Left Brain or Right Brain? Remixing the World

If you’ve read Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, you’ll understand his argument that left brain, linear thinking is of flat value and more prone to outsourcing (because it can be) and that the next phase of value creation and innovation will come from the right brained among us. Higher order thinking, pattern matching and an ability to connect the dots (which can’t be outsourced) will be highly prized and will be the intellectual fuel for tomorrow.

Disruption, creation and innovation spring forth from seeing unmet needs, patterns, mixing together elements from multiple sources, creating new and innovative products and services from unique combinations or methods and yes, accidents. According to Pink, high value innovation will be delivered by those who can see and think differently (needless to say that I found Pink’s book pretty validating on how my brain is wired and that I’m not just some guy going off on tangents all the time…and with far too many Categories on his blog).

My April 2006 issue of Wired came today (yes, I still appreciate the dead trees version) and the cover story is by Will Wright (creator of The Sims and other games) and his “New World of Games” and his essay Dream Machines:

“In an era of structured education and standardized testing, this generational difference might not yet be evident. But the gamers’ mindset – the fact that they are learning in a totally new way – means they’ll treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption. This is the true impact videogames will have on our culture.

Society, however, notices only the negative. Most people on the far side of the generational divide – elders – look at games and see a list of ills (they’re violent, addictive, childish, worthless). Some of these labels may be deserved. But the positive aspects of gaming – creativity, community, self-esteem, problem-solving – are somehow less visible to nongamers.

I think part of this stems from the fact that watching someone play a game is a different experience than actually holding the controller and playing it yourself. Vastly different. Imagine that all you knew about movies was gleaned through observing the audience in a theater – but that you had never watched a film. You would conclude that movies induce lethargy and junk-food binges. That may be true, but you’re missing the big picture.”

How does what Pink say map to Wright’s views?

Though I’m not a huge gamer, I do play and am also periodically within the virtual world Second Life. My 11 year old son and his buddies, however, are an interesting validation point for what both Pink and Wright espouse.

Watching my son master and beat Halo2, I talked with him about how it felt trying over-and-over-and-over again in his attempts to beat particularly tough levels. “Dad” he began, “I know that no matter what, I’ll finally figure it out and beat the level.” Some levels he can master in a few tries, some after dozens of tries. What is he learning? That if he fails, it’s just that he didn’t see something during that particular attempt. It’s not that he’s stupid or didn’t understand something — or had to work harder to understand it — instead he has a knowing that the “Aha!” will come so he keeps going. He also knows that he has multiple options to solve any given problem (and that there is one, optimal way as well) and he claims he frequently “invents solutions”. How’s THAT for empowering?

The resolution of virtual worlds (like Second Life, The Sims or There) is growing and some of the new ways people are involved in them is pretty interesting. From providing nude skins for The Sims characters to a woman purportedly making $150,000 per year selling stuff in Second Life, there is a whole lot of creativity going on in these worlds to find virtual needs and fill ’em!

So where is all this heading and how can you start to connect your own dots?

1) Start with RSS and pick a news aggregator. My favorite is NewsGator but you’ll find your own. Take some of their suggestions for blog and news feeds and get started scanning blog posts and headlines in categories that YOU’RE interested in and passionate about

2)  Whenever you come across a blog of interest, copy its RSS link and paste it in to your aggregator for future reading

3) Keep your eyes peeled for an increase in meme trackers like techmemorandum, Topix and how Technorati is beginning to cluster blogs in to affinities. Just like the search engine space that is starting to deliver highly focused searches as well as all the personal portals that are RSS aggregators on steroids, I can already see emerging better dashboards that can and will track themes (that you’ll set up to connect dots automagically)

4) This is the toughest part…but try to understand the value chain of your interest or business so that you can connect dots that YOU see and begin to recognize patterns or disruptions. If you cared about computing for example (and this isn’t rocket science or some big deal methodology but useful to consider), then understanding what was being delivered at the component level (chips, cpu’s, etc) would provide you with an understanding of what would be delivered in finished computer goods 12-18 or so months out.  Then you’d keep your eyes peeled for *any* disruptors that might be affecting this entire value chain (which would include ones that might seem non-disruptive) and decide on how or if they’d impact it.

Sounds simple but it’s obviously far more complex than that. Most organizations and think tanks use scenario planning (good explanation of it and a methodology here) to do the best job they can and ensure they anticipate and thus create sound strategy.

One key aspect of scenario planning is to take in to consideration the social. Try to imagine the right brain creatives and attention deficit afflicted taking part in collaborative social networks, building upon the ideas of others. Further imagine that these same people are scanning hundreds or thousands of blogs, news sites, and scholarly papers per day just seeing what might popup. Then through the magic of human associative thinking and right brain cognitive processing, these folks mix together a bunch of stuff and out comes an ____________________.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.