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5 Minds of the Future

Image result5 Minds of the FUTURE by Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a renowned theorist of multiple intelligence and learning styles, and a leading scholar on the role of ethics in leadership.

A 2008 publication of the Harvard Business School Press and the Center for Public Leadership, 5 Minds of the Future is part of the Leadership for the Common Good series. In an effort to provoke and inspire discussions about the role of leadership in the 21st century, the series includes noted authors like Gardner, Gerzon, and Kellerman, and their thoughtful deliberations on associated leadership topics like Followership and Managing Conflict. In 5 Minds of the Future, Gardner examines: What kind of mind will we need to develop in order to thrive in the future? To contribute to the cultures of tomorrow? How will the mind of the future be cultivated today and tomorrow?

“The empires of the future will be empires of the mind.” – Winston Churchill

Theorizing that the future will belong to individuals and organizations that are committed to lifelong learning, Gardner writes from a policy perspective as he endeavors to expand the vision of “education” beyond standard institutions and measurements. In the culture of tomorrow, Gardner anticipates a larger role for parents, peers, the media, the community, and continuing education in the broader educational framework. The fashioning of new educational practices will allow the minds of learners to be stretched in ways that are crucial to thriving in the 3rd millennium.

Anticipating epochal changes and nano-second globalization, Gardener identifies four major trends such as the: 1) instantaneous circulation of capital and market instruments around the globe, 2) constant relocation and migration patterns, 3) ready access to information and knowledge building, and 4) a younger generation around the world that shares a similar culture.

Additional characterizations of globalization include mounting turbulence and conflicts, increasing commodification of goods and services that initially were not regarded as goods or services, the proliferation of cyber crimes, the clash of civilizations, and the development of  the mega cities and environmental issues. While adaptation is a vital skill, Gardner advocates for preparation and the articulation of the values future leaders will require and a learning system that can cultivate those values.

What will it take to thrive in a culture of tomorrow? Gardner describes for his reader, five discrete capacities that are essential to cultivate in preparation for an epochal tomorrow. Of the five, three are referred to as the Cognitive Minds: the Discipline Mind, the Synthesis Mind, and the Creative Mind; and two are referred to as Relations to Others: the Respectful Mind and the Ethical Mind.

The Three Minds of Cognition

The Discipline Mind will have a dual meaning. On one hand it will mean one who works steadily and develops an expertise or masters a craft or profession. He or she develops the appropriate disciplinary knowledge, habits of mind, and patterns of behavior, not simply subject matter expertise. Secondly, it will mean one who thinks in a disciplinary manner. There are distinct ways of knowing associated with the major disciplines or the gateways of knowledge like historical thinking, scientific thinking, humanistic or artistic thinking. For example, developing awareness about scientific thinking entails understanding the difficulties in determining causality; in historical thinking, the subjective and multifaceted nature of understanding previous events and individuals. One’s practice will be informed on a continual basis as one yearns to learn more in particular through feedback and mentoring.

The Creating Mind will go beyond what is known and the repackaging of a previous idea. Creativity is not a novelty but rather something worthwhile and its worthiness is often discovered later as it endures. Creativity encourages and inspires others to act. Examples of creativity include the development of new ideas or products or new questions that challenge previous ideas. Personality characteristics associated with the creating mind tend to be risk taking, flexible and adaptable, remaining undaunted by a complex problem. Though creativity and innovation is essential to the global fabric, historically, the creating mind has not welcomed or appreciated the mind that challenges the existing status.

The Synthesizing Mind is the mind Gardner says we desperately need in order to select essential information from the copious amount available. The Synthesizing Mind determines what to pay attention to and what to ignore in order to pull together data in a way that makes sense to self and others. Gardner explains that the process of synthesis gains power and importance by providing a sense of meaning, significance, and connectedness, in an all too connected world driven by ample but disparate information.

Beyond Cognition: How We Relate to Other Human Beings

In Gardner’s vision of the future, the realms of respect and ethics are brought closer into alignment.

The Respectful Mind will lead beyond tolerance in interactions with individuals and groups, respecting the number of variations in diversity, including emotional and interpersonal intelligence. The commitment is to make an effort to understand others as best as possible, extending beyond political correctness while seeking to make common cause, rather than assume familiarity or “knowingness.” Included in this capacity is the ability to forgive.

The Ethical Mind thinks beyond self-interest and is guided by a set of core values and principles, in what will be a particularly highly competitive world. Drawing on personal and abstract intelligence, a core vision of one’s role as a citizen and as an employee is developed. An Ethical Mind consistently works toward that vision in practice. Those who behave ethically will command our respect; those who do not will lose the opportunity for our respect in the future. Consider Enron who achieved success through smoke and mirrors, but lost its reputation.

The Ethical Mind is already faced with challenges such as increasing time pressures and competition, and as a result, work products are being compromised and lacking due diligence. Gardner’s current studies on ethics reveal that many value power and prominence, and not wanting peers to exceed. The value for prominence and power is challenging the development of good works and the Ethical Mind. The Ethical mind can abound when all parties want the same good work. A framework for the development of good work –is constant reflection and feedback with others.

Summary  – “Education is inherently and inevitably an issue of human goals and human values,” said Gardner (p. 13). The crafting of future educational systems will require defining the kinds of citizens we want to emerge from the learning system, and the knowledge and skills that are valued to help prepare them to meet the facets of globalization. Reference the Good Work Project.

Book Review by Dr. Mary Lou Addor