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I have read and reviewed all of Howard Gardner's previous books and consider this, his latest, to be the most valuable thus far. In it, he identifies and explains five separate but related combinations of cognitive abilities that are needed to "thrive in the world during eras to come...[cognitive abilities] which we should develop in the future." Gardner refers to them as "minds" but they are really mindsets. Mastery of each enables a person:

1. to know how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding;

2. to take information from disparate sources and make sense of it by understanding and evaluating that information objectively;

3. by building on discipline and synthesis, to break new ground;

4. by "recognizing that nowadays one can no longer remain within one's shell or one's home territory," to note and welcome differences between human individuals and between human groups so as to understand them and work effectively with them;

5. and finally, "proceeding on a level more abstract than the respectful mind," to reflect on the nature of one's work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives.

Gardner notes that the five "minds" he examines in this book are different from the eight or nine human intelligences that he examines in his earlier works. "Rather than being distinct computational capabilities, they are better thought of as broad uses of the mind that we can cultivate at school, in professions, or at the workplace."

The "future" to which the title of this book refers is the future that awaits each of us. That is, Gardner is not a futurist in the sense that others such as Ossip K. Flechteim, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Dennis Gabor, Alvin Toffler, and Peter Schwartz are. If I understand Gardner's ultimate objective (and I may not), his hope is to help as many people as possible -- regardless of their age, gender, and circumstances -- to cultivate their minds by taking full advantage of any and every opportunity available to them; moreover, to do all they can to enrich and then sustain the same process of cultivation initiated by others.

He concludes his book as follows: "Perhaps members of the human species will not be prescient enough to survive, or perhaps it will take far more immediate threats to our survival before we can make common with our fellow human beings. In any event the survival and thriving of our species will depend on our nurturing of potentials that are distinctly human." Some may view these comments as being naïve but I do not. On the contrary, I view them as an eloquent assertion of what is imperative, yes, but also as a sincere affirmation of what is possible.
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The learned ancient Greeks were fascinated by what an ideal education would involve. Why? They hoped to apply that education to the kings of the era and to create a better society through the leadership of the kings. That ambition came closest to being fulfilled through Alexander the Great, who became a highly effective conqueror and spreader of Greek ideas and values.

Professor Gardner takes up this challenge once again in perceiving new challenges for modern people that will be more difficult to meet in the future. I suspect that his vision is, in part, aimed at the same goal as the ancient Greeks except as executed through the leaders and most prominent citizens of a republic employing democratic principles.

In a break from his prior focus on multiple intelligences, Five Minds for the Future emphasizes five methods of thinking that he hopes to see integrated into individuals. These methods of thinking are based on:

1. Mastering an important subject matter (such as history, math, or science) and staying up to date through application of the discipline's method of thinking. This is quite different from knowing the facts of the discipline.

2. Being able to integrate large quantities multidisciplinary facts and apply them into one's work.

3. Posing new questions, developing new solutions to existing questions, stretching disciplines and genres in new directions, or building new disciplines.

4. Being open to understanding and appreciating the perspectives and experiences of those who are different from the individual.

5. Doing one's work in an ethical way that reflects responsibilities to others and society.

What does this boil down to as a problem? Basically, most people never get as far as mastering one important discipline. They just memorize whatever is needed to pass tests. Professor Gardner's own work documents this problem. As a result, we face a hollowing out of our civilization as most people lack the ability, education, or interest to do more than function in an everyday living fashion. Beyond that, some of those who can perform a discipline are tempted by treasure or fame to stretch the rules and not honestly perform.

If we step back another few feet, there's an implicit vision of a future that's led by a smaller and smaller number of people as a percentage of the world's population. It will be easier for rot to set in at the top. In addition, the rewards for those people will grow exponentially . . . tempting those of limited ethics to falter.

I think the risk is a genuine one, and I applaud Professor Gardner for penning this book. I hope he will follow it with more books that spell out more about how to educate others and ourselves (after we leave school as students) so that these goals are achieved.

I have a few quibbles that I mention only in the spirit of sparking an awareness of what's needed. Peter Drucker taught me that the educated person should learn enough about a new subject each year to appreciate and be able the discipline involved. I found that suggestion missing from this book. Without that bridging method, I suspect we'll just end up compartmentalized from one another.

In addition, I think that some areas of public responsibility lend themselves to combined perspectives that encompass these minds more efficiently than by keeping them separate. For example, the advanced leader who is good at accomplishing continuing business model innovation will be able to cross these five boundaries and many others . . . simply by knowing one discipline. I suspect that other fields also lend themselves to such new integrating disciplines.

I also found that Professor Gardner mischaracterized the meanings of many of the business examples he cited. He does, however, do a fine job of summarizing what academics have written about business. I suggest that he have someone who is more familiar with business than he is help with checking such examples in future books. I realize that this book is published by Harvard Business School Press, but editors of books don't necessary have mastery of the facts within the subjects they edit.

Bravo, Professor Gardner!
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on 27 March 2008
Howard Gardner is a man of many minds. The Harvard psychologist, MacArthur "genius grant" recipient and prolific author started a revolution when he claimed that human capability couldn't be reduced to a single metric. Rather than accepting IQ as the whole story of cognitive capacity, Gardner said people have "multiple intelligences," a notion he popularized in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Twenty-five years later, Gardner is still producing influential work on human mental skills and capabilities. In this clear, eminently useful book, Gardner describes five cognitive capacities that he predicts will be in most demand in the future and which everyone should practice. While he describes them metaphorically as "minds," these forms of thought are neither wholly innate nor immutable. All people can, through diligent practice, cultivate their disciplined mind, their synthesizing mind, their creative mind, their respectful mind and their ethical mind - and they should. Given accelerating technological change and vast increases in the flow of information and the necessity of working closely with many different kinds of people worldwide, getAbstract is of a mind to recommend this book to managers who are trying to think ahead.
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on 16 July 2011
Brilliant book from a brilliant mind...a little heavy going for the non-academic but quite mind-blowing from another top educationalist (Pro Sir Ken Robinson is another) leading the charge that creativity is being ignored by official educationalists to the detriment of society.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 31 August 2011
Gardner, a wonderful, clear and interesting speaker and lecturer, established new ways of considering the human mind, recognising different types of intelligences; his approach changed many aspects of education forever. Striving to seek opportunities for a better education, he provided ways to recognise talents in pupils, thereby getting to the root of education - "educare" to lead forth.
In this book, he proposes the disciplined, synthesising, creating, respectful and ethical minds, their analysis and ways of cultivating them for the future. It makes an excellent companion to his earlier "Leading Minds".
Recommended
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on 27 April 2009
As an educationalist I enjoyed this book. It has some original ideas plus can be used for future curriculum design guidance.
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on 30 May 2012
Ordinarily I would not comment on a book reviewed by many others. However the importance of the author and of the issues he takes up require pointing out serious problems with the exposition.
The gravest one is suggesting education as a main change agent, in some mix with parents, peers, mass media, leaders, grass-root activists etc. Thus, in respect to "respectful minds" the author states "short of peace pills or widespread extirpation of those brain nuclei or genes that support aggressive behavior, the only possible avenue to progress lies in education broadly conceived" (p. 106). This leaves wide open the crucial problem how first to bring about radical changes in teachers, parents and so on, which the book ignores. Without outlining at least half-realistic ways to bring about on a large scale the recommended transformations of minds, the prescriptions of the book are not more than exhortations.
Related is emphasis on changing individuals without taking up transformation of broad societal features as a necessary condition for changing individual minds. Thus, expecting many "ethical minds" in societies dominated by fanatic ideologies, or by greed and consumerism, is a delusion - tied in, inter alia, to misunderstanding of the nature of faiths and cultures and their potentials, in part thanks to effective education, to bring about absolute evil.
Striking is the neglect of politics and politicians. If money is a main factor influencing the outcome of elections, together with unsavory relations of candidates with mass media, but unavoidably politicians are in charge of critical future-shaping choices, including on public education - then, clearly, radical reforms of politics, also in democracies, are a must for achieving the honorable goals postulated in the book. But this imperative is completely ignored by the text.
The most critical issues facing the human species are survival and deciding on possibilities to change itself - such as by "human enhancement." These fateful challenges are radically novel, resulting from the unprecedented capabilities to shape human futures supplied by science and technology. Therefore, the most important "minds" needed for the future include good understanding of science and technology and their possible implications for better or worse, long-term thinking and action in terms of the human species as a whole, pondering and deciding on high-stake future-shaping "fuzzy gambles" in the face of thick uncertainties, and value transformation fitting survival requirements and self-transformation potentials - including counter-conventional ones such as strict regulation of science and technology. None of the five minds proposed by Gardner takes up squarely these pressing requirements.
Nothing said disparages in any way the important contributions of the author on "multiple intelligences" and other subjects. Having learned much from other books by him, I expected much from this book. All the greater was my disappointment that he missed this missed opportunity to make a great contribution to exploring the "minds" really needed for the future and on ways to nurture them.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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on 9 August 2015
This is the first book of Howard Gardner's that I have read. I was drawn to it mainly by his case for new ways of thinking for a more sustainable future. I certainly enjoyed some parts of the book and there is more than a handful of useful quotes, some cited from other authors. But at the end, I was left with the feeling that the book does not really hang together. The book seems to try and demonstrate how each of the minds are evidenced in daily life, but for all that, it seems to be lacking substance. I think this is because it fails to demonstrate why these minds are so badly needed, how they are distinct from each other, and what binds them together at the same time. Despite the author's efforts, I don't subscribe to the distinction he draws between the respectful mind and the ethical mind. There are some useful seeds in this book - it is a pity that they are so well hidden. It will need another book, perhaps by another author, to help them to germinate and grow.
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on 19 September 2009
Recently took this on holiday and was really looking forward to reading it having heard the author talk very entertainingly at various events (on mp3). The content was very insightful and valuable for anyone thinking about their future (and how to thrive in the world of work) and would recommend reading it.

2 negative comments though - during his description of the last 2 minds (respect and ethical) the author sounds less like he is presenting his thoughts of the future and more like he is simply preaching (to his credit Gardner does concede this). The other negative is that it is not brilliantly written. Despite being a fascinating subject, the book is quite dull and reading it felt like a bit of a chore. Thankfully the book is short at 150ish pages so still worthwhile.
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