AASL Day 2 – Dan Pink

Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, was the opening keynote speaker. He did not disappoint and spoke to the heart of the school librarians present.

Dan Pink

He was intellectual, entertaining, humorous, engaging, playful and meaningful.

Here are excerpts of what he said:

Librarians are in a vital spot for children with the new economy. I’m not a librarian and I’m not an educator, I’m a business guy and I study numbers and the economy.

Three big forces in the economy: Abundance, Asia and Automation.

(As one example of abundance, in the United States, there are more storage facilities than McDonalds and Burger Kings).

Purpose of education is to create whole minded and thorough good thinking citizens. Education is important.

A picture’s worth a thousand words – I always dislike that phrase. I think a better phrase is: A metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.

The brain is a great metaphor for the economy. Both sides of the brain are equally important.

Standardized test abilities are absolutely 100 percent necessary. The left side of the brain. However, just these alone are not enough to be successful in the 21st century economy – we need the left and the right side of the brain. This calls into question into what we are doing in school.

  • 2010 – India will be the largest English speaking country in the world.
  • There will be 100 new baby boomers turning age 60 every 18 minutes for the next 17 years.

As an aside, check out Tok box – www.tokbox.com – free web based video conferencing.

Scariest word in the economy today is “routine.” Any work that is routine will disappear or will be gone in the next decade. What troubles me is that it appears that our schools are focusing on routines. It is a scary turn of events, we need to prepare students for their future, not for our past.

In the library world, librarians used to hold the key to all the reference materials, now my kids can go onto Google and find what they need. However, what they have to have is the ability to put the information back in context, the ability to know the credibility of a source, and the ability of how to put these back in context. That’s a very complex set of schools that is not a routine.

For students, they now need right and left brained skills to be successful. What matters most in the 21st century economy, that there is a need for high touch and high concept workers. These things cannot be routinized.

The SIX SKILLS needed…right brain skills.


Need good services. Need to be literate. Quote from A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter and Gamble says, “I mean, it’s all design.” As a way of preparing kids for the economy, schools need to be sensitive to the arts and design. As an aside, one of the things that bothers me – a lot of things bother me – When I walk into a school, they have the same look, sound and smell as they did in the early 1970s.

For some reason, we have dismissed this as important.


Facts are everywhere and they are free.

We continue to banish the reading and writing story in our schools. Story capacity is much more important in our kids lives than ever before. However, we can smuggle in the idea of story in the school library. I remember my high school librarian, Mrs. Pendergast. Librarians have a subversive streak. And I remember her…she would steer students to a certain direction we would never get anywhere else.


Most important for our kids – not our past, their future. It is hard to outsource and hard to automate. This is the most important skill of all the right brained skills.

Dan Goldman who wrote Emotional Intelligence studied and learned about the cognitive skills about the performance of a number of “Just one cognitive ability distinguished star performers from average – pattern recognition – the big picture thinking that allows leaders to pick out the meaningful trends from a wealth of information and think strategically far into the future.” This is a big picture skill – not a routine skill – not a multiple choice skill. For kids, they have the natural ability to give the world something they didn’t know it was missing.


This is also hard to automate. An idea you can use in your libraries. A way to improve the experience is through emotionally intelligent signage. We can have better experience in school libraries and other public spaces if we have emotionally intelligent signage. Signage that demonstrates empathy and signage that promotes empathy. Sign at New York Museum of Modern Art while waiting in line for food: ” Don’t worry, this line moves really quickly”. And yes, it did move quickly. Changed the experience of being in this space.

Another example comes from the electric hand dryer in men’s room in Cinema. The sign above the hand dryer reads: “No, we don’t like them either but they are the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly choice. Thanks, cinema Management.”

Sign near the Vietnam War Memorial, the sign says: “Honor those who served, please stay on sidewalks.”

The signage encourages empathy. It changes the experience of being in the space.


Playfulness is another important part of the economy.


Not just accumulation, but meaning.


Now, a few minutes to share a new project. I studied the Manga Japanese comics last summer while visiting Japan last summer.

I have a new book: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: the Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need. Coming April 2008. First business book in Manga. A way to marry images and text.

The point of this book is that the work force is asking a new question…

  • In the 80s, pople were asking “What color is your parachute?”
  • In 1990s, it was “Who moved my cheese?”
  • This decade – first decade of the 21st Century – workers are asking: “WTF?”

I want to leave you with one exercise from Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great. Use the 20-10 test. Think about what you’re doing. If you had 20 million dollars in the bank and had 10 years to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing and still be doing it in the way that you’re doing it?

1 Response to “AASL Day 2 – Dan Pink”

  1. 1 Ben Tamari November 21, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    “A picture’s worth a thousand words – I always dislike that phrase. I think a better phrase is: A metaphor is worth a thousand pictures”

    As far as I know, Ben Tamari is the originator of this phrase, this phrase is on the net at http://www.ecometry.biz since 25-August-2002.
    It was written as a combination of metaphors and fractals, in the page ‘Metaphor’s Algebra’.

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