According to Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: WhyRight-Brainers Will Rule the Future, we have moved from the “information age” at the end of the last century to the “conceptual age” at the beginning of the 21rst century. At the PopTech 2007 meeting, he argued that there has been a shift from an emphasis on left-brain thinking to an emphasis on right-brain thinking. Of course, he is on the side of right…brain, that is. He would say that he is left-brain, but given his penchant for pecha-kucha, you could’ve fooled me.
Pink says that this is the age of creators and empathizers; that these are the kinds of workers our economy needs. Western companies are competing with Asian workforces that can do any routine work more cheaply. This means that Western workers have to compete on the basis of creativity and innovation. I heard Pink, along with John Hine, Senior Director of Organization Development and Learning for ConAgra Foods, and Catherine Rezak, co-founder of Paradigm Learning, talk about these ideas as part of a Training Magazine webinar last week.
John Hine described how ConAgra is applying these ideas to their leadership development programs. He said that they make the training playful, use simulations of business situations, and make the experiences meaningful for learners by mapping the connections of what they are learning to the “big picture”. This approach taps into the right-brain thinking of employees.
While I find this right-brain perspective on the workforce to be fascinating and appealing, it is also scary. What does this mean for people who are not predominately right-brain thinkers? Will they be unable to compete for jobs because they don’t think this way, can’t think this way, or, because of economic circumstances, cannot learn to think this way? What happens to them? And what happens to the jobs that require an emphasis on left-brain thinking? Will we have a preponderance of people who are creative and innovative but nobody to implement projects that produce high quality work on-time and within budget? Is there no place in the West for workers who want to manufacture goods?