The Five Key Mindsets for the Future

Last week, I delivered the opening keynote session for a company that had an online conference to launch a major international construction project. The audience was full of smart, experienced, world-class engineers from around the world, so there was nothing I could teach them in their area of expertise.

But my client was wise enough to know it takes more than technical expertise to pull this project team together, especially with the still-ongoing challenges and chaos of travel restrictions, global supply chains, mental health, and COVID disruptions.

So, an important part of my role was to talk about the mindset we need for coping, leading, and thriving in uncertainty.

One of my go-to resources in this area is Howard Gardner’s excellent book ’Five Minds For The Future’ (and a shout-out to my friend Chris Pudney for first referring it to me years ago).

If the name Howard Gardner sounds familiar, it’s because he popularised the idea of multiple intelligences (and Daniel Goleman later combined two of them to create the term ‘emotional intelligence’).

These are the Five Minds for the Future

It’s an easy book to read, but I’ll summarise the five minds (or “mindsets”, if you like) for you here.

As you read these, ask yourself how you would rate yourself in each of them (say, on a scale of 1 to 5).

Disciplined Mind

Expertise is important, and people with this mindset recognise the importance of having deep expertise in a specific discipline related to their work. They apply their skills in that discipline, are always looking to stay up-to-date in it, and challenge and question themselves to be sure they remain sharp and current in it.

Connector Mind

Gardner calls this the ‘Synthesizing mind’, but I think ‘Connector mind’ describes it better. People with this mindset excel at connecting things in practical, meaningful, and interesting ways. They express complex ideas in elegant ways, identify creative ways to apply tools and techniques in different ways, and see how innovations in one field could apply to their own field, industry, and work.

Creative Mind

The Connector mindset is one aspect of creativity, and the Creative mind is another. People with this mindset generate new ideas seemingly out of nowhere. They are often unhappy with the status quo and are constantly looking for ways to change it. Their ideas aren’t always practical or useful, but when they are, they will fight passionately for them.

Respectful Mind

In a nutshell, these are the ‘people people’ – that is, the people who always put people first and always consider the human impact of their work. Among other things, they value inclusion and diversity, see difference as a strength, and look for ways to leverage the unique skills, talents, and lived experiences of other people.

Ethical Mind

People with an Ethical mindset always consider the ‘big picture’. They have a clear passion, personal values, and principles; support (and work for) organisations with a clear mission and purpose to change the world; and often champion global, long-term ideas like equality, human rights, and sustainability.

How do YOU rate?

The purpose of rating yourself is for understanding. You’re not trying to rate yourself 5 out of 5 for all of them (and if you do, maybe you think a leetle too highly of yourself!). Instead:

  1. Know your strengths, so you can work in and build on those strengths.
  2. Know your weaknesses, so you can surround yourself with others who have those as strengths.

Try this self-assessment tool.

If you’d like a more objective assessment, I’ve created a free online tool that takes just 5 minutes to complete. It’s free and completely anonymous, and you can provide your name and email address at the end for a more detailed report.

Feel free to do it yourself, with my compliments, and share it with your team members as well.


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