Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

Right Brain Left Brain and Harry Pickens

Popular psychology says that longitudinal fissures separate the human brain into two distinct cerebral hemispheres – the left brain and the right brain. These sides each have different functions and cause two different modes of thinking to occur. The left brain hemisphere functions are analytical, logical, focus on exact calculations, object and look at individual parts of puzzle. Right brain hemisphere functions are holistic, intuitive, synthesizing, and subjective and look at the greater whole puzzle. I’m sure you have heard people be referred to as “right brained” or “left brained” individuals.

It is commonly believed that certain professionals and tasks lend themselves especially well to specific brain types. Scientists, mathematicians, for example, are lefty types while creative professions like designers and free thinking occupations tend to be more right brained. But occasionally, you find professions where using both sides synergistically can make a person, not just good but GREAT at what they do. Marketing is one of the professions where being great involves being both right and left brained.

At a jazz concert at the University of Louisville’s Comstock Hall last week, jazz musician (and professor) Harry Pickens’ trio played jazz and Harry talked about the music and answered questions about his incredible talent at playing jazz, and the group’s ability to work together to make the sum of the parts far greater that each alone.

Harry explained that he knows music, technically, because he has studied it, practiced it, played it and read it so that his left brain can simply play when called upon to do so. And with those skills, he technically can play anything….then he played a pretty amazing version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to prove his point. But then he said something interesting. “When I let my right brain take over, I am still playing well because of the technical expertise I have—but the music takes on a personal meaning and transcends just note playing. It becomes jazz.”

At that moment it dawned on me that that is what great marketers do. They have a base of technical skill from years of practicing the strategy and doing the work, which allows them the tools to put the pieces together….but then the truly GREAT marketers approach the project or problem from a right brain side which adds in the creativity to do amazing things with the learned tools.

There are lots of types of marketers. Statistical number crunchers, project managers, creative artsy types, etc. Each of those types approaches the same task in entirely different ways. The real skill lies in melding the skill sets together, using strategy and available talent that comes together synergistically to create a campaign that delivers results. To solve a marketing dilemma and create a results-focused marketing solution is where the true mastery lays. And that comes from working very well with both sides of the brain.

Well said and well played, Harry.