Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Moving to the Right

I'm currently reading Daniel Pink's latest book, A Whole New Mind, Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World. The book is based on the premise that just like manufacturing jobs went overseas, so to are the more analytic tasks associated with our left-brain; things like computer programming or accounting. So in order to succeed in this coming age, we have to tap into our right brain; the creative, holistic, intuitive side.

Pink sites three reasons for this change; abundance, Asia, and Automation. Abundance can be seen be going to the local Target store; affordable designer products down every aisle, from clothes to kitchen utensils. In the US, there are more cars than registered drivers; no shortage there.

Asia of course refers to the cheaper labor available to perform those left-brain tasks overseas, whether it be India, China, or the Philippines. These countries are producing plenty of people that can perform these tasks, though it isn't limited to just Asia. Eastern Europe, South America and other countries with low labor rates/cost of living are jumping in. According to one survey, one out of four IT jobs will be offshored by the end of this year.

Automation is the final factor. Computers can do work that people performed not that long ago; from playing chess to doing your taxes, to even programming computers. Think about the act of creating a legal document. You no longer need a lawyer, you can tab into a web site for much cheaper today.

The answer for us is to evolve, learn to use our more creative side to help us succeed. So in a project context, it's no longer good enough to make sure the programmers are producing software that meets the requirements. We need to become engaged with our customers in order to create something more. Pink talks about high concept and high touch. High concept can involve detecting patterns or combining what may appear to be unrelated ideas in order to create a unique solution. High touch involves understanding the subtlety of human interaction.

In my next post, I'll explore some ways that Pink discusses to move in this new direction. For now, ask yourself these questions about your work; 1) can someone overseas do it? or 2) can it be done by a computer? If the answer to either is yes, you need to start thinking about your future.

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