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Be inspired

Break out of the IT downturn with creativity.

Read time 3min 40sec

Given the enduringly sluggish state of the economy, it's not surprising that many people might find themselves depressed. They look at various negative factors and use them as justification for why they are under-performing.

The range of reasons people will produce for lack of success is extensive: IT budgets have been frozen; companies are downsizing; or they are sweating their assets and as such, not buying new equipment or software.

But through the downturn - in fact in any market - there are those who succeed, and who outperform their competitors. They are the ones who land the largest contracts, keep their employers ahead of the curve, delight their customers, and never seek or need excuses.

No pessimism

Companies can't succeed in the IT market while they are harbouring negative thoughts.

Dr Kobus Neethling is founder and president of the SA Creativity Foundation.

The fact is that companies can't succeed in the IT market while they are harbouring negative thoughts; success in IT - whether selling solutions, maintaining a customer relationship, developing software or bringing business and IT together through business analysis - requires creativity, and negativity inhibits creativity.

Today, more than ever, companies need creativity to energise customers and development teams; to ensure innovation and value delivery; to get customers to sign on the dotted line and keep them coming back.

Creativity is at the very heart of innovation, and innovation is what has driven the IT sector for the last five decades, and what has brought about the world of high-performance, low-cost technology.

Use your head

To understand creativity, people must first understand how their brains work. The left-hand side of the brain controls the right-hand side of the body, and vice versa. The left-hand side of the brain is dominant for language and speech and for analytical and logical thought, while the right is excellent at visualising holistic and unstructured tasks.

The left brain is analytical, exact, logical, detailed, structured, verbal, rational, concrete, linear, technical, fact-based, organised, planned, autocratic and mathematical. Applying this to IT, one can imagine that software development is a left brain-controlled activity.

Processes controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain include intuition, non-linear thinking, space, holism, the non-verbal, feeling, music, expressiveness, interaction, visualising, insight and gut feeling.

It is easy, in this context, to imagine Bill Gates as left brain-dominant, with Steve Jobs inclined to right brain dominance.

Traditional thinking has been that the right brain is about creativity and the left brain logical and rigid and hard to change.

Today it is generally recognised that it can be generated by the left and right brain, although the essence of the creativity would differ. The two hemispheres of the brain can be divided further, each into two quadrants: L1, L2, R1 and R2. It is necessary to have an understanding of the whole brain process, as it can help to understand why people enjoy doing certain things while other things frustrate and irritate them.

By way of example, the left brain bias of a programmer ill-qualifies them to work with people, whereas an empathy-centred right brain almost certainly renders a person unsuited to programming. A business analyst, on the other hand, needs good logical skills and interpersonal communication abilities: in other words, a well-rounded brain, without an excessive bias on either side.

In terms of business, the four dimensions of the brain are characterised as:

* L1: Fact-finding: Determining the bottom line information necessary to support the R1 ideas.
* L2: Planning and organising: Developing the plans and organisational systems to put the ideas into action.
* R1: Strategic thinking: Creating big picture, future-oriented, strategic ideas to take the individual and the organisation to the edge of possibilities and beyond.
* R2: Awareness and acceptance finding: Communicating the ideas (facts and plans to gain support and stimulate passion).

A whole brain approach to various aspects of IT can have a fundamental impact on them: from problem solving to strategising, from sales to HR, from leadership to training.

* In the next Industry Insight, I will delve deeper into the four quadrants of the brain and how they impact an individual's role in the IT market.

Dr Kobus Neethling
Founder and president, SA Creativity Foundation

Dr Kobus Neethling is the president of the South African Creativity Foundation. In 1998, he received "The Distinguished Leader Award" from the International Creative Problem Solving Institute and the Creative Education Foundation: the most prestigious creativity award in the world. He is the founder and director of the South African Creativity Foundation and the Kobus Neethling Group. He holds six university degrees (Cape Town, Potchefstroom and Georgia USA), including two masters’ degrees, a doctorate and a post doctorate (Cum Laude). Neethling is a keynote speaker and corporate trainer. He focuses on getting companies and individuals to extraordinary levels of thinking and doing. He is also an author of more than 80 books and has written and presented many television series. Neethling has won many awards: one of 2 000 Outstanding People of the 20th Century; South Africa's Best Speaker Award (SA Quality Institute); Communicator of the Year (Toastmasters International); International Personality of the Year 2000 for Exceptional Contributions to the development of creativity; World Guinness Record holder: book written in fastest time ever (100+ pages in four minutes 30 seconds); Creative Genius Award; Excellence in Innovation Award (Mumbai 2008). Neethling has done motivational speeches, training programmes and development programmes to most of South Africa's leading companies and organisations and numerous international companies, including Shell, BMW, Ogilvy & Mather, Mercedes Benz, Anglo American, Amplats, Anglo Gold, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Absa, First National Bank, Standard Bank, Toyota, MultiChoice and Johnson & Johnson. Neethling was also a provincial rugby player and the mental coach to three Olympic athletes.

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