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Taking Sides

Right-brain skills are gaining ground in the business world.

A major shift is taking place, and we're not talking about seismic plates. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, believes we're seeing an economic evolution in the abilities necessary to succeed in business. We asked Pink what he believes is prompting the shift and what implications it has for entrepreneurs.

"Our brains are divided into two equal halves," says Pink. "The abilities that got you ahead in business used to be characteristic of the left hemisphere: rational, analytical, SAT-like. While they're still necessary, they're no longer sufficient. The scales are tilting toward right-hemisphere [abilities]: artistry, empathy and synthesis rather than analysis."

Three forces are driving this shift, Pink says: an abundance of consumer goods, leading people to seek both meaning and function from products; out-sourcing to Asia; and automation of routine work.

Pink says six key abilities for the Conceptual Age are design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. "They're difficult to outsource and auto-mate and are in demand in the age of abundance.

  • "Design has become a fundamental form of business literacy. That means creating products, services and experiences that have the user in mind.
  • "Small companies are appointing chief storytelling officers because story is a form of knowledge management and product differentiation.
  • "To see the big picture and connect the dots is symphony, a signature trait of entrepreneurs.
  • "Good salespeople test off the charts on empathy.
  • "The best organizations have a sense of play. If you hear laughter, [you're creating] a good place to work.
  • "More people are hitching a sense of meaning to their business lives. Entrepreneurs are realizing the only way to recruit talented people is to give them something larger than themselves."

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This article was originally published in the September 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Taking Sides.

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