Some of us wouldn’t know great art if it fell from the sky and bit us in the butt. Others, on the other hand, would swear that the numbers we see on a spreadsheet are intent on kicking us in the gonads. The former are likely to be L-Directed Thinkers (LDT): people with a dominant left-brain; the latter are most probably R-Directed Thinkers (RDT): people with a dominant right-brain.
Left-brainers (the LDTs) are typically good at math, are logical, tend to think sequentially and are rooted in facts. The caricature of the left-brainer is the buck-toothed nerd with Buddy Holly glasses. His trousers are way too short for his legs and he prefers white socks even when he is wearing black leather shoes. Add to that the picture of him toting a well-used laptop held together by Elastoplast, the picture would be complete.
Right-brainers (the RDTs) – being the diametric opposite of left-brainers – are irrepressibly imaginative. They are comfortable with big-picture scenarios and are on first names basis with that elusive quality we call creativity. We tend to see them as the artsy-fartsy long-haired recluse, with a cigarette (Winston?) dangling from his lips, who wears nothing but tie-and-dye Pagoda tee-shirts and torn, faded jeans. Shoes? Forget about it! He prefers sandals or slippers – even on the rare occasion he decides to go for a job interview. Now, visualise him lugging around a battered old vintage camera or a sketch-pad with a bundle of pencils. Get get the picture?
Over the years we have probably developed some inkling as to which one we are. To confirm (or reinforce) this suspicion, have a look at this (or just at the dancing lady above). If you see the dancer turning clockwise, chances are you are a right-brainer – its time to stop trying to grapple with numbers and details and start breaking out your old tie-and-dye tee-shirts. If you see the dancer pirouetting in a counter-clockwise direction, its better that you forget that career as a concert pianist and start wearing trousers that are way too short for your legs – if you aren’t doing so already.
The point to all this is being able to identify if a person is right- or left-brain dominant can get us out of all sorts of trouble. For example, I would be out of my mind to expect my left-brain dominant son – the hardcore computer geek – to be able write a half-decent love letter to his girlfriend (not that this is fatal). Similarly, it would be equally laughable for me to expect my other son – the one who is obviously a right-brainer and has a guitar surgically attached to his torso – to be a math whiz at school just to compensate for my being a math idiot while I was there.
Similarly, it would be fatal to assign the creative, big-picture guy at the office to attend to routine work requiring attention to detail and extensive analysis. This is not because he is an idiot – he simply hasn’t got the right tools. It doesn’t matter what academic qualifications this guy has. If he is a right-brainer, in this environment he is going to make a mess of it.
The flipside of this is that it would be equally disastrous to make the resident ‘do-it-by-the-numbers’ lady deliver sales rally presentation and expect it to be an emotionally rousing one. Again, this is not because she is incompetent – she simply lacks the necessary equipment. No matter how good she looks – or how well she’s stacked – if she is a left-brainer, in this environment she will bring little more than entertainment value to the proceedings.
Of course, all this should be intuitive. But because of the vagaries of the promotion system, combined with a heady mix of office politics and massive egos, we we get it wrong all too often. We get picked for the wrong tasks and we, in turn, do the same to others.
What did I see when I looked at the spinning dancer? Let’s just say from now on I’ll stick to training people and not try to crunch too many numbers at any one time. Oh, and soon I’ll start lugging a beat up old vintage camera around wherever I go.