Do you feel like you’re doing more and more work but achieving less and less meaningful change? One possible explanation: according to neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist, we live in times of left hemisphere tyranny.
The myth of left and right brain people has been busted a long time ago. However, we seem to be living in a left-hemisphere society. A quick primer on your brain in action (bear with us): Your left hemisphere is an expert of the narrow perspective. It thrives on details, labeling and compartmentalisation. It prefers quick decisions and black-and-white conclusions. Thus, it often misses how things are connected or how they are perceived by others. That’s the job of your right hemisphere: it’s the master of the big picture. It understands context, creates new connections, grasps complex interrelated patterns. In short: the left hemisphere is an expert in what is; the right one in what could be.
Our left and right hemispheres have a radically different way of seeing, interpreting, prioritizing and valuing information. And what we value affects our every decision, both as individuals and organizations. McGilchrist warns we have allowed the left hemisphere’s mechanistic worldview to colonize our way of thinking, our institutions, and our business. A case in point is how global business has approached transformation, so far.
Business transformation has mostly been used to optimize current operations with the goal of boosting short-term productivity: the outcome has been to do exactly what the company already does, only faster and cheaper. Digital transformation, relying on technology, isn’t the magic bullet either: it has shifted how we do things, but not what we do – again, effectively working to preserve business as usual.
Optimization has created a trap where companies feel like that there is a plan and that they are moving forward, yet nothing truly changes. It’s a safety net that has captured our idea of what growth can and should be. It produces only baby steps where we – the world, people, companies – need leaps, not incremental change.
That is why we need to reclaim right hemisphere thinking: trusting intuition, encouraging dreaming as planning, creating a culture of systematic openness to what could be. In other words, we need to transform the current business of business transformation. We’ve dubbed this shift the era of Creative Transformation.
"Those who dream by day
– Edgar Allan Poe
see many things which escape
those who only dream by night."
Creative practices as a transformative force for the future of business has consistently been underestimated by the C-suite. This piece of brain research should wake up your boardroom: relying solely on left hemisphere thinking (say, data-driven optimization) consistently makes people overconfident in their decisions, analyses and proposals. This has led companies to place an irrational weight on that which can be measured today, and judged by existing success metrics.
Creativity is often overlooked as “irrational”, yet from the perspective of neuroscience, our current over-reliance on data and metrics starts to look like the truly irrational course of action. They have an important role to play in the equation, but only if balanced with the right hemisphere perspective.
Creative Transformation as a framework, culture and practice allows us to consider that which cannot be measured or predicted. The transformative power of that shift is immeasurable: instead of being trapped by a future that looks a whole lot like today, it frees us to shift what we think is possible.
Creative Transformation will be a profound shift in the way we do business. It includes, yet goes beyond transforming processes, systems and ways of working – starting from where we work and how much; to how power is used and distributed; to how we define value and growth. It draws from both analytics and intuition, is driven by AI and humanity, combines quartal economy and multigenerational thinking.
So what does Creative Transformation look like, as a practice and in practice? First off, it acknowledges there is no one right solution. It needs to be tailored for every company. But here’s a start: What would your company look like if you invested in potential, not just proven track record? If you doubled down on the people you have instead of the latest technology? If you taught your people how to have amazing conversations instead of how to navigate team building software? If you encouraged playfulness and enjoyment? If you both required and rewarded alternate ways to define problems and solutions? If you started from what you don’t know instead of what you think you know? If you spent more time on actions than strategies? If you shifted what and how you measure growth? If you focused on long-term solutions over short-term gains? And what if your ultimate success metric was through the eyes of your grandchildren’s grandchildren?
Humanity faces challenges we cannot overcome with business as usual. Businesses face the same existential threat. That’s why Creative Transformation should be the top priority in every boardroom. It lets us create the change we need, that you need, and dream up yet-unheard-of solutions to get there. If you only remember one sentence from this text, may it be this: it is high time we moved from business transformation through analytics and tech – to transforming business, and all our futures, through creative practices.
This post by We Are Open and more for Creativity 2030 initiative here; https://www.mrktng.fi/luovuus/