Neuroscience has evolved over the past decades into a field that is far more technical, yet producing valuable insights about the human nervous system that can shape most other fields. One of the classic discoveries of Neuroscience that has been applied in other disciplines, spanning artistry to management, is the understanding that the human brain is actually a bi-configuration, at least at its cerebral end.
There are two hemispheres in a typical human brain; the left and the right hemisphere. And each are responsible for different kinds of thinking. Sequential, logical, and analytical thinking are all championed by the left brain while the right hemisphere is the cornerstone of all nonlinear, intuitive, empathetic, creative and holistic thinking. The left brain is sequential while the right is simultaneous, the left specializes in text while the right does context, the left brain is detail-oriented while the right brain synthesizes and sees the big picture.
This scientific revelation was a game-changer in many ways, and its insights have been translated into imperatives for many roles and disciplines. In actual fact, both left and right hemispheres are used in performing the multiple tasks the brain has to facilitate every day, but humans typically lean more to one side. Usually, men engage in more of left-directed thinking while women, and this explains why they are more emotional generally, use more of their right hemispheres.
The industrial and information age were both built on clear left-directed thinking. Today, the products of the industrial age are readily available; cars, homes, mass manufacturing. A law of classical economics, and indeed life, is that the value of a commodity reduces when it is readily available – the well-known demand-supply-price concept. It appears the dominance of left-directed thinking has reached a saturation point and is giving way to the more empathetic and creative right-directed thinking.
The rapid proliferation of this type of thinking, mostly espoused by business schools, has come with a number of consequences. “Left-type” work can now readily be done by most people with a technical background, and since a lot of global citizens fit this description, its value is seeing a steady decrease.
This is why most technical jobs are outsourced to Asia today. There is an abundance of skilled left-brained workers who are able and willing to perform the same roles at lower costs. This trend has tremendously justified the lean management philosophy of outsourcing, which has picked up steam in the past decade.
Another emerging trend is the use of robots to further automate processes. Combined with outsourcing, the near future can possibly see humans become dispensable in many areas, and these areas all border around left-directed thinking. For instance, a robot connected to the internet may make an excellent consultant, as it can acquire information, and synthesize same into insights within a second. One robot with this capability can displace at least 10 business analysts from their jobs.
The lesson here is simple, left-directed thinking is necessary, absolutely, but no longer sufficient. Only a few tasks exists that cannot be outsourced, delegated or replicated, and, not surprisingly, they have less and less to do with left-directed thinking. Tastes are changing, and more people are starting to appreciate the softer, “touchy-feely,” side of life that is championed by right-directed thinking.
Daniel Pink talks extensively about this phenomenon in his book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future,” where he writes “For business, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful, abiding what author Virginia Postrel calls the aesthetic imperative.”
Most processes can now be executed by multiple people in multiple locations. The effect is abundance, and yes, the ‘commoditizing’ of a particular type of product. The new competitive advantage comes from being creative and integrating more intuition into everyday products. Products, even gadgets, need to become less technical, more artistic and intuitive in order to demonstrate the type of uniqueness that translates into a competitive advantage.
Africa today is witnessing an economic explosion which is birthing new businesses every day. There is, in every sense of the word, an entrepreneurial renaissance sweeping across the continent. And this is supported and promoted by the government and private sector. In this season, more entrepreneurs will emerge from the continent, this means competition will be at an all-time high. African entrepreneurs need to start thinking differently; not discarding left-directed thinking but realizing its limitations and supplementing it where necessary. With everyone thinking the same way, one sure way to differentiate yourself is to think differently, and bring unique but highly functional services and products to the marketplace.
Daniel Pink concluded his book with a look at each of what he calls the six senses or essential aptitudes of right-directed thinking; Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. These are new perspectives that emerging entrepreneurs must adopt in order to remain relevant in fast evolving marketplace of today.
By Emmanuel Iruobe