Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gardner, the Guru of Multiple Intelligences,
Now Tackles Subject of Our Multiple Minds

Howard Gardner, who I think is easily among our most important public intellectuals, has become famous for his work on multiple intelligences, which explores the resonant idea that there is no one way to judge human intelligence. The Harvard-based guru has another book out later this year, Five Minds for the Future. He recently sat for a Q&A session with the Harvard Business Review, and had this to say.
What is an ethical mind? In thinking of the mind as a set of cognitive capacities, it helps to distinguish the ethical mind from the other four minds that we particularly need to cultivate if we are to thrive as individuals, as a community and as a human race. The first of these, the disciplined mind, is what we gain from applying ourselves in a disciplined way in school. Over time and with sufficient training, we gain expertise in one or more fields: We become experts in project management, accounting, music, dentistry and so forth. A second kind of mind is the synthesizing mind, which can survey a wide range of sources, decide what is important and worth paying attention to, and weave this information together in a coherent fashion for oneself and others. A third mind, the creating mind, casts about for new ideas and practices, innovates, takes chances, discovers. While each of these minds has long been valuable, all of them are essential in an era when we are deluged with information, and when anything that can be automated will be. Yet another kind of mind, less purely cognitive in flavor than the first three, is the respectful mind: the kind of open mind that tries to understand and form relationships with other human beings. A person with a respectful mind enjoys being exposed to different types of people. While not forgiving of all, she gives others the benefit of the doubt.

HBR, by the way, puts almost none of its material on the web for non-subscribers, so if you're interested in learning more, you'll have to run down to your favorite bookstore or library. But you can go online to check out Gardner's long-range initiative to study the effect of meaningful work, the Good Work Project. One of his collaborators is the similarly brilliant Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of several phenomenal books on creativity and mental flow.


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