Chapter 3: Part 1 – The rise of The Right-Brained Organization

People say that Steve Jobs was a genius and there is a reason for that. He almost single-handedly lifted the curtains of two eras: the PC era and the mobile Internet era.

The Apple II released in 1977 was Jobs’ first product to amaze the world. The success of this product also directly triggered IBM’s attention to PCs thus allowing the entire world to enter the popularization era of the information revolution. And when the iPhone was released in 2007 Jobs once again shocked the world. Since then mankind has entered the era of mobile Internet.

Without Jobs PCs and smartphones would eventually become popular products. But Jobs undoubtedly brought these two eras forward. Looking back we don’t feel that coming early is important until these years when the global economy has fallen into a quagmire of sluggish growth.

In the 1980s, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping declared that “science and technology are the primary productive forces.” This idea not only propelled China’s economic and social development, but it also provided a true interpretation of the driving force behind global economic growth over the past forty years. To escape economic crisis, we need new productive forces represented by new technologies.

Now we are in an era where old and new technologies are not connected. And from today’s perspective PCs and smartphones are exactly those products that correctly connect new technologies with mass application scenarios. If we have such productive power products now our world will restart its growth engine. But unfortunately this era no longer has Jobs.

True greatness is always praised by posterity. Similarly Apple during the Jobs era is a benchmark for innovative companies. We cannot say that every step taken by Jobs or Apple was correct but there must be many correct steps in it.

Is Jobs a right-brained talent? I think so. Jobs was creative had advanced artistic taste and according to some people was prone to emotional fluctuations. And Apple also left a deep imprint of Jobs’ personal style especially during his lifetime this company was known for its innovation. Every product is like a work of art but company management is also somewhat neurotic once on the verge of bankruptcy and once with a market value ranking first in the world.

Apple during the Jobs era was a typical Right-Brained Organization. But first I want to emphasize that we are just using the term right brain to label this type of innovative company. You cannot simply equate Right-Brained Organizations with right-brain abilities or right-brain thinking. In my opinion Right-Brained Organizations have some common characteristics that clearly distinguish them from traditional enterprises.

First I want to emphasize that the most important characteristic of Right-Brained Organizations is their user-centered value philosophy. Many companies will say user-centered but most just talk about it. When user-centered conflicts with financial interests these companies’ decisions usually tilt towards schemes that can bring financial benefits. But Right-Brained Organizations are different they will choose schemes that bring value to users without hesitation. They do something because it will benefit users not because it will benefit themselves. But this does not mean they will spend money to meet user needs. On the contrary they know that to truly help users business must be sustainable which means profit is a reasonable return after helping users. Profit is not the goal providing value to users is the goal.

True user-centeredness is not only about how you talk but also about how you do it. But we already know that due to human brain characteristics most people make irrational decisions most of the time. In other words if you really want to help users you have to do it in a way they can accept even using people’s psychological biases. This is the biggest difference between true user-centeredness and lip service user-centeredness.

Someone recalled that Jobs had been emphasizing with his team that making money was not the goal but when his subordinates presented him with a price plan for new computers he thought about it and raised price of new products as result. This is not because Jobs was insincere but because he proved to be an excellent right-brained thinker. He clearly knew that users’ mental model was: expensive things are good things. In fact good products bring far more returns to users than their expenses. Raising prices seems to make users lose on surface but actually makes their heart road go smoothly they will feel at ease buying products and get returns from innovation while Apple can also get profits for development this is win-win situation on contrary if their heart road does not go smoothly they will enter decision paralysis as result Apple and consumers lose together.

Whether a company is truly user-centered we do not look at their propaganda but at their actions. But even if you have the right motivation and the right behavior you may not necessarily get the expected result. Therefore a Right-Brained Organization needs a guardian of values who can say no to temptation at the last moment! Therefore like Apple’s Jobs another typical characteristic of Right-Brained Organizations is having a right-brained founder or leader. His or her personal characteristics affect the entire company’s talent recruitment organizational structure and even business methods.

Elon Musk is a dreamer in his future interstellar travel becomes as convenient as taking an airplane humanoid robots mine resources on barren planets such as Mars and continuously send them to Earth. Earth returns to green mountains and green waters and people no longer fight for limited resources. These visions are beautiful but he is also a troublemaker smoking marijuana on live broadcast carrying a ceramic washbasin to lay off employees. These fantasies and madness are typical characteristics of right-brained thinkers.

Jeff Bezos requires that an empty chair be placed in company meetings. He warned employees that users are sitting on this empty chair and you should think about what users want when you have meetings. However this practice has not become popular it confuses many people because only imaginative right-brained thinkers can see the user on that empty chair.

Because there is a right-brained leader guarding companies such as Apple and Tesla are also known for their user-centered values. But right-brained leaders are very rare in enterprises. I have been trying to find evidence to prove that right-brained leaders are not a necessary condition for Right-Brained Organizations. Is it possible to rely solely on left-brained leaders to build Right-Brained Organizations using some method? But unfortunately at least until now my research conclusion is no. User-centeredness and right-brained leaders are two core characteristics of identifying Right-Brained Organizations and both are indispensable.

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