As I was getting mentally prepared for the new school year at the beginning of this month I thought it appropriate to re-read Howard Gardner's "Five Minds for the Future." In his book Professor Gardner reflects on how the minds of today must be reshaped to form the minds of the future. In my first post, I summarized the first type of mind - "the Disciplined Mind." Today I will focus on the Synthesizing Mind.
Howard Gardner begins by stating that seeking synthesis is natural for individuals. Whenever we tell a story, combine a number of concepts into a new one, come up with rules, logos, business tag lines, and even theories, we resort to synthesizing. For the most part, synthesis involves combining different concepts and aspects of knowledge to produce something innovative and revolutionary (as was the case with Dmitry Mendeleyev's table of elements).
Professor Gardner believes that in order to achieve "synthesis" our minds go through the following four stages:
- Stating a goal that we're trying to achieve.
- Realizing our starting point. Any structure is built upon a foundation. Your initial concept or idea is like that foundation, which Gardner prefers to call "a starting point."
- Selecting the strategy, method, and approach. The methods might vary from a laboratory research to market analysis, from a logical analysis of a philosopher to the interpretation of a literary piece.
- Writing a draft/receiving feedback. At some point of our synthesis we have to come up with a succinct phrase/short description or perhaps a statement of our work and make it available to others. This, in turn, requires greater degree of synthesis.
With the amount of information received daily, each one of us must learn to synthesize what we have obtained into a narrative or theorem. The world of the future will call for people who are able to work across disciplines (i.e., subjects), not just focused on one area of expertise. As the world begins moving faster, one diploma will not be enough, and even though constant University studies do not always seem feasible, constant synthesis of your current skills with others pertaining to growing your expertise, private company or even home business will be deemed imperative.
An English teacher of the future will have to be very familiar with computer technologies, web 2.0, blogging, marketing strategies, sales, and public speaking, or else her job will become obsolete. Studying will be integrated into an English teacher's daily work. Studying will call for budget adjustments as it will require one's time and finances. Studying will become an investment into the future, more worthwhile than a single diploma, as it will allow flexibility in one's employment options beyond retirement.
Finally, I believe that any professional can bring in something new into the world, otherwise, why were we born? A synthesizing mind that can look through the options and combine them to develop a new concept or product will prosper and impact people throughout generations.
The next framework that Howard expands on is "the Creative Mind." There are similarities between "the Synthesizing Mind" and "the Creative Mind." They complement each other, but they also build off of each other. But I will write on that in my next post.