improve their libraries, develop better user experiences for the library user and to get ready for the Conceptual Age. What’s the Conceptual Age you ask. Well, that’s covered in the post. Read on…

A couple of weeks ago Lauren Pressley shared some thoughts on a book she was reading titled “Everything is Miscellaneous” and there was a fair amount of response to her post (if you don’t have time to read the book, I left a link to a video presentation by the author).

In the same spirit of sharing what you’ve been reading I wanted to post about the book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” by Daniel Pink. He begins by explaining how the brain works. In essence the left hemisphere and right hemisphere control different areas of the body. You probably already knew that. But when it comes to thought processes, not just body control, the two sides are very different. The left side produces what Pink refers to as “L-Directed Thinking”. L-Directed Thinking is sequential, literal, functional, textual and analytical; not bad qualities for a traditional librarian – we certainly are text-oriented. The other approach is the “R-Directed Thinking” controlled by the right side of the brain. R-Directed Thinking is simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual and synthetic. While L-Directed Thinking worked well for the knowledge age (think accountants, stockbrokers, computer programmers – and traditional librarians), Pink gives evidence that we are moving away from the knowledge age and into what he calls the “Conceptual Age.” Think of it like this. The coin of the realm in the knowledge age was an MBA. The new coin of the realm in the Conceptual Age is the MFA. To excel in the Conceptual Age, one must “become proficient in R-Directed Thinking and master aptitudes that are high concept and high touch”. After laying out this basic thesis Pink devotes a chapter to each of the specific aptitudes he says are necessary to be a success in the Conceptual Age – what he calls the “six senses”. They are: Design; Story; Symphony; Empathy; Play; and Meaning. [Note to DBL Readers – the chapter on design is inspiring but on a practical level there are a number of good ideas and resources at the end of the chapter for becoming more design oriented and thinking like a designer).

I commend you to read the book to learn more about each sense – particularly design because that’s an important skill for a Blended Librarian. But what really resonated with me when I read the book is how much of it reflected what being a Blended Librarian is all about. To my way of thinking, Pink could have subtitled his book “What You Need To Know To Be A Blended Librarian” – but then he probably wouldn’t have sold as many copies. For example, in the section on symphony, he talks about “boundary crossers”. A boundary crosser is someone who blends multiple skills into one profession. Pink says “while detailed knowledge of a single area (e.g., traditional librarianship) once guaranteed success, today the top rewards go to those who can operate with equal aplomb in starkly different realms.” Sounds to me like a good way to describe the importance of being a Blended Librarian.

So if you think of yourself as a Blended Librarian, and you really have been working to incorporate new skills from the areas of technology (computing, networking, software, teaching technology, etc) and design (instructional design, design thinking, etc.) into your traditional librarianship skill set, then you are probably also an R-Directed Thinker. You are probably ready for the Conceptual Age. But just to be on the safe side, pick up a copy of A Whole New Mind (well, the traditional librarian in me forced me to get a copy via ILL) and brush up on all six senses.

If you’ve read the book too – or when you do – please share some of your thoughts here.

I hope you enjoyed the mini-review of the book – obviously biased in some ways. But if you have in interest in Blended Librarianship you can learn more at the website (link in first paragraph). I would encourage you to join (no fee – and you can join by going to the Blended Librarians website) the Community and join us for the next Blended Librarians webcast (totally free) on Thursday Oct. 27 at 3:00 pm EST. John Shank and I will be giving a presentation on design thinking for librarians. To learn more and register (free – but you must register) join the Community and get more information on the “What’s New” page.

3 thoughts on “The Power Of R-Directed Thinking”

  1. I just read the book too and I loved it,

    I honestly believe in the shift that’s needed. The part about stories interested me most but. But the other things mentioned are interesting too, for librarians as well.

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