Balance

The Corpus Callosum is a piece of connective tissue, about four inches long, that connects the two hemispheres of our brain. In effect, it enables them to “talk’ to each other. It ensures the different functionalities work well together to give us a balanced view.

Whilst the strict demarcation of “left brain logical” and “right brain creative” has long since been discredited, we think that the functions of the two hemispheres do still broadly fall into these different functionalities.

Interesting things happen when the corpus callosum is damaged, and the “cross talk’ is impaired. We can describe the things we see in our right visual field (left brain hemisphere), but without the connection to the right hemisphere we will force a logic to them. Show a picture of a chicken, and another of a shovel in the snow, and we are likely to say the shovel is to clean out the chicken shed. Conversely, things we see in the left visual field (right hemisphere) we can make creative connections about, but cannot describe. people with damaged corpus callosum can function, but have only a partial and distorted view of the world, and have difficulty translating feelings to action.

I think we can see the same effct going on in many businesses. When we are focused on returns, and other hard metrics, it’s easy to lose sight of things that matter – purpose, social contribution, a sense of community. We can make up logic for doing things that we know really we shouldn’t, but hey, got to make the quarter’s results.

The same with creativity. We see things and connect them, but can’t find the “acceptable” words to describe them. Things of real potential value that don’t see the light of day because we can’t translate them into the language of profit.

It’s easy to lose the ability to “sense” things, to ignore what our feelings. our gut and heart are telling us. to treat our bodies as merely something that gets our left brain to meetings.

With the change we are in, it’s vitally important we can balance logic and our senses to come up with balanced views. To avoid populism in all it’s forms, and create false logic for what we know to be counterproductive in the longer term.

In our businesses, the Board should act as the corpus callosum but all too often, it gets hijacked and disabled by short term pressures. A nned to “perform” for short term gain.

The balance provided by the corpus callosum is vital to our wellbeing. We may be able to function without it, but the result misses out on a lot of what makes life joyous.

The same goes for business.

You can’t outsource Respect.

One of the great pleasures of this time of year for me is the range of shows and events focused on gardens. Row after row of beautiful gardens, flowers, trees and people whose lives revolve around growing things.

There is also the pleasure of the theme that runs like a thread through these events; that of nature, growth, and craft. I find it quite humbling to visit a stand dedicated to Bonsai, and witness the dedication that has gone into creating things of outstanding beauty.

Then there are those who want to tag along in the hope of being linked to the feelings generated by those dedicated to their craft. The big banks, the corporates, the big brands.

For whatever reason, it was this area that left a real impression on me when I visited the Chatsworth Flower Show this week. Set in spectacular surroundings, in one of the most beautiful counties in the UK, it is always a pleasure.

The big brands were out in force, making their presence felt through advertising, sponsorship, and other quite “shouty” techniques. I was very aware of their presence, but felt little connection. On the other hand, there were the small businesses, unable to afford that sort of commercial noise, who relied instead on what they produce, and how they talk about it.

The craft belt business who spent ten minutes sharing the pleasure he gets from making a beautiful product locally that he sells for a fraction of the price of a product sold by a major fashion brand further down the line of stalls that is made far away by someone I’ll never meet.

The team who put on the “power of trees” exhibit that displayed a love of what they do that was tangible.

The craft cheese maker whose product has never been near a factory, and whose variations elicit joy and curiosity, not the wrath of quality control.

The maker of jeans who only makes jeans, and strives above all things to do one thing well, and has a clear goal not to become too big and lose the pleasure they get from what they make.

I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that branding was like being a woman in politics. If you have to point out to people you are one, you’re not.

Branding is about being constant about who you are, what you do, and a dedication to who you do it for. It’s about the pleasure people get from knowing you, knowing that you know them.

Not the size of your budget, or the price you paid for the design of your logo.

The Brands that make you smile have little ego.

Brands that matter make themselves felt even if their marketing spend is invisible.

People who try to brand by tagging along are plain to see.

You can’t outsource respect.

What do you do when there’s no proof left?

We’ve been brought up to be able to prove our answers. QED.

As leaders and managers, we have proven models, case studies, market research. We have cultures that do not look kindly on being wrong.

And yet; the chances of being wrong are increasing by the day, and if we limit ourselves to actions where we can demonstrate proof, we find ourselves right smack bang in the mediocre middle, with all those others who have proof.

We have forgotten how to trust our intuition, to read the landscape for clues, not proof, to trust that our own unique understanding has a place.

If we do the work to develop mastery of our subject, answers will appear in those liminal spaces – those areas between the things we know or can prove. This is where advantage, and sometimes genius lies.

Technology is really good at the known stuff, but not yet at the emergent, at the level of insight or inspiration. In other words, the stuff of humanity.

I like Annie Duke’s book, Thinking in Bets. There is no 100% proof on anything really worth doing or exploring – it’s all a bet. And sometimes we will be wrong.

But when we’re right, despite the odds, that’s when we know the joy of being human.