the Big Picture



The Holistic Conceptualist






For the last century we have been living in an increasingly prescriptive and technologically driven product culture, and as a result we live in an abundance of efficiently working technology capable of solving most problems. In the past this has been working well for us, but with computers replacing the traditional knowledge worker and an economical crisis it is time for change. The profile of a holistic conceptualist is likely to increasingly shape the future professional.


A Time for Change


According to Dan Pink, author and former speech writer for Al Gore, the future conceptualist utilizes both, the left and the right hemisphere of the brain to make sense of our world. The idea of using the whole entity of our brains to think, may seem like a ‘no brainer’, however recent history begs to differ. The right and left hemispheres of our brains are quite different and therefor also in charge of different types of thinking.


Left Brainers


The left hemisphere is what one might want to utilize at the Black Jack table. The left brain-half thinks sequentially, linear and logically, it is therefor ideal for solving equations, working through a linear set of tasks at a high speed which is achieved through its acute ability to focus. In the past this ability was highly praised and well payed, doctors, lawyers and engineers, so called white collar workers, could make quite a living by utilizing the left portions of their brains to make diagnoses, write up contracts and construct bridges. Today white collar workers are not the only ones with a highly attuned left brain, knowledge age workers are up against one rather threatening competitor; the computer. A computer easily outperforms the human’s left brain in speed accuracy and cost. Nowadays it is possible to get medical diagnoses, or to file a divorce online at a very low cost.


With computers superseding us, the dawning thought of machines taking over the world as it is portrayed in films such as Bladerunner or the Matrix may not be that farfetched.

Luckily for us, we have come to realize, that the left portions of our brains have been over-glorified and they are not as superior as they have been made to be in the past. The ability to sequentially process a set of problems at a high speed requires focus which comes at the cost of not seeing your surroundings. Imagine playing soccer, you just received a pass, and you are trying to stay in possession of the ball, while your opponent is on your back trying to snatch it away from you. The high focus it requires to dribble the ball safely blurs your peripherals, blocking the big picture of your team and the goal from your vision. As a consequence you may be able to keep the ball from your opponents, but your highly focused left brain activity will hinder your right brain from planning a strategy that will win you the match. Professional soccer players control the ball subconsciously, so they are free to create strategies which involve all factors of the playing field into account, to win the game.


Right Brainers


The right hemisphere of our brain is what makes us human, what differentiates us from computers. The right part of the brain is ‘simultaneous, metaphorical aesthetic, contextual and synthetic’, it is what lets us think laterally, non-linear, creatively and emotionally. It is this kind of thought which allows us to interact with and understand people. Through its lack in focus, the right brain has the ability to see the big picture, to absorb seemingly unrelated events, to understand randomness and bring them together. In order to gain a thorough understanding of something, the ability to see the big picture is vital, focussing on a problem alone may lead one to solve a problem that may not need solving in the first place, however this does not mean that the left brain should be ignored.


Switch Your Whole Brain On


It is vital to understand that both hemispheres of the brain are equally important. Let us take communication, an integral part of both our personal and professional lives, as an example. Communication between people can be split up into two levels, right and left brain. The sequential and logical left brain strings together the words spoken and processes their literal meaning, while the right brain reads the tone of voice, facial expressions and contextual gestures and processes the emotional message conveyed. Only when both hemispheres of the brain work together, can they accurately decipher what the other person is trying to express. Look at Deckard (left), what is he trying to say in the expressional emotional level?


Although humanity has been using both sides of the brain since the beginning of time, right brain ability and creativity has not always been seen as a valuable asset. Emanuel Kant set the wheel of creativity as a virtue in motion by saying that true genius lies in originality, which then encouraged artists to create what they felt like creating, rather than painting commissioned portraits or sceneries. Architects latched onto this and created modernism, an era in which creativity was being praised in this field, but which was still built up on a set of rules which modernists understood and used. In spite of this, artists and creative right brainers were mostly seen as outcasts, people unfamiliar with logic and structure. At the same time, we owe them many inventions and innovative ideas. For centuries educational systems have driven students towards sequential and linear thinking with the prospect of turning out lawyers, doctors or engineers.


Being a left brain white collar worker, was a safe way to success in the knowledge age, however with automation taking over computational left brain tasks, an abundance of working technology and an economic crisis it is time for some change. It is now time for the holistic conceptualist to utilize this large pool of information and technology by re-contextualizing it in an original way that connects with people.


Re-contextualizing Emotion into the Modern Business World


“A deep understanding of people is the key to success in today’s market place” Pat Jordan


What are people about and how does this relate to the way a conceptualist thinks?  In his book A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink, categorizes our Right Brain into six ‘high-touch’ senses that set the conceptualist apart form the knowledge worker; design, physiologic, sociologic, psychologic and ideologic pleasures. Don Norman beaks up our levels of thinking into visceral, behavioral and reflective. Although phrased and categorized differently, in essence all these approaches point into one direction: we as people are all about emotions. What we feel and how we feel is what drives us, what determines the way we react and ultimately what differentiates our lives from being fulfilled or not. The emotional center of our brain is in charge of this, and it can be influenced by the tiniest nuances. Being a holistic conceptualist is about understanding emotional behavior and catering to its needs.


As technology and machinery have taken over a large amount of undesired tasks, such as accounting, or repetitive factory work, there is more time for reflection and emotional fulfillment. Simultaneously products used on a daily basis are highly functional, and by-and-large do not differentiate from each other all that much. Now that the technological requirements are at most fulfilled there is space and time to indulge emotional needs. A prime example for this is the car industry, in which all cars run efficiently, and the main differences between brands lies in the user experience. Take a look at the new BMW Z4, this car is not about being an automobile, but rather about the induced aesthetic appreciation, the feel of the leather against your skin, the engine sound, the detail in design, all brought together in symphony to create an “expression of joy” to be experienced by the driver. This principle has been demonstrated in smaller consumer line cars such as the Fiat 500 and the new Mini and the success of such attributes is now self evident.


Cost is always a factor, and how much the majority of people are willing to pay for such a “superfluous luxury” is debatable, however luckily we live in a world of technological and infrastructural advancement in which conceptualistic emotional design becomes accessible at a very low cost. Business models such as Facebook demonstrate how emotional design can be accessible at virtually no cost. The whole new approach to creating highly profitable businesses by offering products and services for free, was definitely not created by the minds of left brainers but rather those of conceptualists who have given their righter halves trust and freedom. It is interesting how ‘modern’ companies such as Google have introduced new working schemes such as ‘FedEx’ days, the name originating from the idea of next day deliveries, in which employees are sent out to do as they please for a day and then return with one original idea of any kind. Surprisingly enough some of the most profitable ideas have originated from these or similar schemes in which pressure is taken away from employees and creative thinking is encouraged.


The Lucky iPod Generation


For the iPod generation, born in the late 20th century, the iPod in itself was quintessential in forming the future conceptualist.  By a product which is designed to appeal to and stimulate the right side of our brains through its design, user interaction and music, it has without a doubt encouraged the iPod generation to utilize and understand both sides of our brain. The iPod success in itself can be traced down to its designers, conceptualists who used both their left and right hemispheres to re-contextualize technology to emotionally bond with people.


The iPod generation conceptualist, also a digital native, has grown up using technology to boost the power of their left brain seamlessly and effortlessly, leaving processing power and time to develop right brain ideas. The economic crisis comes as a blessing to the iPod generation conceptualists who are keen to start new ideas from scratch without being tied to the laws of their forefathers. The combination of a recession in which there are no ‘wrong’ approaches and a clean and undamaged mind of a graduate who has nothing to lose, are an inspirational source of high potential. The world is open to a new era to be formed in new ways.


One pressing problem is that of global warming and our environment. The general response is that technology is causing the harm, it is up to technology to fix the problem again. The truth is that great efforts have been made to develop clean technology, and that it really is down to the people to change their habits and use this technology, even if it is at the cost of a luxury. The technology to solve all of our environmental problems is there, and it is now up to the creative and holistic conceptualist to look at the big picture and see how one can best make use of this technology, how can the public be moved to implement it correctly with minimum compensation in luxury and cost. In this case there is a clear need in original global  ideas rather than technological solutions.


In a fast paced world we are constantly faced with decisions. Making quick quick decisions allows one to travel fast. If you cannot decide whether you want toast or cereal for breakfast you will never have breakfast. There is no logical answer to this decision as it does not really matter on which one you decide, the decision comes from the emotional part of your brain and is based on your previous experience. Without emotional intelligence you would not be able to make a decision. The same applies for greater, more important and above all much harder and more complex decisions. When trying to make very complex decisions, it quickly becomes apparent that the more time you spend trying to figure it out, the more variables are created and the relationship between these becomes more and more complex making it virtually impossible to make a decision on pure reason. It is at this point that the right side of the brain is called for to make the decision. Although a ‘gut’ decision may seem irrational it is still based on all related information to the subject fed to the brain. Utilizing right brain emotional thought enables one to make decisions which are too complex to comprehend in a purely logical manner, making it an extremely valuable asset if one has the ability to use it and above all to trust it.


Emotional Intelligence can handle more variables than logic. The emotional decider takes all information ever fed to the brain into account, gauging personal preferences and impressions against pure reason and logic to come up with a personal correct result for the thinker. As the right brain is capable of big picture thinking, putting pieces from the most random places together it is quite useful in also taking up “Black Swan” events. The Black Swan theory introduced by Nassim Taleb is about how the most insignificant of events turn out to have a very large impact compared to their size.


The Turning Point


With computers replacing the traditional knowledge worker, the need for new intelligence arises in our societies. The holistic conceptualist incorporates both, left and right brain abilities with emotional intelligence. These enable him to solve complex problems more adequately within their contextual surrounds, leading to products and services better customized to actual consumer needs.


“Context and stuff should work together to be intelligent social glue.” Chris Bangle





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"A computer easily

 outperforms a human’s

 left brain in speed,

 accuracy and cost."

"It is time for the holistic conceptualist to utilize this pool of information and technology by recontextualizing it in an original way."

 “The originality of context counts for much” Chris Bangle

"Emotional Intelligence. handles more variables. than logic."