Author Daniel Pink Speaks at UVA Darden on Career-Planning, Timing and Why MBAs Still Need to Think Like MFAs
By Dave Hendrick
Bestselling author Daniel Pink has parlayed his aptitude for writing into a wildly successful career, with a series of best-selling books exploring a variety of weighty topics at the intersection of social psychology and business.
Speaking to students at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Pink said writing had been a primary outlet at every step of his career, beginning with short stories as an undergraduate to magazine articles on the side while serving as a speechwriter for then Vice President Al Gore.
It’s what he has always done, and will always do — just don’t call it a passion.
“If someone said to me now, ‘Is writing your passion?’ I would say absolutely not,” Pink said. “Writing is horrible. It’s a horrible profession. It is just torture almost every day, but it’s what I do.”
Pink encouraged students at the outset of their careers to consider what they “do”— how they occupy their free time, what they daydream about and what they wished they could be doing when they were not doing it.
Pink, who just published When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, said his decision to try to make a living off of what he was doing anyway has successfully prevented him from re-entering the world of what he termed “real jobs.”
“Well-educated people like to plan everything like chess moves, and my experience is life is not like that,” Pink said. “What you are better off doing is making decisions not for instrumental reasons that lead from one thing to another, but making decisions for fundamental reasons — because it’s what you want to do. You’re interested in it.”
Students asked Pink a number of questions about his previous books, and whether certain key theses held up over time.
His 2005 book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, posited that the skills to get ahead in an age of automation and outsourcing would increasingly be those associated with “right-brain” thinking, with traits like creativity and empathy becoming critical components of successful leaders of the future.
Twelve years later, as the world has become more automated, Pink said the tenets of the book held together relatively well, although he said watching artificial intelligence programs performing facial recognition and composing music made him wonder whether he would be accurate in the long-term.
Asked if he still held to the contention that the MFA was the new MBA, Pink said the ideal skill set was some combination of both, and said data science had become far more significant than it appeared in 2005.
“I think the data and analytics skills have become much more important than they were 13 years ago, but you still have to have those artistic skills,” Pink said, adding that the artistic trait of composition was critical all manner of business endeavors.
“You’re building a team? That’s composition. You’re making a presentation? That’s composition. You’re writing a report?” Pink said. “Those abilities to compose is fundamental. MBA plus MFA equals okay.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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University of Virginia