Lead Boldly … Male brain + Female brain = Greater Success

By Kerrie Halmi and Jennifer Kalmbach, Halmi Performance Consulting

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink makes a compelling case for why organizations need to pay more attention to the previously undervalued right side of the brain in business.  He states that we are moving from an Information Age economy to a Conceptual Age economy.  This is due to three factors: “abundance, Asia and automation”.  “Abundance” refers to the concept that because we live in a time of excess, more emphasis is placed on the design and detail of an item: right- brain strength, rather than simply its functionality.  Pink notes that the exodus of computer and IT jobs to Asia where normal left-brain menial tasks can be performed for a minimal charge will result in the need for right brained minds to capitalize on their ability to think in the scope of the larger idea. Finally, “automation” captures the idea that computers and technology are being used to replace former left-brained transactions and processes.

The qualities associated with the Information Age are associated with the left side of the -brain: logical, linear, reductive, sequential and analytical.  (Pink calls this L-Directed Thinking) These qualities are still necessary to succeed in the future but are no longer sufficient.  In the Conceptual Age, organizations need to have more qualities associated with the right side of the brain: synthesizing the big picture, seeing patterns, simultaneous process and empathy.  (Called R-Directed Thinking in the book)

As Pink states “The male brain sounds a little like L-Directed Thinking.  And the female brain sounds a lot like the high-concept, high-touch approach of R-Directed Thinking.”

Just to be clear, it is not the case that all men use the left side of their brain more or that all women use the right side of their brain more.  However, neuroscience has proven that there are differences in a female and a male brain.  (Read Leadership and the Sexes by Michael Gurian for an in-depth analysis of what the differences are and more importantly, what they mean in the workplace).  In general, women have the following characteristics: they are more interactive; are more participative on teams, find ways in which colleagues are complementary; collaborate through finding possible connections with others and are inductive in problem solving.  In contrast men tend to have the following characteristics: they are more transactional; focus on a hierarchy (looking at who’s in charge); collaborate through testing ideas, finding the worse case scenario and moving quickly to final goals; prefer working alone and are deductive in their problem-solving.

The contrast between the working styles has many implications for the workplace.  The one we want to emphasize is the same point that Daniel Pink is making in his book.  Organizations perform better when there are two perspectives.  Imagine how much better teams would function if they truly valued and leveraged the strengths of men and women equally.

Thus, this conceptual age is quickly creating an environment in which male and female coordination in the workplace enables utmost productivity and creativity. Modern businesses need to use the strengths of both sexes, or more specifically, both sides of the brain. An ideal human would want to use every bit of brainpower possible, so why shouldn’t businesses strive for the same idea? By nature, humans learn to adapt to different societal changes over time, and businesses must recognize that the conceptual age seeks the minds of both men and women to succeed.

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