The [Ad]vantage:Both Sides of the Story

The [Ad]vantage:Both Sides of the Story-Kirk DrummondIn honor of the month that brings us valentine's day, I'm dedicating this column to creating a meaningful connection - between your left brain and your right brain. Though not exactly a tale of romance, you may find your customers showing you some love as a result.

Most everyone knows the basic differences between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and that nearly all of us have a dominant side that heavily influences how we think, work, interact, etc. For you left-brainers out there (you know who you are), the law of averages says you tend to be more analytical, literal, logical and generally process information in a linear fashion. For those dominated by the right side, you're more likely to see things holistically, with a greater sense of intuition, theory and creativity.

If you subscribe to the popular belief that your dominant hemisphere is reflected in which hand you write with (hardly scientific, but good for rough estimates), then research shows that as many as 70 to 90 percent of the world's population are right-handed and therefore primarily analytical, linear thinkers. The rest, the 10 to 30 percent of us lefties (yes, I'm left-handed), use the more intuitive right brain to explore creativity and theory. Of course, no matter which side dominates your thinking, there's value to both.

The relevance of your mental tendencies, outside of your career path and sanity, may seem insignificant until you step back and see the perfect storm brewing in the business world that's sure to evolve the way that businesses think - literally.

Consider the impact of the Information Age and the resulting level of access most people have to goods, services and competitive options. Now combine that with a challenging economy and the continued outsourcing of routine, linear-type jobs, and you'll find the ability for companies to think creatively will become a bigger success factor and point of differentiation, something many companies struggle more with now than ever before.

In his book titled A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink discusses our evolution into the "Conceptual Age," an age in which people who possess strong right-brain
qualities will dominate the business world, while traditional linear jobs and functions continue to be outsourced or taken over by software. Luckily for left-brainers, Pink also shares ideas on how to cultivate right-brain skills, essentially increasing the right brain's usage and possibly the connectivity between the two halves.

This shift in leadership mentality, or at least the "company influencers," will change a company's ability to not only identify creative solutions to overcome today's challenges but to also take advantage of what I often call leapfrog opportunities. These opportunities don't come as a result of linear business evolution, but of completely new perspectives. These are the ideas, the products and the services that will become the points of differentiation not easily copied or commoditized.

For those of you in corporate marketing roles or in the advertising industry, this spells opportunity. As brands begin to respond to the dynamics and demands of the Conceptual Age, they will look to those in creative industries for strategic guidance and insight into right-brain-based business practices at an even greater level than before.

Although I see the potential of increased right-brain influence, in my opinion, the goal is not to shift from one dominant way of thinking to the other, but is instead to balance and maximize all aspects of thought. At Drumroll, an agency I cofounded last year, we've focused on creating innovative brand experiences with a collaborative process utilizing what we call mental ambidexterity. That is, the ability for our teams, company and clients to approach an objective with diverse, yet balanced, thought. The result is a unique ability to discover the unexpected leapfrog opportunities mentioned earlier.

Of course, creative thinking has ranked as a valuable business tool for a very long time. But as Pink points out, to think with your right brain is more than just being creative. For example, empathy, playfulness and even storytelling are often considered points of distinction between the strengths of the left and right hemispheres, as well as keys to creating valuable and effective engagements with target audiences.

No matter what your dominant way of thinking is, science has proven that it's possible for the brain to rewire itself when stimulated in new ways. I believe companies can do the same.

1 comment about "The [Ad]vantage:Both Sides of the Story".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, February 20, 2009 at 5:56 p.m.

    Gees, and here was I thinking that all top-flight agencies had traditionally taken an objective, balanced and diverse approach by utilising the skills and talents across their pool of staff - both the 'right-brainers' and the 'left-brainers'. Apparently I was mistaken.

    An interesting thought is the mooted 'rise of the right-brainers' where their concepts and ideas will merely be outsourced or taken over by software to be brought to fruition. Yes, utilising the very software written by left-brainers.

    Maybe the left-brainers are covertly writing 'right-brain' software ustiling iterative processes through heuristic models of creativity that identify creative ideas and niches that they can bring to life, thus dispensing with the need for 'right-brainers'.

    However looking at some of the key 'nerds' - the classic left-brainers - such as Gates, Andressen, Cerf, Berners-Lee, Zuckerberg, Brin, I see massive evidence of 'right-brain thinking being coupled with 'left-brain actualisation' to suspect that it is the 'brainiacs with vision' (those the utilise both spheres to the fullest) that will, like the finest cream, continue to rise to the top.

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