Dan Schmidt tweeted a question this weekend about the challenges of introducing financial, accounting, and other analytical people (sometimes called "left brained") into strategic thinking sessions. Dan's comment was analytical people tend to naturally violate some of the basic strategic thinking behaviors we identified in an earlier Brainzooming article.
http://t.co/oaKMmUhBRy IMO, Finance and Accounting often violate a number of these. If adding finance to your team, do they avoid these?
— Dan Schmidt, CPA (@EBCFO) September 1, 2013
I responded that analytical people definitely have a role in strategic thinking. They can be tremendously valuable contributors. The key, as with ANY person involved in a group strategic thinking exercise, is to find the right role for each person to allow them to maximize their contributions.
5 Strategic Thinking Roles for Left Brained People
With a left brained / quantitative / analytical person, what are some of the best opportunities to make them strategic thinking rock stars?
1. Involve analytical people upfront to shape a strategy thinking process
Take advantage of an orientation toward narrowing and decision making to have left brained thinkers help shape the analytical, target setting, and prioritization steps in a strategic thinking process.
2. Uncover the math and music people
Even if you can’t spot them beforehand, once you have a team assembled for strategic thinking, identify the people who have strengths in both quantitative and musical areas (or "math and music people" as I call them). These folks are out there, and they bring a great mixture of number and creativity to any strategic thinking effort.
3. Create roles designed for quantitative people to excel (no pun intended)
We’ve had incredible contributions from analytically-oriented people when we’ve asked them to track the cumulative impact of revenue-generating ideas, perform on-the-spot analysis, and facilitate prioritization exercises. The key is taking advantage of all the talents you have on a team.
4. Intersperse analytical people across small groups
Manage your team members and their talents so that both an overall group and any smaller groups you create have a productive balance of people. Put the people together who are more comfortable with blue sky thinking and those more comfortable with determining whether new ideas will put you in the red or black. You will appreciate the results.
5. Encourage number crunchers to stretch out and have some fun
You might be surprised at how many people who appear very numbers focused are creative talents just waiting to emerge. The only thing they lack is someone to give them the permission to let their inner creative spirits run wild. Give them permission and stand back.
Have new hope for using left brained people for creative thinking?
Don’t ever let a great thinker go to waste. If someone is smart and motivated, there’s ALWAYS a role they can play to contribute to stronger strategic thinking in your organization. You simply need to create the right spot to let them go to town. – Mike Brown