Lately I’ve been innundated with ideas about how to survive and thrive in the “tough times” we’re currently experiencing.
Key among them: determine areas of the economy that are not only counter-cyclical, but have the potential to grow exponentially for the next twenty years or so. Demographics are used to determine long term trends like this, because technology watchers have difficulty projecting beyond five years. General trends are predicated on: the aging population in North America, growing populations and economies in “developing nations”, and the combination of higher standards of living, abundance, and technological advancements.
Economists cite several results — however stereotypical they may be — of these demographic changes. Older people seek meaning as opposed to adding wealth. Technical jobs traditionally done in North America can be done cheaper overseas. Abundance in our society leaves us wanting very little in physical “stuff”, and again we search for more meaning and purpose out of life. Technological advancements, while sometimes intrusive, have generally made our lives easier, and again we are left with time on our hands to ponder our existence — its true meaning and purpose.
Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, calls the key trends “Abundance, Asia, and Automation”. He asserts that the result of these demographic and economic pressures will be a “high concept, high touch” marketplace in North America. Thriving in such a world will require more right brain thinking and behavior. Left brain contributions will remain important, but will no longer be sufficient. His arguments are pretty convincing.
While describing how these new imperatives require right brain thinking, Pink points out that several multi-millionaires are dyslexic and some, like Richard Branson, directly attribute their success to their dyslexia. The left brain is responsible for linear processing. Math and science demand the powers of the left brain. But dyslexics often have that linear and sequential comprehension disrupted. Pink asserts that to compensate, dyslexics like Branson develop far stronger right brain acuities like synthesis and big-picture thinking.
Project managers are being taught about “strategic project management” or even “program management”. Doctors are being taught “narrative medicine”. Computer programmers are learning that user stories and iterative feedback from stakeholders drive higher quality into their code. All of these are examples of greater right brain influence — the “emotional” or holistic side of the equation.
Slashdot recently had a piece called Coders, Your Days are Numbered. It emphasizes what Agile methodology and project management advocates have already been saying for years: strong communication skills are necessary for success in software development. Good grammar and spelling are not enough either — the ability to synthesize, influence, and lead teams is also essential. These are all enabled by the right side of the brain.