Consultancy – The relevance of whole-brain thinking

In the 1990s Management guru Peter Drucker coined the phrase the "Information Age" and referred to professionals as knowledge workers. These are, he wrote, "people who get paid for putting to work what one learns in school rather than for their physical strength or manual skill". What distinguished members of this group and enabled them to reap society's greatest rewards was their ability to "acquire and to apply theoretical and analytical knowledge".

Until recently, the abilities that led to success in school, work and business were dominated by characteristics of the left hemisphere. They were the sorts of linear, logical, analytical talents measured by Standard Assessment Tests (SATs), the 11+, GCSEs, A levels and many higher education degrees. Today, those capabilities are still necessary, but they are no longer enough. As Daniel Pink wrote in his book A Whole New Mind, “in a world upended by outsourcing, deluged with data, and choked with choices, the abilities that matter most are now closer in spirit to the specialties of the right hemisphere - artistry, empathy, seeing the big picture, and pursuing the transcendent”.

The last few decades have been dominated by a certain type of person with a certain type of mind – computer programmers, lawyers and accountants, all of whom are good at performing logical, structured and often routine functions. But the future belongs to a different king of person with a different kind of mind – inventors, story-tellers, caregivers and big picture thinkers.

Pink points out that the invention of computer technologies helped move western economies from the Industrial Age into the Information Age, where knowledge was power and where fantastic economies of scale could be achieved by people applying their knowledge rather than their physical labour in the workplace. However the success that has resulted from the automation of these logical and left-brained processes has produced a paradox – since it is now possible to share information globally in seconds, items that once had to be manufactured locally can now be manufactured anywhere. The result is that vast numbers of jobs are either being automated as the technology advances, or moving overseas to lower cost economies. If employees in western economies want to stay employed, they are therefore going to have to find new areas of differentiation, to take on more of the right-brained tasks that computers cannot do and that are not easily outsourced.

Where is the evidence to support this?

Over the last 30-50 years in Western economies we have seen massive increases in average levels of affluence, while the manufacturing costs of goods has declined to a point where we can afford to pamper to our right-brained desires as well as to our more functional left-brained needs.

This has resulted in a situation where the utility cost of a product (i.e. the proportion of the cost that pays for making the item function) has fallen relative to the significance of the product (i.e. the proportion of the item that is devoted to make it aesthetically pleasing).

For example, take a look at the pictures below of two electric toasters. Both will make perfectly good toast, both will be safe to use, both have different settings so that you can have your toast exactly as you like it and both probably cost a similar amount of money to manufacture.

Apart from the colour, the only significant difference between the two is that the one on the left can only make 2 pieces of toast at once while the one on the right can make 4. In utility terms it would therefore be reasonable to expect the toaster on the right to cost twice as much as the one on the left. In actual fact the one on the right costs 20 times as much as the one on the left! The difference in price cannot be explained by analytical, logical, right-brained thinking – it must therefore be right-brained!

 

By emphasising the "significance" of products, manufacturers and retailers are able to achieve margins that would otherwise be impossible. To improve margins, companies therefore need to apply more right-brained thinking.

Similar conclusions can be drawn when looking at productivity and employee engagement. In the book "Firms of Endearment", Sidodia, Sheth and Wolfe present research which demonstrates that firms that build a more empathetic relationship with their employees outperform others by a significant margin.

How can MyBrain International help?

Through our consultancy we assist organisations in adopting a "whole-brained" approach to whatever area they are seeking to tackle – be it marketing, product or service development, strategic planning, sales or employee engagement.

In each of these cases, the starting point is to have an informal conversation about your goals and objectives.

To discuss your specific requirements please telephone MyBrain on +44 (0)1462 790145 or email .