Don’t be outsourced – How the right-brain can make you invaluable (Part 1)

Common: Having your position or skill-set jeopardized by cheaper, sub-contracting options.  (Ouch.)

Uncommon: Not long ago, a billboard in Silicon Valley read: “1,000,000 people can do your job.  What makes you so special?”

This is a reality we all face, but one many of us shroud in denial.  However, if you don’t have an answer to the question posed above, you are living on thin ice.  It’s time to swallow the red pill and confront reality.

Regardless of our goals, some form of employment (be it self-employed or not) is critical for sustaining a quality lifestyle.  It’s no wonder why so many people are nervous about their future. Unfortunately, unemployment continues to be a serious issue and many of us are hoping for things to change.  Well, change is coming, but perhaps not in the way we anticipate.  We will not emerge from this economical downturn in an ever “stable” job environment.

The mentality of, “I have a degree and a lot of work experience, so I have job security” is not only brash, but ignorant.  In the past, a college degree and trade-skills were viewed as a form of currency.  Now, however, as basic education expands and improves worldwide, more and more people are qualified to competently perform the majority of jobs available – and this emerging labor force is not only growing but it is crossing borders as well.

Outsourcing, off-shoring, and subcontracting are inevitable trends that are becoming more and more prevalent.  Like many market shifts, there are both positive and negative effects.  But I feel much of the negative press surrounding outsourcing stems from those who would rather complain than adjust.   It’s time to stop whining and begin preparing for a new economic landscape.

The “right” skills:

As important as analytical and mechanical skill-sets are, they are also most easily outsourced because they are most easily defined, taught, and learned. Conventional education thrives in delivering these types of skills (hence the number of college-educated individuals struggling to get a job).  The result is an increase in competition and delegation to the lowest bidder (and I assume you’d rather not compete for minimum wage).

“What then, is required to survive and thrive in this emerging job market?”  Very good question – so important in fact, that your career or livelihood, may depend on it.

If analytical and mechanical skill-sets are primarily left-brain skills then it makes sense to examine the increasing importance of right-brain skills…

The future belongs to those who learn and master more right-brain abstract skills-sets such as creativity, problem solving, resourcefulness, communication, leadership, and relationship building – this is the repertoire of the new-age “artist.”

Previously I wrote about the new currency of imagination, whereby our future global economy and well-being will rely heavily upon ideas and creativity to solve the many problems we have created while also making life a more pleasing experience.  In order for this to happen, we must flex our right-brain capabilities.

We are shifting from a linear and highly structured age, to a more abstract era – one which demands the esoteric characteristics of our top-right gray-matter – an era where recognizing, understanding, and shaping concepts, trends, and the interconnectedness of the “big picture” serve a profound function.


The development of such aptitudes relies more on an innovative and unconventional self-directed education, which is counter to the familiar and rigid environments we commonly associate to learning (the conventional classroom, for example); hence the following suggestions.

7 ways tostrengthen your right-brain skills:

1. Recognize “art.”We are surrounded by remnants of imagination and innovation.  It may exist in the form of advertising, architecture, physical/material things, products, services, culture, etc.  Noticing displays of creativity engages our mind and encourages the application of a new creative outlook. Remember, the world is no more interesting or dull than you are.  View yourself as a consultant seeking ways to improve the image, style, brand, and function of what you see and use each day.  What would you change?  Why?  How?

2. Explore contrarian perspectives (those that differ from your own framework of the world) and make a conscious effort to understand them.  Our mind persists in portraying a rather myopic and stubborn view of reality by seeking data that reinforces existing beliefs.  However, the uber-creative continuously test their own quirky hypotheses and relentlessly question personal and societal assumptions with contrasting information in an effort to better understand, predict, empathize, and connect. Some of the most innovative ideas are birthed at the convergence of opposing concepts and perspectives.

3. Comingle with right-brainers. Seek those who demonstrate strong communication, problem-solving, leadership, conceptual, and EQ, skills.  Even if you cannot meet with someone in person, turn to alternative sources of information and make a study of your desired characteristic/s.  Observe, question, and then experiment with your discoveries.

4. Challenge your natural tendencies. Subconsciously, we strive for the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, this eventually leads us to a creative and/or performance plateau.  In general, a good exercise in mental dexterity is challenging our urge for behavioral comfort. If you are right handed, brush your teeth with your left hand.  If you snowboard with your right foot forward, try the opposite.  Read and write backwards (a DaVinci favorite).  If you often rely most on data and facts, experiment with instinct, intuition, and empathy.

5. Ask “Why?” and “Why not?” Our perspectives are often changed quickest by asking different questions of ourselves.  These two preceding questions help us understand both the contextual and the conceptual – elements critical for innovation, leadership, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence.

6. Interrupt routines that have become mindless or habitual. What actions have become subconscious behaviors?  Perhaps you take the same route to school or work each day, eat the same breakfast, react to challenges in the same way, ask yourself the same pensive questions. (Meticulously tracking your activity for 3 consecutive days is often the best way to identify mindless routine.) Ask yourself, “Is this the best way to see my objective through?” “What opportunities might I be overlooking?”

7. Participate in new forms of art. Many of the skills mentioned earlier in this article draw from the same type of abstract thinking that occurs when performing commonly known forms of art.  Attend an art show, join an art or drama class.  Learn a new language or a new musical instrument.  Sometimes using the mind in a different way (painting, drawing, singing, acting etc.) is enough to flip the creative switch to “on.”

Notice how many extraordinary “artists” are also renaissance-types, demonstrating a myriad of creative aptitudes. Creativity is a synergistic phenomenon that gains momentum and vigor as it’s beckoned.


The “right” approach:

The above exercises are intended to stimulate activity in the right-brain.  Admittedly, some may seem curiously irrelevant.  But when considering the abstract nature of the right-brain, it becomes easier to understand the numerous potential unexpected, serendipitous effects that can transpire.

In this article I reference “art” several times in ways that suggest a broader definition of the word.   I believe the era of “knowledge workers” is being replaced by the rise of the creative class – individuals who think more akin to “artists.”  Knowledge workers will always be needed, but creative workers will occupy the director’s chair.

In some form, we are all producers of art and duly need to view both our “approach” to work and our “output” accordingly.  In an age where creativity is an ascending currency, those who view the world through the eyes of an artist and flex their right-brain skill-sets, will have a clear advantage over those who do not.

“Thinking remains indispensable.  It’s just no longer sufficient. In the Conceptual Age, what we need instead is a whole new mind.” – Dan Pink

Your thoughts?

How do you feel about the emerging “creative economy”?  What do you do stimulate your creativity?  Please take a moment to post your comments below.

COMING SOON: Don’t forget to check back for Part 2: 10 ways to become indispensable or you can sign up here.

Stay uncommon,

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