Did you know the MFA is the new MBA?

So says Daniel Pink in chapter three of his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

White collar jobs are being lost  as a result of abundance, Asia and automation. To survive, individuals and organizations should examine what they do for a living and ask:

1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?

2. Can a computer do it faster?

3. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?

Pink says we’re leaving the Information Age and entering the Conceptual Age, where creativity and empathy will be in greater demand. High-tech is no longer enough; we also need to supplement that with high touch and high concept.

Some stats:

* In the US the number of graphic designers has increased tenfold in a decade.

* Graphic designers outnumber chemical engineers by four to one.

* Since 1970 the US has 30 percent more people earning a living as writers (yay!) and 50 percent more earning a living by composing or performing music.

* 240 US universities have creative writing MFA programs, up from 22 universities twenty years ago.

* More Americans today work in arts, entertainment and design than work as lawyers, accountants, and auditors.

* Advanced nations are exporting high-tech computer programming jobs and importing nurses from Asia.

* Nursing salaries are climbing and the number of male registered nurses has doubled since the mid-1980s.

The conceptual age has become evident even in areas that are typically a bastion of analytical thinking.

For example, some medical schools now include “narrative medicine” in their curriculum because it’s recognized that a patient’s story is important in making a diagnosis. (See my review of How Doctors Think for more about that.) The Yale School of Medicine has students take art history classes because they believe that students who study painting excel at noticing subtle details about a patient’s condition.

In Japan, where math and science schools have typically ruled the day, the country is remaking its education system to foster greater creativity, artistry and play. The Education Ministry there is now encouraging “education of the heart.”

In the automotive industry, one of the GM executives says, “I see us being in the art business. Art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide transportation.”

[That sounds cool, but if it’s true then why are most cars such a snooze to look at? :) It seems art was taken more seriously in car design in the 1950s and 1960s.]

The College Board, creator of the SAT test has provided funding for a new type of  test to possibly augment the SAT someday. It’s called the Rainbow Project.

In this test, students are given five blank New Yorker cartoons and must craft humorous captions for each one. They must write or narrate a story using as their guide only a title supplied by the test givers (sample title: “The Octopus’s Sneakers”). They have to perform real-life challenges, such as go to a party where they don’t know anybody or convince friends to help move furniture – and report their findings.

This test has been twice as successful in predicting how well students perform in college. Also, the gap in performance between white students and minorities narrows considerably on this test.

As one who was a liberal arts major (English), I’m predisposed to liking all of this. It would seem a liberal arts degree these days is, well, liberating.


Filed under: BooksCool Ideas


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