About fourteen years ago former White House speechwriter Daniel Pink, in his bestselling book A Whole New Mind, challenged the traditional belief that individuals who were highly L-directed or left-brain thinking people, those seen as more analytical and sequential thinkers, would continue to be society’s most valuable contributors.
Pink focused his book and analysis on three critical emerging trends in social-economic influence: abundance, Asia, and automation. He stated that these three areas would drive the need for new patterns of thinking, modes of thought that were more readily associated with R-directed or right-brain thinking people. According to Pink “the future belongs to a very different kind of person—a person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big-picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”
Fast forward to today because of the unprecedented pace of change and market volatility, as rightfully predicted by Pink, winning in a connected economy will require “a very different kind of mind.” Facing the continuous threat of digital disruption and cost-effectively meeting the demands of servicing individual customers at scale forces companies to think and operate differently. Competing successfully in a digital economy requires companies to think and function customer-centric while conducting their business as part of a larger interdependent ecosystem. Companies must embrace new thinking and new business models to fully capitalize on today’s technologies, or risk falling further behind.
Customer knowledge is the new valued currency and the competitive differentiator. Product features are less distinguishable, and clients are responding less favorably to a product-led narrative. The potential influence a seller has with a potential buyer only improves when the seller can communicate and demonstrate customer understanding and empathy. To achieve that goal companies must focus less on the features of their products and more on the needs of their clients. They must concentrate on the business outcomes their things deliver and not on the product attributes of the things they make or sell. Applying a customer-first mindset to daily work ensures a company is placing the right focus on the desired outcomes of the customers they serve.
Successful companies help their clients “connect the dots” between the things they make or sell and the value they deliver to business outcomes and individual customer needs. Companies diligently operating by this principle are far better positioned to connect these dots by acquiring improved customer understanding. That improved customer knowledge can be leveraged into new ways of thinking to service newly identified unmet customer needs, including the delivery of new business models to gain competitive advantage.
Are the right-brainers going to rule the future as predicted by Pink? Only time will tell. What is certain is that all companies will find it increasingly harder to compete in a customer driven and digitally connected world especially if they continue to think and operate as they have done in the past.