Oct 012012

This was a response to the question asked by GK  VanPatter on a linkedin forum, “Ask yourself  WHY would you want to “place the creative/right-brain thinkers into leadership, guiding the decisions?”

My answer:
I operate under the assumption that we live in a predominately left-brain world. I think it is rare to find people that are comfortable negotiating the abstract and the disciplined thought processes. My mother was an artist and father an engineer, I credit this with a start to my comfort in both worlds.

I don’t disparage left-thinking. I think it is necessary to create organizations, manage people, and “make the trains run on time.” But, I believe we extend one extreme perspective to all decisions and approaches. I don’t believe you want the artist running the accounting department, but I also don’t always want the engineer designing the user interface on my communication technology of choice. I wrote a book called, “Right” and the premise is there is a right time, with the right people, when utilizing the right-brain perspective is needed. I attach this to the classic business growth graph of when you want to innovate and when managing is best. I think C. Christensen did a brilliant job of distinguishing between sustaining ideas and disruptive ideas, (He uses technology where I placed “ideas.”) AND the difference between sustaining and disruptive are extreme. Disruptive ideas, almost by definition, have to be developed and administered by people who are able to pull-on their right brains and access a degree of creativity. I refer to the artist’s process to highlight the different stages of innovation as they create for a living, every day.

Now, to specifically answer the question. There are times when we can’t know the future, or predict the next best idea. For organizations to fulfill their employees and WoW! their customers, sometimes different is required. It demands a heuristic process, and leadership that is less directive and more inspiring and for this to occur it must utilize massive amounts of right-brain thinking. Ideally, one person has the aptitude, but more times, it might simply require a naturally left-brain person to trust the right-brain perspective and take a chance & trust. I refer to Gordon MacKenzie’s boss as the ideal example.

Finally, and maybe, most importantly, we need the right-brain person in the boardroom to address the wicked problems of any organization. Design thinking (To throw out another over-used, under appreciated, mostly mis-understood term), is the only way solutions can be identified to address the problems that appear too complex and unsolvable.