Jean’s Core Business Strategy No. 7: Business Brainpower

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Extract from The Left and Right Brain Business (Jean Roberts, 1997)

What is a workplace relationship?

A workplace relationship exists when two or more people choose – or are required – to work collaboratively for a specific purpose. They may work as individuals or teams.

The starting point is to identify a workplace relationship, and the basic components by which you can:

  • establish and maintain a positive workplace relationship, and
  • recognize and improve a not-so-positive workplace relationship.

The three basic components of a workplace relationship

  1. People – those involved with or affected by a workplace relationship:
    the ‘who, who for, by whom, with whom, who else’, together with their separate and different needs, interests and aspirations
  2. Task – the purpose of the workplace relationship, the actions to be achieved or addressed, which includes available resources: ‘what needs to be done, in what order, why, how, when, where, at what cost’
  3. Environment – the context within which the people are expected or required to achieve or address the task, the broad environment (political, cultural, social, economic, geographic factors), or the immediate environment (organisational culture and issues, buildings, equipment, facilities, physical comfort)

My definition of Business Brainpower

“the ability to:

  1. accept that people can think and act differently to you,
  2. understand why they do, and then
  3. apply this knowledge and understanding in managing problems, creating opportunities and accepting challenges.”

The application of Business Brainpower

Individuals and teams in the workplace frequently make decisions that can directly or indirectly affect the performance, credibility and viability of the business. Organisations are made up of people – therefore an effective organisation is one that understands, respects and capitalises on Business Brainpower when working with people within or external to the business.

It is possible to energise and improve any workplace relationship in order to facilitate the desired results of the team effort. This is done by considering whether the people involved are relating more naturally with the people involved with or affected by their efforts, the task to be achieved, or the environment within which they will attempt to achieve the task.

The application of Business Brainpower enhances the people involved, the task they perform and the work environment by capitalising on all available resources, which then strengthens any weaknesses.

Table 1 lists the extremes of a range of orientation characteristics that manifest in behaviour. It shows, for example, that when we use or follow a linear or sequential process in our thinking or problem-solving, we are using a left-brain style and adopting left-brain behaviour. When we use or follow non-linear flashes of insight and intuition in our thinking or problem-solving, we are manifesting a right-brain style and adopting a right-brain behaviour.

You may not identify with all of the extremes presented in Table 1, but you will find your sympathy and comfort lies with one extreme more than the other. The purpose of this Table is to remind you that there are two clear and opposite possibilities in each characteristic or behaviour. Each person will have some left-brain and some right-brain characteristics. And each of us brings our personalities, inherited attributes and the effect of our life-style and life-time environment and experiences as well as our left or right brain dominance to our values, behaviour and styles.

If you find yourself identifying equally with both left- and right-brain characteristics in any row, you could be demonstrating equal value for both person and task – which would place your response in the Centre.

Left brain characteristics
- focus on task
Right brain characteristics
- focus on person
- linear/sequential in thinking
and problem-solving
- non-linear ‘flashes’ of insight and
intuition in thinking and problem-solving
- convergent thinker
.. a logical train of ideas linked in an ordered way so as to find the one ‘right’ answer
.. enjoys the exploration of facts and figures
- divergent thinker
.. starts with novel solutions, ignoring the problem
.. enjoys the exploration of ideas and possibilities
- problem oriented - solution oriented
- rational and analytical - intuitive and holistic
- direct statements
.. uses fewer words
- free-wheeling language
.. conversational
- a preference for structure and systems - feels uncomfortable with structure and systems
- places ‘task’ ahead of ‘people’ - places ‘people’ ahead of ‘task’
- quantitative - qualitative
- objective - subjective
- intellectual - emotional
- realistic - imaginative
- more conservative - more flamboyant
- prefers detail - becomes impatient with detail
- past-oriented - future-oriented
- discriminative - integrative
- preference for fact - preference for fantasy
- uses closed questions - uses open questions
- appreciates and prefers analysis and
- appreciates and projects the global
perspective, the total picture
- prefers structured workplace - prefers informal workplace
- works best in isolation - works best in a team

Value system

We more easily and willingly allocate our money, time or attention to the things we value, which in turn are influenced by our orientation – and more so if we have a significant dominance.

By recognizing and accepting the values associated with another person’s orientation, we have a ‘point of entry’ for negotiation, collaboration and agreement. With this point of entry, we can identify whether the person has a higher value for or interest in the ‘people’ component, the ‘task’ component, or the ‘environment’ component. We are then in a position to firstly influence and secondly move their consciousness, understanding and value to encompass or engage the remaining two components.

  • People with significant left-brain dominance tend to enter a situation through their natural value for task. Once into the situation, they can be encouraged to move their consciousness, understanding and value to person and environment.
  • People with significant right-brain dominance tend to enter a situation through their natural value for person. Once into the situation, they can be encouraged to move their consciousness, understanding and value to task and environment.
  • People with only slight left- or right-brain dominance tend to enter a situation through their natural value for environment. Once into the situation, they can be encouraged to move their consciousness, understanding and value to task and person.

When working with a left-brain dominant person, we can adopt a left-brain style of communication and behaviour, for example:

  • emphasise the importance of the task itself
  • focus on results and outcomes
  • delegate responsibility to analyse the problem
  • discuss facts, analysis and interpretation of facts
  • speak directly and stick to the point

When working with a right-brain dominant person, we can adopt a right-brain style of communication and behaviour, for example:

  • emphasise the importance of the people involved in the task
  • focus on feelings, personalities and personal qualities
  • delegate responsibility to brainstorm solutions
  • discuss possibilities and forward vision
  • speak in anecdotes, conversational style and ask about their experiences and observations

When working with a centre person (with slight dominance), we can adopt a centre style of communication and behaviour, for example:

  • emphasise the environment within which the task and persons will be involved
  • focus on both task and person, but in an objective manner displaying equal value for each
  • delegate specific tasks
  • display leadership and give direction
  • provide a structured opportunity for choice or involvement.