Dan Schmidt tweeted a question this weekend about the challenges of introducing financial, accounting, and other analytical people (sometimes called “left brained”) into strategic thinking sessions. Dan’s comment was analytical people tend to naturally violate some of the basic strategic thinking behaviors we identified in an earlier Brainzooming article.

I responded that analytical people definitely have a role in strategic thinking. They can be tremendously valuable contributors. The key, as with ANY person involved in a group strategic thinking exercise, is to find the right role for each person to allow them to maximize their contributions.

5 Strategic Thinking Roles for Left Brained People

With a left brained / quantitative / analytical person, what are some of the best opportunities to make them strategic thinking rock stars?

Here are five roles in which these folks shine on strategic thinking teams:

1. Involve analytical people upfront to shape a strategy thinking process

Take advantage of an orientation toward narrowing and decision making to have left brained thinkers help shape the analytical, target setting, and prioritization steps in a strategic thinking process.

2. Uncover the math and music people

Even if you can’t spot them beforehand, once you have a team assembled for strategic thinking, identify the people who have strengths in both quantitative and musical areas (or “math and music people” as I call  them). These folks are out there, and they bring a great mixture of number and creativity to any strategic thinking effort.

3. Create roles designed for quantitative people to excel (no pun intended)

We’ve had incredible contributions from analytically-oriented people when we’ve asked them to track the cumulative impact of revenue-generating ideas, perform on-the-spot analysis, and facilitate prioritization exercises. The key is taking advantage of all the talents you have on a team.

4. Intersperse analytical people across small groups

Manage your team members and their talents so that both an overall group and any smaller groups you create have a productive balance of people. Put the people together who are more comfortable with blue sky thinking and those more comfortable with determining whether new ideas will put you in the red or black. You will appreciate the results.

5. Encourage number crunchers to stretch out and have some fun

You might be surprised at how many people who appear very numbers focused are creative talents just waiting to emerge. The only thing they lack is someone to give them the permission to let their inner creative spirits run wild. Give them permission and stand back.

Have new hope for using left brained people for creative thinking?

Don’t ever let a great thinker go to waste. If someone is smart and motivated, there’s ALWAYS a role they can play to contribute to stronger strategic thinking in your organization. You simply need to create the right spot to let them go to town. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5 Responses to “Strategic Thinking – Damn Right, Left Brained People Have a Creative Thinking Role”

  1. The right people, the right places, the right timing, the right work. Challenging to pull off — and this might require a good deal of experimentation. Then again, I imagine that you’ve done a lot of experimenting with this process over time?

    • Mike Brown says:

      Definitely a lot of experimenting, Stephen. Yet it’s interesting that I could point to specific sessions and moments where pivotal insights took place, particularly relative to how quantitative-oriented people can best contribute. One of the first sessions we did in the corporate world was where we discovered the value of having a finance person in the room to help call B.S. on over-optimistic numbers. We’ve taken that insight with us through hundreds of sessions since.

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Thanks Woody! And I really appreciate you adding the list of math and music people. It’s nice to have additional specific examples . . . and we still have to get together and play some music some time. Although I’m VERY rusty; just hope the Telecaster isn’t rusty!


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