Ever since Plato determined that opinion is no more reliable than a shadow show and that truth is universal, Western society has had a bias for the products of reason, and one against the insights of intuition. In most U.S. schools and universities, one is not considered intelligent unless one is verbally adept and can show on paper the products of one’s thought processes. In U.S. business, the well-reasoned argument and proof positive usually win out over judgment. And sometimes this is as it should be.
But there is more to intelligence than the spoken word can reveal. In the section that follows, the author points out in ” Reason cannot solve all management problems” how recent experiments have shown that the two hemispheres of the brain both process information, but in very different ways. The left hemisphere is the domain of reason, which involves the analysis of singular elements linked in a sequence. The right hemisphere works holistically, perceiving simultaneously the relations between individual parts. An intuitive insight, for instance, a composer’s “hearing” a whole symphonic movement or a poet’s “seeing” a whole poem, is the product of the right hemisphere.
The two hemispheres have different functions, but they are not discrete, and no person is “all left” or “all right.” People are, however, usually dominated by one side or the other. In the words of James McKenney and Peter Keen, in “How Managers’ Minds Work,” people have different cognitive styles.
Because intelligence is not a product of the left hemisphere only, it would seem that the emphasis on reason is misplaced. Reason cannot solve all management problems any more than intuition can. Neither, however, is adequate on its own. In the articles that follow the authors discuss what can and what cannot be rationalized in organizations and how managers can go about closing the gap between the management scientists and the management artists, the operating managers.
Did you ever wonder why some things come so easily and others seem so difficult, why sometimes you just cannot get your brain to work? Maybe the problem is not that you are stupid or tired, but that you are tackling a problem that taxes the less-developed hemisphere of your brain. Scientific research shows that the human brain is specialized, the logical, linear functions occurring in the left hemisphere, and the holistic, relational ones occurring in the right. The author of this article maintains that this finding has great implications for both the science and the art of management. For instance, in an organization, the author suggests that the top managers should have well developed right-hemispheric processes, and the planners well-developed left-hemispheric processes. Perhaps the most important conclusion he arrives at is that the Junctions and capacities of the two hemispheres should both be respected, but that one should not be confused or applied where the other is better suited.
In the folklore of the Middle East, the story is told about a man named Nasrudin, who was searching for something on the ground. A friend came by and asked, “What have you lost, Nasrudin?”
“My key,” said Nasrudin.
So the friend went down on his knees, too, and they both looked for it. After a time, the friend asked, “Where exactly did you drop it?”
“In my house,” answered Nasrudin.
“Then why are you looking here, Nasrudin ?”
“‘There is more light here than inside my house.”
This “light” little story is old and worn, yet it has some timeless, mysterious appeal, one that has much to do with the article that follows. But let me leave the str0y momentarily while I pose some questions-also simple yet mysterious-that have always puzzled me.
First: Why are some people so smart and so dull at the same time, so capable of mastering certain mental activities and so incapable of mastering others? Why is it that some of the most creative thinkers cannot comprehend a balance sheet, and that some accountants have no sense of product design? Why do some brilliant management scientists have no ability to handle organizational politics, while some of the most politically adept individuals seem unable to understand the simplest elements of management science?
Second: Why do people sometimes express such surprise when they read or learn the obvious, something they already must have known? Why is a manager so delighted, for example, when he reads a new article on decision making, every part of which must be patently obvious to him even though he had never before seen it in print?
Third: Why is there such a discrepancy in organizations, at least at the policy level, between the science and planning of management on the one hand, and managing on the other? Why have none of the techniques of planning and analysis really had much effect on how top managers function?
What I plan to do in this chapter is weave together some tentative answers to these three questions with the story of Nasrudin around a central theme namely, that of the specialization of the hemispheres of the human brain and what that specialization means for management.
Let us first try to answer the three questions by looking at what is known about the hemispheres of the brain.
Scientists-in particular, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and psychologists-have is known for a long time that the brain has two distinct hemispheres. They have known, further, that the left hemisphere controls movements on the body’s right side and that the right hemisphere controls movements on the left. What they have discovered more recently, however, is that these two hemispheres are specialized in more fundamental ways.
In the left hemisphere of most people’s brains (left-handers largely excepted) the logical thinking processes are found. It seems that the mode of operation of the brain’s left hemisphere is linear; it processes information sequentially, one bit after another, in an ordered way. Perhaps the most obvious linear faculty is language. In sharp contrast, the right hemisphere is specialized for simultaneous processing; that is, it operates in a more holistic, relational way. Perhaps its most obvious faculty is the comprehension of visual images.
Although relatively few specific mental activities have yet been associated with one hemisphere or the other, research is proceeding very quickly. For example, an article in the New York Times cites research that suggests that emotion may be a right-hemispheric function. This notion is based on the finding that victims of right-hemispheric strokes are often comparatively untroubled about their incapacity, while those with strokes of the left hemisphere often suffer profound mental anguish.
What does this specialization of the brain mean for the way people function? Speech, being linear, is a left-hemispheric activity, but other forms of human communication, such as gesturing, are relational rather than sequential and tend to be associated with the right hemisphere. Imagine what would happen if the two sides of a human brain were detached so that, for example, in reacting to a stimulus, a person’s words would be separate from his gestures. In other words, the person would have two separate brains-one specialized for verbal communication, and the other for gestures-that would react to the same stimulus.
This “imagining,” in fact, describes how the main breakthrough in the research on the human brain took place. In trying to treat certain cases of epilepsy, neurosurgeons found that by severing the corpus callosum, which joins the two hemispheres of the brain, they could “split the brain,” isolating epilepsy. A number of experiments run on these “split-brain,, patients produced some fascinating results.
In one experiment doctors showed a woman epileptic’s right hemisphere a photograph of a nude woman. (This is done by showing it to the left half of each eye.) The patient said she saw nothing, but almost simultaneously blushed and seemed confused and uncomfortable. Her “conscious” left hemisphere, including her verbal apparatus, was aware only that something had happened to her body, but not of what had caused the emotional turmoil. Only her “unconscious” right hemisphere knew. Here neurosurgeons observed a clear split between the two independent consciousnesses that are normally in communication and collaboration.
Now scientists have further found that some common human tasks activate one side of the brain while leaving the other largely at rest. For example, a person’s learning a mathematical proof might evoke activity in the left hemi sphere of his brain, while his conceiving a piece of sculpture or assessing a political opponent might evoke activity in his right.
So now we seem to have the answer to the first question. An individual can be smart and dull at the same time simply because one side of his or her brain is more developed than the other. Some people-probably most lawyers, accountants, and planners-have better developed left-hemispheric thinking processes, while others-artists, sculptors, and perhaps politicians-have better developed right-hemispheric processes. Thus, an artist may be incapable of expressing his feelings in words, while a lawyer may have no facility for painting. Or a politician may not be able to learn mathematics, while a management scientist may constantly be manipulated in political situations.
Eye movement is apparently a convenient indicator of hemispheric development. When asked to count the letters in a complex word such as Mississippi in their heads, most people will gaze off to the side opposite their most developed hemisphere. (Be careful of lefties, however.) But if the question is a specialized one-for example, if it is emotionally laden, spatial, or purely mathematical the number of people gazing one way or another will change substantially.
A number of word opposites have been proposed to distinguish the two hemispheric modes of “consciousness,” for example: explicit versus implicit; verbal versus spatial; argument versus experience; intellectual versus intuitive; and analytic versus gestalt.
I should interject at this point that these words, as well as much of the evidence for these conclusions, can be found in the remarkable book entitled The Psychology of Consciousness, by Robert Ornstein, a research psychologist in California. Ornstein uses the story of Nasrudin to further the points he is making. Specifically, he refers to the linear left hemisphere as synonymous with lightness, with thought processes that we know in an explicit sense. We can articulate them. He associates the right hemisphere with darkness, with thought processes that are mysterious to us, at least “us” in the Western world.
Ornstein also points out how the “esoteric psychologies” of the East (Zen, yoga, Sufism, and so on) have focused on right-hemispheric consciousness (for example, altering pulse rate through meditation). In sharp contrast, Western psychology has been concerned almost exclusively with left-hemispheric consciousness, with logical thought. Ornstein suggests that we might find an important key to human consciousness in the right hemisphere, in what to use in the West in the darkness. To quote him:
Since these experiences [transcendence of time, control of the nervous system, paranormal communication, and so on] are, by their very mode of operation, not readily accessible to causal explanation or even to linguistic exploration, many have been tempted to ignore them or even to deny their existence. These traditional psychologies have been relegated to the “esoteric” or the “occult,” the realm of the mysterious-the word most often employed is “mysticism.” It is a taboo area of inquiry, which has been symbolized by the Dark, the Left side [the right hemisphere] of ourselves, the Night.
Now, reflect on this for a moment. (Should I say meditate?) There is a set of thought processes-linear, sequential, analytical-that scientists as well as the rest of us know a lot about. And there is another set-simultaneous, relational, holistic-that we know little about. More importantly, here we do not “know” what we “know” or, more exactly, our left hemispheres cannot articulate explicitly what our right hemispheres know implicitly.
So here is, seemingly, the answer to the second question as well. The feeling of revelation about learning the obvious can be explained with the suggestion that the “obvious” knowledge was implicit, apparently restricted to the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere never “knew.” Thus, it seems to be a revelation to the left hemisphere when it learns explicitly what the right hemisphere knew all along implicitly.
Now only the third question-the discrepancy between planning and managing remains.
By now, it should be obvious where my discussion is leading (obvious, at least, to the reader’s right hemisphere and, now that I write it, to the reader’s left hemisphere as well). It may be that management researchers have been looking for the key to management in the lightness of logical analysis whereas perhaps it has always been lost in the darkness of intuition.
Specifically, I propose that there may be a fundamental difference between formal planning and informal managing, a difference akin to that between the two hemispheres of the human brain. The techniques of planning and management science are sequential and systematic; above all, articulated. Planners and management scientists are expected to proceed in their work through a series of logical, ordered steps, each one involving explicit analysis. (The argument that the successful application of these techniques requires considerable intuition does not really change my point. The occurrence of intuition simply means that the analyst is departing from his science, as it is articulated, and is behaving more like a manager.)
Formal planning, then, seems to use processes akin to those identified with the brain’s left hemisphere. Furthermore, planners and management scientists seem to revel in a systematic, well-ordered world, and many show little appreciation for the more relational, holistic processes.
What about managing? More exactly, what about the processes used by top managers? (Let me emphasize here that I am focusing this discussion at the policy level of organizations, where I believe the dichotomy between planning and managing is most sharp.) Managers plan in some ways, too (that is, they think ahead), and they engage in their share of logical analysis. But I believe there is more than that to the effective managing of an organization. I hypothesize, therefore, that the important policy processes of managing an organization rely to a considerable extent on the faculties identified with the brain’s right hemisphere. Effective managers seem to revel in ambiguity; in complex, mysterious systems with relatively little order.
If true, this hypothesis would answer the third question about the discrepancy between planning and managing. It would help to explain why each of the new analytic techniques of planning and analysis has, one after the other, had so little success at the policy level. PPBS, strategic planning, “management” (or “total”) information systems, and models of the company-all have been greeted with great enthusiasm; then, in many instances, a few years later have been quietly ushered out the corporate back door. Apparently, none served the needs of decision-making at the policy level in organizations; at that level, other processes may function better.
Managing from the Right Hemisphere
Because research has so far told us little about the right hemisphere, I cannot support with evidence my claim that a key to managing lies there. I can only present to the reader a “feel” for the situation, not a reading of concrete data. A number of findings from my own research on policy-level processes do, however, suggest that they possess characteristics of right-hemispheric thinking.
One fact recurs repeatedly in all of this research: the key marntgecia processes are enormously complex and mysterious (to me as a researcher, as well as to the managers who carry them out), drawing on the vaguest of information and using the least articulated of mental processes. These processes seem to be more relational and holistic than ordered and sequential, and more intuitive than intellectual; they seem to be most characteristic of right-hemispheric activity.
Here are ten general findings:
1. The five chief executives I observed strongly favored the verbal media of communication, especially meetings, over the written forms, namely reading and writing. (The same result has been found in virtually every study of managers, no matter what their level in the organization or the function they supervised.) Of course, verbal communication is linear, too, but it is more than that. Managers seem to favor it for two fundamental reasons that suggest a relational mode of operation.
First, verbal communication enables the manager to “read” facial expressions, tones of voice, and gestures. As I mentioned earlier, these stimuli seem to be processed in the right hemisphere of the brain. Second, and perhaps more important, verbal communication enables the manager to engage in the “real time” exchange of information. Managers’ concentration on the verbal media, therefore, suggests that they desire relational, simultaneous methods of acquir ing information, rather than the ordered and sequential ones.
2. In addition to noting the media managers use, it is interesting to look at the content of managers’ information, and at what they do with it. The evidence here is that a great deal of the manager’s · inputs is soft and speculative impressions and feelings about other people, hearsay, gossip, and so on. Furthermore, the very analytical inputs- reports, documents, and hard data in general-seem to be of relatively little importance to many managers. (After a steady diet of soft information, one chief executive came across the first piece of hard data he had seen all week-an accounting report-and put it aside with the comment, “I never look at this.”)
What can managers do with this soft, speculative information? They “synthesize” rather than “analyze” it, I should think. (How do you analyze the mood of a friend or the grimace someone makes in response to a suggestion?) A great deal of this information helps the manager understand implicitly his organization and its environment, to “see the big picture.” This very expression, so common in management, implies a relational, holistic use of information. In effect, managers (like everyone else) use their information to build mental “models” of their world, which are implicit synthesized apprehensions of how their organizations and environments function. Then, whenever an action is contemplated, the manager can simulate the outcome using his implicit models.
There can be little doubt that this kind of activity goes on all the time in the world of management. A number of words managers commonly use suggest this kind of mental process. For example, the word hunch seems to refer to the thought that results from such an implicit simulation. “I don’t know why, but I have a hunch that if we do x, then they will respond with y.” Managers also use the word judgment to refer to thought processes that work but are unknown to them. Judgment seems to be the word that the verbal intellect has given to the thought processes that it cannot articulate. Maybe ”he has good judgment” simply means ”he has good right-hemispheric models.”
3. Another consequence of the verbal nature of the manager’s information is of interest here. The manager tends to be the best-informed member of his organization, but he has difficulty disseminating his information to his employees. Therefore, when a manager overloaded with work finds a new task that needs doing, he faces a dilemma: he must either delegate the task without the background information or simply do the task himself, neither of which is satisfactory.
When I first encountered this dilemma of delegation, I described it in terms of time and of the nature of the manager’s information; because so much of a manager’s information is verbal (and stored in his head), the dissemination of it consumes much of his time. But now the split-brain research suggests that a second, perhaps more significant, reason for the dilemma of delegation exists. The manager may simply be incapable of disseminating some relevant information because it is removed from his verbal consciousness. (This suggests that we might need a kind of managerial psychoanalyst to coax it out of him!)
4. Earlier in this chapter I wrote that managers revel in ambiguity, in complex, mysterious systems without much order. Let us look at evidence of this. What I have discussed so far about the manager’s use of information suggests that their work is geared to action, not reflection. We see further evidence for this in the pace of their work (“Breaks are rare. It’s one damn thing after another”); the brevity of their activities (half of the chief executives’ activities I observed were completed in less than 9 minutes); the variety of their activities (the chief executives had no evident patterns in their workdays); the fact that they actively exhibit a preference for the interruption in their work (stopping meetings, leaving their doors open); and the lack of routine in their work (only 7% of 368 verbal contacts I observed were regularly scheduled, only 1% dealt with a general issue that was in any way related to general planning). Clearly, the manager does not operate in a systematic, orderly, and intellectual way, puffing his pipe up in a mountain retreat, as he analyzes his problems. Rather, he deals with issues in the context of daily activities-the cigarette in his mouth, one hand on the telephone, and the other shaking hands with a departing guest. The manager is involved, plugged in; his mode of operating is relational, simultaneous, experiential-that is, encompassing all the character is tics of the right hemisphere.
5. If the most important managerial roles of the ten described in the research were to be isolated, leader, liaison, and disturbance handler would certainly be among them. (The other seven are figurehead, monitor, disseminator, spokesman, negotiator, entrepreneur, and resource allocator, and the last two are also among the most important roles.) Yet these three are the roles least “known” about. Leader describes how the manager deals with his own employees. It is ironic that despite an immense amount of research, managers and researchers still know virtually nothing about the essence of leadership, about why some people follow and others lead. Leadership remains mysterious chemistry; catchall words such as charisma proclaim our ignorance.
In the liaison role, the manager builds up a network of outside contacts, which serve as his or her personal information system. Again, the activities of this role remain almost completely outside the realm of articulated knowledge. And as a disturbance handler, the manager handles problems and crises in his organization. Here again, despite extensive literature on analytical decision making, virtually nothing is written about decision making under pressure. These activities remain outside the realm of management science, inside the realm of intuition and experience.
6. Let us turn now to strategic decision-making processes. There are seven “routines” that seem to describe the steps involved in such decision-making. These are recognition, diagnosis, search, design, screening, evaluation/choice, and authorization. Two of these routines stand out above the rest-the diagnosis of decision situations and the design of custom-made solutions-in that almost nothing is known of them. Yet these two stand out for another reason as well: they are probably the most important of the seven. In particular, the diagnosis seems to be the crucial step in strategic decision making, for it is in that routine that the whole course of decision-making is set.
It is a surprising fact, therefore, that diagnosis goes virtually without mention in the literature of planning or management science. (Almost all of the later literature deals with the formal evaluation of given alternatives, yet this is often a kind of trimming on the process, insignificant in terms of determining actual outcomes.) In the study of the decision processes themselves, the managers making the decisions mentioned taking an explicit diagnostic step in only 14 of the 25 decision processes. But all the managers must have made some diagnosis; it is difficult to imagine a decision-making process with no diagnosis at all, no assessment of the situation. The question is, therefore, where did diagnosis take place?
7. Another point that emerges from studying strategic decision-making processes is the existence and profound influence of what can be called dynamic factors. Strategic decision-making processes are stopped by interruptions, delayed and speeded up by timing factors, and forced repeatedly to branch and cycle. These processes are, therefore, dynamic ones of importance. Yet it is the dynamic factors that the ordered, sequential techniques of analysis are least able to handle. Thus, despite their importance, the dynamic factors go virtually without mention in the literature of management science.
Let’s look at timing, for example. It is evident that timing is crucial in virtually everything the manager does. No manager takes action without considering the effect of moving more or less quickly, of seizing the initiative, or of delaying to avoid complications. Yet in one review of the literature of management, the authors found fewer than 10 books in 183 that refer directly to the subject of timing.’ Essentially, managers are left on their own to deal with the dynamic factors, which involve simultaneous, relational modes of thinking.
8. When managers do have to make serious choices from among options, how do they in fact make them? Three fundamental modes of selection can be distinguished-analysis, judgment, and bargaining. The first involves the systematic evaluation of options in terms of their consequences on stated organizational goals; the second is a process in the mind of a single decision-maker, and the third involves negotiations between different decision-makers.
One of the most surprising facts about how managers made the 25 strategic decisions studied is that so few reported using explicit analysis; only in 18 out of 83 choices made did managers mention using it. There was considerable bargaining, but in general, the selection mode most commonly used was judgment. Typically, the options and all kinds of data associated with them were pumped into the mind of a manager, and somehow a choice later came out. How was never explained? How is never explained in any of the literature either? Yehezkel Dror, a leading figure in the study of public policymaking, is one of the few thinkers to face the issue squarely. He writes:
Experienced policymakers, who usually explain their own decisions largely in terms of subconscious processes such as “intuition” and “judgment,” unanimously agree, and even emphasize, that extrarational processes play a positive and essential role in policymaking. Observations of policymaking behavior in both small and large systems, indeed, all available descriptions of decisional behavior, especially that of leaders such as Bismarck, Churchill, DeGaulle, and Kennedy, seem to confirm that policy makers’ opinion.
9. Finally, in the area of strategy formulation, I can offer only a “feel” for the results since my research is still in progress. However, some ideas have emerged. Strategy formulation does not turn out to be the regular, continuous, systematic process depicted in so much of the planning literature. It is most often an irregular, discontinuous process, proceeding in fits and starts. There are periods of stability in strategy development, but also there are periods of flux, groping, piecemeal change, and of global change. To my mind, a “strategy” represents the mediating force between a dynamic environment and a stable operating system. Strategy is the organization’s “conception” of how to deal with its environment for a while.
Now, the environment does not change in any set pattern. For example, the environment does not run on planners’ five-year schedules; it may be stable for thirteen years, and then suddenly blow all to hell in the fourteenth. And even if change were steady, the human brain does not generally perceive it that way. People tend to underreact to mild stimuli and overreact to strong ones. It stands to reason, therefore, that strategies that mediate between environments and organizational operations do not change in regular patterns, but rather, as I observed earlier, in fits and starts.
How does strategic planning account for fits and starts? The fact is that it does not (as planners were made so painfully aware of during the energy crisis). So again, the burden to cope falls on the manager, specifically on his mental processes-intuitional and experiential-that can deal with the irregular inputs from the environment.
10. Let me probe more deeply into the concept of strategy. Consider the organization that has no strategy, no way to deal consistently with its environment; it simply reacts to each new pressure as it comes along. This is typical behavior for an organization in a very difficult situation, where the old strategy has broken down beyond repair but no new strategy has yet emerged. Now, if the organization wishes to formulate a new strategy, how does it do so (assuming that the environment has stabilized sufficiently to allow a new strategy to be formulated)?
Let me suggest two ways (based on still tentative results). If the organization goes the route of systematic planning, I suggest that it will probably come up with what can be called a “main-line” strategy. In effect, it will do what is generally expected of organizations in its situation; where possible, for example, it will copy the established strategies of other organizations. If it is in the automobile business, for instance, it might use the basic General Motors strategy, as Chrysler and Ford have so repeatedly done.
Alternatively, if the organization wishes to have a creative, integrated strategy which can be called a “gestalt strategy,” such as Volkswagen’s strategy in the 1950s, then I suggest the organization will rely largely on one individual to conceptualize its strategy, to synthesize a “vision” of how the organization will respond to its environment. In other words, scratch an interesting strategy, and you will probably find a single strategy formulator beneath it. Creative, integrated strategies seem to be the products of single brains, perhaps of single right hemispheres.
A strategy can be made explicit, can be announced as what the organization intends to do in the future, only when the vision is fully worked out if it ever is. Often, of course, it is never felt to be fully worked out, hence the strategy is never made explicit and remains the private vision of the chief executive. (Of course, in some situations the formulator need not be the manager. There is no reason why a manager cannot have a creative right-hand man-really a left hand man-who works out his gestalt strategy for him, and then articulates it to him.) No management process is more demanding of holistic, relational, gestalt thinking than the formulation of a creative, integrated strategy to deal with a complex, intertwined environment.
How can sequential analysis (under the label strategic planning) possibly lead to a gestalt strategy?
Another “famous old story” has relevance here. It is the one about blind men trying to identify an elephant by touch. One grabs the trunk and says the elephant is long and soft; another holds the leg and says it is massive and cylindrical; a third touches the skin and says it is rough and scaly. What the story points out is that each person standing at one part of the elephant can make his own limited, analytic assessment of the situation, but we do not obtain an elephant by adding “scaly,” “long and soft,” “massive and cylindrical” together in any conceivable proportion. Without the development of an overall perspective, we remain lost in our individual investigations. Such a perspective is a province of another mode of knowledge, and cannot be achieved in the same way that individual parts are explored. It does not arise out of a linear sum of independent observations.
What can we conclude from these ten findings? I must first reemphasize that everything I wrote about the two hemispheres of the brain falls into the realm of speculation. Researchers have yet to formally relate any management process to the functioning of the human brain. Nevertheless, the ten points do seem to support the hypothesis stated earlier: the important policy-level processes required to manage an organization relies to a considerable extent on the faculties identified with the brain’s right hemisphere.
This conclusion does not imply that the left hemisphere is unimportant for policymakers. I have overstated my case here to emphasize the importance of the right. The faculties identified with the left hemisphere are obviously important as well for effective management. Every manager engages in the considerable explicit calculation when he or she acts, and all intuitive thinking must be translated into the linear order of the left if it is to be articulated and eventually put to use. The great powers that appear to be associated with the right hemisphere are obviously useless without the faculties of the left. The artist can create without verbalizing; the manager cannot.
Truly outstanding managers are no doubt the ones who can couple effective right-hemispheric processes (hunch, judgment, synthesis, and so on) with effective processes of the left (articulateness, logic, analysis, and so on). But there will be little headway in the field of management if managers and researchers continue to search for the key to managing in the lightness of ordered analysis. Too much will stay unexplained in the darkness of intuition. Before I go on to discuss the implications for management science and planning, I want to stress again that throughout this article I have been focusing on processes that managers employ at the policy level of the organization. It seems that the faculties identified with the right-hemispheric activities are most important in the higher levels of an organization, at least in those with “top down” policy-making systems.
In a sense, the coupling of the holistic and the sequential reflects how bureaucratic organizations themselves work. The policymaker conceives the strategy in holistic terms, and the rest of the hierarchy-the functional departments, branches, and shops-implement it in sequence. Whereas the right-hemispheric faculties may be more important at the top of an organization, the left-hemispheric ones may dominate lower down.
Implications for the Left Hemisphere
Let us return to practical reality for a final word. What does all I’ve discussed mean for those associated with management?
FOR PLANNERS AND MANAGEMENT SCIENTISTS
No, I do not suggest that planners and management scientists pack up their bags of techniques and leave the field of management, or that they take up basket weaving or meditation in their spare time. (I haven’t-at least not yet!) It seems to me that the left hemisphere is alive and well; the analytic community is firmly established, and indispensable, at the operating and middle levels of most organizations. Its real problems occur at the policy level. Here analysis must coexist with perhaps even take its lead from intuition, a fact that many analysts and planners have been slow to accept. To my mind, organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrow-minded concept called “rationality”; it lies in a blend of clear-headed logic and powerful intuition. Let me illustrate this with two points.
□ First, only under special circumstances should planners try to plan. When an organization is in a stable environment and has no use for a very creative strategy-the telephone industry may be the best example-then the development of formal, systematic strategic plans (and main-line strategies) may be in order. But when the environment is unstable or the organization needs a creative strategy, then strategic planning may not be the best approach to strategy formulation, and planners have no business pushing the organization to use it.
□ Second, effective decision-making at the policy level requires good analytical input; it is the job of the planner and management scientist to ensure that top management gets it. Managers are very effective at securing soft information, but they tend to underemphasize analytical input that is often important as well. The planners and management scientists can serve their organizations effectively by carrying out ad hoc analyses and feeding the results to top management (need I say verbally?), ensuring that the very best of analysis is brought to bear on policymaking. But at the same time, planners need to recognize that these inputs cannot be the only ones used in policymaking, that soft information is crucial as well.
FOR THE TEACHER OF MANAGERS
If the suggestions in this article turn out to be valid, then educators had better revise drastically some of their notions about management education, because the revolution in that sphere over the last fifteen years-while it has brought so much of use-has virtually consecrated the modern management school to the worship of the left hemisphere.
Should educators be surprised that so many of their graduates end up in staff positions, with no intention of ever managing anything? Some of the best known management schools have become virtual closed systems in which professors with little interest in the reality of organizational life teach inexperienced students the theories of mathematics, economics, and psychology as ends in themselves. In these management schools, management is accorded a little place.
I am not preaching a return to the management school of the 1950s. That age of fuzzy thinking has passed, thankfully. Rather, I am calling for a new balance in our schools, the balance that the best of human brains can achieve, between the analytic and the intuitive. In particular, greater use should be made of the powerful new skill-development techniques that are experiential and creative in nature, such as role-playing, the use of videotape, behavior laboratories, and so on. Educators need to put students into situations, whether in the field or in the simulated experience of the laboratory, where they can practice managerial skills, not only interpersonal but also informational and decisional. Then specialists would follow up with feedback on the students’ behavior and performance.
The first conclusion for managers should be a call for caution. The findings of the cognitive psychologists should not be taken as a license to shroud activities in darkness. The mystification of conscious behavior is a favorite ploy of those seeking to protect a power base (or to hide their intentions of creating one); this behavior helps no organization, and neither does forcing to the realm of intuition activities that can be handled effectively by analysis.
A major thrust of development in our organizations, ever since Frederick Taylor began experimenting in factories late in the last century, has been to shift activities out of the realm of intuition, toward conscious analysis. That trend will continue. But managers, and those who work with them, need to be careful to distinguish that which is best handled analytically from that which must remain in the realm of intuition, where, in the meantime, we should be looking for the lost keys to management.
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