There is a notion that people tend to fall into two groups. Those described as left-brain dominant tend to be logical, analytical, and objective. Those described as right-brain dominant are likely to be intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.
The stereotype is that our left brains and right brains are constantly at odds – that hyper-structured programmers and free-spirited salespeople will never see eye to eye.
At the end of the day, however, it’s not about whose approach is right or wrong – whether it’s more important to spend the day crunching numbers or casually talking with customers. The fact is that your organization needs both – your whole brain– in order to work. This balance is crucial for maintaining structure and pursuing innovation.
It’s up to your company’s managers to bring out the best in your team. Harness the following tactics to position your team as a super-brain, a whole greater than the sum of its parts:
Creative brains tackle problems differently from analytical brains. Engineers and data analysts, for instance, will likely jump straight into the numbers, while artists, writers, and many marketers may take a walk outside or call up a customer “for inspiration.” It’s easy to judge one another’s efforts as “inefficient” or a “waste of time.”
That’s why it’s so important for team members to share insights and findings. Learn from one another so that the numbers can tell an even stronger business story.
Organizations can promote cross-functional dialogue by appointing leaders from disparate design, engineering, and technology groups. Cross-functional team leaders can be staffed to every project. That way, varying perspectives will be integrated into one unified project goal.
Lunch-and-learn sessions can also keep collaboration strong. Have your company’s designers, engineers, and business analytics share insight into the value that they bring to your organization. Left-brained and right-brained individuals will be empowered to learn how the smartest people in both groups think.
Team members know their strengths best. While analytical minds crave structure, creative minds demand freedom. Prioritize one work style, and your workplace culture will instantly stifle the other. Managers should develop systems that support both types of workers. Team meetings can provide a forum for creatives to express themselves. A workflow tool like Asana or Basecamp can help keep employees structured and on track.
Managers at your organization have one core responsibility – to empower their teams. Give your employees a high level of trust. Ask them to communicate needs from the bottom-up rather than the top-down. Encourage managers to listen more than they give orders.
A key step is for organizations to set clear and cohesive goals. It’s a manager’s role to communicate what goals are, but it’s the employee’s responsibility to determine the how. Give employees the freedom to develop their own solutions and to come to managers for added help. Those who crave structure will seek it out, and those who need freedom will appreciate the space.
When staffing team members to projects, look beyond your company’s need to meet numbers or headcount. Focus on what employees like to do and what inspires them. Don’t pigeonhole your graphic designer in a last-minute data collection project, for instance – chances are you’re better off just bringing in a temp.
Match people to roles and initiatives based on their natural strengths and interests. It sounds simple enough – put people in situations where they are likely to shine. Inspire your teammates to do their best work by doing what they love.
Annual performance reviews provide opportunities for organizations to learn about their employees. In addition to providing feedback, ask questions – what do your strong performers hope to accomplish with their careers? What new opportunities do they see for you organization? What challenges and inspires them?
It’s easy to categorize your employees in buckets, but don’t be fooled. Some of your most creative strategists will make great data analysts – after all, big data is just as much about subjectivity and storytelling as it is about mathematical best practices. Some of your best sales managers will thrive on logic, order and structure.
The best teams harness a blend of both logical and creative thinking styles – make sure that employees can embrace who they are.
USE YOUR BRAIN, BUT DON’T OVERTHINK IT
Go with the flow. Team identities will form naturally. Just give people the space and resources to shine. At the end of the day, opposites will naturally gravitate towards – and learn – from one another. Be an organization that values all styles of brilliance.