Creating Spirited Economics

Dr. Sandy GluckmanBy Sandy Gluckman PhD
Author of ‘Who’s in the Driver’s Seat; Using Spirit to Lead Successfully’
 In The Driver's Seat


 The concept of spirited economics refers to the ability of organizations to achieve extraordinary profits and obtain the projected economic outcomes by putting the spirit of the people to work.

One of the core issues of spirited economics is asking and answering the question, ‘how do we gain the greatest economic value from the talent of the people who work for us?’ To address this we would need a brief physiology discussion. Our brains have 2 parts – referred to as the left brain and the right brain, or left and right hemispheres. Each of these hemispheres functions with different frequencies which mean that each side of the brain receives, processes and interprets information differently. The best solutions and execution of tasks are those that enlist the information from both sides of the brain.

So what’s the problem? We all have an inborn physiological preference for thinking with one side – either the left or the right brain. (A small percentage of the population do not have any preference.) This does not mean that we will only use one half of the brain – it means that thinking with the less preferred side does not feel so comfortable and so we will do this as little as possible; unless we decide to consciously force ourselves to think with both sides. And particularly when we are under stress and pressure, we will automatically resort to thinking in the way that feels most comfortable for us.

So it becomes vitally important for us to know what our personal preference is because we will then know what information we will include in our thinking and what information we will leave out of our thinking. The left brain is logical, rational, analytical, linear and theoretical. Language and numeracy are specializations of the left brain. When we think with the left brain we will think in an ordered, sequential, detailed fashion. How we use this side of the brain determines our IQ.

The right brain, on the other hand, thinks laterally and creatively…so we will get an idea, feel an emotion, intuitively know something or imagine an innovative possibility that breaks the mould of the old way of doing things. The right brain allows us to empathize with others and to connect with others in a meaningful way. Using the right brain we create mental pictures. With the left brain we are able to plan how to implement the pictures we see. The right brain is our EQ – emotional quotient.

Traditionally business and even educational institutions, in fact society in general, has emphasized the value of the skills of the left brain only. For several decades the “knowledge worker” has been prized. The right brain was perceived as being somewhat ‘soft’ and ‘flaky’ and of little importance in the serious corporate world. This is changing. It is becoming evident that the traditional mostly left brain thinking has outlived its usefulness, when not integrated with the right brain. A new respect is developing for the conceptual, intuitive, imaginative and interpersonal abilities of the right brain. As Daniel Pink says in his book, A whole New Mind, ‘We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.

There are many good reasons to understand and incorporate the talents of the ‘whole brain,’ for more effective thinking and planning. But for me, the most important benefit of using the right brain is its ability to provide us with emotional information about ourselves and others, and its ability to help us understand the subtleties of human interaction.

We can develop the most competitive, leading edge strategies but if we do not know how to inspire and galvanize the employees, it will remain a strategy that is great on paper alone – a strategy that could not be taken from conception to execution.

Understanding the interpersonal and emotional dynamics empowers leaders and individuals to communicate and interact with others in a way that will switch them on, instead of switch them off. This right brain information and the ability to act on this information is vital for business leaders who need to activate and inspire employees to enthusiastically offer their greatest talent for the achievement of the corporate goals.

(For a detailed description of how whole brain thinking and communication works, as well as the tools and skills of whole brain thinking, see my chapter in the book, Mission Possible.)

The question is how do we make full use of the less preferred brain if we are not physiologically inclined that way?

The first step is to know what our own thinking style preference is. Being aware of this will alert us to what our personal thinking style could mean to us in terms of the kinds of decisions we will make in our lives. We actually have an excellent assessment tool that will tell you whether you are left brain or right brain dominant, what you will think about and what you will leave out in your planning and decision-making. When we use this with the executive team, they are fascinated by their personal and team profiles. They understand fully for the first time how they are making biased (otherwise known as ‘half-brained’) decisions.

Remember the right brain provides us with intuitive and emotional logic. It is where our ideas come from. It is how we are able to see another way or to envision the future or see the total picture. It also lets us know how to enlist the full attention and abilities of others. For right brain dominant people thinking like this comes naturally. Just as, for left brain dominant people, analysis, theory, concepts, finance, details, come naturally.

The second step is to decide what you are going to do about this, based on the fact that whole brain thinking, communication and execution is superior to using ‘half the brain.’

So what do right brain dominant people do when they need the information from the left brain and vice versa?

There are just 2 options here. We can either attend courses to learn how to integrate our own 2 brains. Or we can create a whole brain team. This is a complementary team consisting of individuals with different brain preferences and therefore with different thinking style preferences. This means Identifying those people in your personal life, your teams and departments who have a different way of thinking to yourselves, incorporate them in your meetings and planning sessions and consciously include their differing perspective in your decisions. As long as we keep an open mind, they will assist us in thinking differently…and we will do the same for them.

Oh No! Here comes the ego again! Not only do we have the challenge of our brains wanting to interpret the information our personally preferred way, but our egos are also inclined to deny a different reality to ours.

And here is where the Who’s in the Driver’s Seat: Using Spirit to Lead Successfully concept of ego and spirit becomes critical. If the left brain person’s ego is in the driver’s seat, guess what? They will discount the amazing ideas the right brain person comes up with – the ‘not created here’ response. The right brain person, whose ego has the wheel, will switch off from the immensely important details of the left brainer – the ‘boooring’ response.

So how do my team and I build a whole brain team that does not sweat the ego stuff so that we can think, plan, communicate and interact in a way that translates into exceptional performance and great results?

1. Obtain an assessment of the team and individual’s whole brain profile – how does this team think/how do I think. (Answer the question: Is this team left brain dominant or right brain dominant or balanced and what are the implications of this?)

2. Teach the team to recognize when their ego is driving
(Answer the question: Who’s in my driver’s seat now?)

3. Teach the skill of putting the spirited self in the driver’s seat and the ego in the passenger seat. (Answer the question: Can I truly hear and actually incorporate different perspectives in my decisions?)

This brings us full circle back to what I call spirited economics. At the end of the day, we all know that business is about economics – people are working in the same organization to help the company make huge profits. Yet their brains work differently and their egos want to sabotage this goal.

You would think how difficult can it be to stop for a moment and really listen to and incorporate another perspective that may, in fact, have huge benefits to ourselves and the companies we work for? It’s not a difficult thing to do, is it? Yet we don’t do it. It’s not as if the other side of our brain has died. We have two brains, and yet we fight to maintain our own reality.

It’s the ego that gets in the way. It would seem to me that ego is the root cause of all forms of opposing and resisting forces in organizations. It makes sense then to address this root cause which will then eliminate a huge array of dysfunctional symptoms.

John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor believes that, “The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.”

The challenge is that people will not change their behavior while their ego is in the driver’s seat. Knowing how to shifting the ego into the passenger seat then becomes a critical and fundamental skill if organizations are going to be able to make and implement decisions that produce extraordinary profit. Combine this with an understanding of how to integrate the two brains – and you have one very powerful team or organization!

team building
leadership style
leadership speaker


1 comment to Creating Spirited Economics