I have recently finished a book that stole my attentions like none has in many years. It’s by British neuropsychiatrist Iain McGilchrist. Its title is The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.
Though it is very well written – even charming at times – it may not be an easy read for some people not accustomed to reading science books – in this case, brain science. I suggest looking at readers’ reviews at Amazon to get a feel for the book. It is a truly amazing book.
The central theme of The Master is that the Western mind has become so dominated by the left hemisphere of the brain as to imperil humanity’s future. Now, while that might sound extreme, keep in mind that we live in extreme times that seem to be getting more and more extreme.
McGilchrist examines the influence of the brain’s hemispheres on Western Culture over a 2,500-year period. You can see a summary of his ideas in the Wall Street Journal here . It's worth taking a look at.
Aside from McGilchrist’s concern that we may be slipping into a dystopian world (the opposite of a utopian world) such as profiled in Brave New World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, his descriptions of the differences between the two hemispheres are memorable for their clarity and detail. I say this from the perspective of many years of reading books about the brain. McGilchrist’s is without peer in its insights into the brain’s hemispheres.
The Master has much to offer readers, including the marketing crowd that is the largest group of readers of this blog.
For example, he describes why the left brain is resistant to new information regardless of how brilliantly it is presented. Further, the left brain will generally not process new information coming into the brain unless it has first been processed by the right brain. Knowing that, you should never again freight an ad with copious details about the features of a product. It simply will not get processed.
Instead of telling customers how great your products or services are tell a story. I know you’ve heard that before, but how often do marketers really take that advice to heart?
The right brain pays attention to stories but not lectures. Stories should be word pictures because the right brain’s command of verbal language is somewhat primitive. It is the visual side of the brain, so the pictures it gets. The verbal arguments it does not.
You will find insights in The Master that could also help you with clients and others you work with/for. As an example, when you present a new idea, especially an out-of-the-box idea to a client or colleagues and get a negative response, it is almost certainly their left brains that are giving you thumbs down. Like your leg popping up when the doctor cracks you on your knee with a rubber hammer, the left brain reflexively rejects new information that does not conform to the model of reality it already has in place.
In contrast, the right brain lusts for novelty. So, if you want to sell an out-of-the-box idea to someone, start by getting the emotional, curious and story-conscious right brain involved. It is the portal to the left brain and if it likes what it sees, it will yank on the left brain’s chain to let it know to listen up and pay attention.
On a related topic, I find it interesting that marketers for some of the biggest brands (Coke is one such) have devoted considerable attention to electronic scanning consumer brains when they might more gainfully study consumers’ brains from a behavioral perspective. Hitachi now markets a brain analyzer to marketers that they clip on to consumers’ heads. I’m not a Luddite, but I think spending time learning about consumers’ behavior offers more to the marketer than reading lines on an electroencephalograph.
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.