FT : Mental Building Blocks

Saturday, March 31, 2007

‘The empires of the future will be the empires of the mind,” Winston Churchill once said.  Perhaps it is not surprising to see Howard Gardner quoting him approvingly.  Professor Gardner holds the chair in cognition and education at the Harvard graduate school of education and has been a prominent analyst of the human mind for 20 years.  His 1983 publication, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, started a debate on human intelligence that continues to this day. Gardner argued that, rather than looking at intelligence as a single quality or capacity, we need to consider eight or nine kinds of intelligence that, in his view, people are capable of displaying.  Psychologists and educationalists have been having a jolly good row about that one ever since.  This new book’s “five minds” should not be confused with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.  The latest work looks at the intellectual approaches managers and employees will need to function successfully in the 21st century.  Gardner identifies these five different minds as: disciplined, synthesising, creating, respectful and ethical. 

  1. The disciplined mind “has mastered at least one way of thinking”, Gardner says.  “Without at least one discipline . . . the individual is destined to march to someone else’s tune.” 
  2. The synthesising mind “takes information from disparate sources . . . and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesiser and also other persons . . . the capacity to synthesise becomes ever more crucial as information continues to mount at dizzying rates”. 
  3. The creating mind “breaks new ground”, the author says.  “It puts forth new ideas, poses unfamiliar questions, conjures up fresh ways of thinking, arrives at unexpected answers.”  In so doing, the creating mind “seeks to remain at least one step ahead” of computers. 
  4. The respectful mind “notes and welcomes differences between human individuals and between human groups . . . In a world where we are all interlinked, in-tolerance or disrespect isno longer a viable option.” 
  5. Last, the ethical mind “conceptualises how workers can serve purposes beyond self-interest”.  The ethical mind then “acts on the basis of these analyses”.

…..Success in the modern world requires a mastery of professional disciplines.  Information overload, and subsequent helplessness, is the fate of those un-able to synthesise complex data.  Creativity sets us apart from intelligent machines that threaten to make less able humans redundant.  These statements have probably been more or less true for two centuries, but there is an intensity to the nature of the challenge today.  More controversially, Gardner argues that people without respect “will not be worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace”, while people without ethics “will yield a world devoid of decent workers and responsible citizens: none of us will want to live on that desolate planet”…..Even more usefully, he warns us to be alert for colleagues who appear to display these essential skills, but are in fact simply faking it.  Watch out, for example, for those who claim mastery of a subject on the basis of inadequate experience,pseudo-synthesisers who merely lump haphazard material together, “creatives” whose ideas are neither sound nor original, “respecters” who merely tolerate others from a standpoint of ignorance, and “ethical champions” whose personal standards fall far short of the values they trumpet…..

Reference : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/387e41c0-dcc9-11db-a21d-000b5df10621.html

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