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December 09, 2008

Reflection: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Daniel Pink

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is a reimagining, a remediation, of Daniel Pink's arguments first presented in A Whole New Mind. This version makes the case for Pink's six right brain aptitudes more strongly - for me - than in his original expression. He has modified the aptitudes for Johnny Bunko so readers of both may experience some confusion.

Johnny Bunko is a manga, a japanese style graphic novel. The title character is a young college graduate who followed well-intended, pragmatic advice from family and counselors. Through some charming magical chopsticks Johnny receives some more effective advice.

In A Whole New Mind Pink introduced six right-brain dominant (R-dom) aptitudes that he sees as necessary to augment traditional left-brain dominant (L-dom) aptitudes in a 21st century competitive labor marketplace. These six were presented as Design, Story, Symphony, Play, Empathy, and Meaning. The pursuit of these was instrumental and pragmatic. These R-dom practices were to be a financial hedge [sic against] Abundance, the off-shoring of professional jobs in the US to Asia, and the Automation of analytical and numerical jobs.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko recasts the six aptitudes (still six, for continuity's sake) as six lessons, and encourages the reader to pursue them for fundamental and intrinsic rewards, rather than for instrumental reasons. In lesson one "There is no plan", Johnny's magical advisor quietly recommends that he follow his passion. "Think strengths not weaknesses" reaffirms this advice, and further urges Johnny to capitalize on strengths (natural born talents and affinities) rather than spend time and energy improving weaknesses. Neither of these two lessons is a direct mapping from A Whole New Mind.

Lesson three "It's not about you" is a direct mapping of the aptitude for Empathy. Lesson's four and five are new: "Persistence trumps talent" and "Make excellent mistakes", respectively. Lesson six, "Leave an imprint" maps nicely onto Pink's expression of the aptitude of Meaning.

The recastings are very productive, and I'm eager to see what my high school aged son will take away from reading this.

My own investment in Johnny Bunko's story is that I tried to follow my fathers pragmatic advice. Johnny got farther than I did, or I just pushed back sooner. Johnny manages to get a pragmatic college degree, in spite of having deeply creative (and - at the time - deeply unpragmatic) talents and aspirations. He finds an entry level job where he is miserable. Johnny and I were both dutiful sons.

My investment in the messages of Johnny Bunko and Pink's previous work in A Whole New Mind go deeper. I am a teacher as well as a maker, and my students want to be prepared for activities and professions that don't yet exist. I desire to supplement my own imperfect reading of the waves of change with as many other smart readings as I can find. People's futures are at stake, as are those of my children. I wish I had magical snapping chopsticks.

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Posted by SWEAT at December 9, 2008 10:00 AM