5 minds for the future

What types of minds will we need to cultivate for the future? Howard Gardner, the theorist behind ‘Multiple Intelligences’, goes further and explores the areas of different cognitive capacities. We live in an age of change characterised by the speed of globalisation, the accumulation of untold amounts of information and the growing hegemony of science and technology. This is a brief summary of the psychologist Howard Gardner’s proposal about the five minds that, according to him, we must shape for the future.

The 5 minds

The first three minds deal primarily with cognitive thinking. They refer to normal school work:

1. The disciplined mind dominates bodies of knowledge and abilities.
2 The synthesising mind decides what is important and searches for connections in a useful way.
3. The creative mind regularly ventures through new and unexplored territories.
The last two types of mind are related to our treatment of the human sphere:
4. The respectful mind values and appreciates diversity, and tries to work in an effective manner with individuals from all origins.
5. The ethical mind is based on principles, looking for a way to serve a broader society.

1.The disciplined mind
• In order to achieve any significant thing in the world, it is necessary to posses a disciplined mind. The word ‘discipline’ has two complementing meanings.
• On the one hand, a disciplined mind is one that regularly works focusing on a suject or ability, and therefore achieves stable improvements toward a level of excellence.
• On the other hand, a disciplined mind is that that has mastered the ways of thinking about disciplines.
• At school, as a minimum, it is expected that we learn to think scientifically, mathematically, historically and artistically. This is a step further than solely learning rules and facts.
• As a rule, it takes many years to achieve a disciplined mind, that really thinks differently about scientific findings or about historical events as opposed to a mind not scholarised, or one that doesn’t think about them at all.

2. The synthesising mind
• Unless one has acquired certain amounts of disciplined thinking, it is not possible to integrate or synthesise knowledge. The synthesising mind is the one that can navigate through the net, decide what is important, what is worth our attention and what must be ignored and research in-depth.
• Once what is important is decided, it needs to put all of this together, so that it makes sense, because it needs to be able to use it in the future. And it also needs to be able to assemble these syntheses so they make sense for others.

3.The creative mind
• Disciplined knowledge is necessary to synthesise, and syntheses is necessary for creativity. By creating knowledge, the mind goes further than what is known. The creative mind develops new ideas, concepts, stories, abilities and tries to prove they are desirable, necessary and even indispensable.
• The creative mind thinks in an original and unconventional manner.
• It is evident that knowledge and skill are indispensable for creativity. But the cognitive aspect is less important and personal aspects are more important than what has been recognised until now.
• It must be ready to make mistakes, pick itself up and try again. In fact, it gets bored or becomes sceptic when its ideas are quickly accepted.
• If you want to cultivate a creative mind, teaching huge amounts of knowledge is less important and it is more important to cultivate a challenging state of mind and formulating questions.

4. The respectful mind
• ‘Global world’ means that each group realises it is one of many. And the term ‘diversity’ acquires a new and urgent meaning in any big city.
• At the very least it is necessary to tolerate the difference. However, we cannot be satisfied with just mere tolerance. Rather, it is preferable if we readily accept and embrace the apparent differences in origin, goals and belief systems, as long as these differences don’t threaten your physical wellbeing.
• The respectful mind grants those not belonging to their family or group with the benefit of the doubt and tries to understand them and work with them.
• If you live in a respectful community, it is probable you respect others. The challenge is to find how to get the communities to become more respectful and to keep them like that.

5.The ethical mind
• Whilst respect and morality relate more topeople’s relationships, ethics implies a more complex approach.
• ‘I am acting in such a way that if others knew what I am doing, would I be proud or ashamed of myself?’
• It is probable that an ethical mind is developed if you come from a family with a solid and positive system of values; if you meet people and institutions that incorporate good work ethics, if you have tutors and peers who model and intend to do good work, and if you can learn inspiring lessons from positive models and cautious lessons from examples of bad and rigged work.

Do the five minds always need to be present?
• Roughly speaking, yes. The respectful mind starts to take shape at an early age, whilst the ethical mind requires abstract thinking that only begins in the second decade of life.
• With regards to the first three minds it is necessary to have a disciplined mind to be able to synthesise, and a disciplined and synthesising mind must appear at an early age, so that there is time to be creative.

What has happened with ‘Multiple Intelligences’? Do the 5 minds replace them?
• Not at all. The intelligences represent the way in which the mind has evolved and how it is organised. The minds of the future are the skills and predispositions that we should develop.
• To develop the five minds of the future we need to refer to specific intelligences, alone or in combination with others.
• For example, the respectful mind resorts to interpersonal intelligence, whilst the ethical mind requires logical intelligence.

Published by Carmen Echevarría in ‘Construyendo capital humano’ on 6th November 2013