Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat details the new realities of our global business world. He explains how high speed, ubiquitous internet access has unleashed a new class of high-quality, low-cost knowledge workers in Asia and Eastern Europe. Forget about the last few decades of manufacturing moving overseas… today it’s about shipping off spreadsheet work, research, taxes, marketing illustrations, and more.
For those of us in the West, Dan Pink’s book seems to pick up where Friedman left off. He reiterates that most of the white collar jobs paying our bills today will disappear due to Automation, Abundance, and Asia. Pink wants to address the question:
“OK… if my skills won’t be valued in the next few years, how am I going to eat?”
His book starts with a solid look at the difference between left and right brain thinking. Most of the programming, Microsoft Office, detailed CAD design [my opinion], white collar, highly efficient skills that propelled the information age are the stuff of the logical left brain. As those skills are automated by computers or outsourced to Asia, the big opportunity in the West will be for those individuals who can tap into right brain skills. Can you see the big picture? Can you make wild connections between seemingly unrelated topics? Can you imbue your products with a spiritual quality? Can you get all touchy-feely up in here?
I like Pink’s message, and recommend you read the book. At times, I did get irritated with the super liberal feel of it. A few times, I felt like buying a new pair of Birkenstocks and squirting some Patchouli. Also, Pink seems to think that people in Asia aren’t as capable of right brain thinking as people in the West. I could be reading that wrong, but it seemed a tad elitist to me. Come on, Asians came up with dragons, elephant gods, and Feng Shui.
If you look at Pink’s message in a short term context, I agree totally. As Asia takes over the West’s white collar work, it will enjoy a huge economic reward for left brain skills. In the very short term, that will open an opportunity for the Western workforce to focus on directing that work and making sure it fits into a touchy-feely, meaningful context… but, I bet that opportunity will be short lived.