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Traditional leadership development programs mainly focus on our left-brain. This part of our brain is responsible for our logic, rational thinking, analytical skills, and focuses on order, details and numbers. However, our left-brain activities are more and more taken over by computers and robots. So, in order to be ready for the future, we need to re-activate our right-brain. This part of our brain is responsible for emotions, music, rhythm, dimensions, fantasy and play. But, what can you do to train future right-brain leadership skills?
Why right-brain leadership is important
One of the big promoters of right-brainers is Daniel H. Pink, who wrote in his book ‘A whole new mind’ why right-brainers will rule the future. The 20th century was based on knowledge workers. It was the Information Age where the left-brain thinking was key. However, because of automation and outsourcing, a lot of these left-brain activities become abundant. This indicates we’re moving into a new age. Pinks calls the 21st century the Conceptual Age, where creators and empathizers are the main characters in society.
How to train our right-brain leadership skills
Pink introduces six essential right-brain senses that are required by our new era. One of the senses he describes is Play. As Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic, says: “Play will be to the 21st century what work was to the last 300 years of the industrial society – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value.” In his famous work about the importance of play in our society and culture, Huizinga suggests that play is required in order to be able to build a civilization and culture. He describes in his book ‘Homo Ludens’ characteristics of play like:
- an expression of someone’s freedom;
- something outside the ordinary life;
- having a magic circle where you can experiment;
- and, providing order by the rules of the game.
Gamification and ludodidactics
You might have heard about gamification. Renger and Hoogendoorn describe this phenomenon in their book ‘Ludodidactiek’ as: adding parts of a game to something that does exist already, to make it more attractive. Think about high scores, badges and other awards that you can achieve. The game elements stand on their own. They don’t interact with any content, they are just being added to existing content. Think, in this case about a math test where instead of doing your own test and get your own result, your results are being shown on a leaderboard so you can ‘compete’ with others.
Ludodidactics – sometimes called serious gaming – goes further. In this case a program is developed around certain behavior you want to accomplish. By designing the program all elements of game design are considered, but, different than gamification, in ludodidactics:
- the parts of a game are interacting with the content;
- gaming tools don’t stand on their own;
- extrinsic motivation shifts towards intrinsic motivation;
- we increase the retention ratio of something you’ve learned during a program;
- and, it is about game-based learning: the aim of the game needs to fit the things you want to teach the players.
David Shaffer is a pioneer in applying games in education. He is talking about serious games that are much more than a nicer version of a test. You can upgrade a test with things like badges, high-scores, etc. as much as you want, but in the end it is still a test. Shaffer compares this with “chocolate covered broccoli”, more related to gamification. To design towards the desired behavior in serious gaming, or ludodidactics, is therefore really important and prevents it from becoming “chocolate covered broccoli”.
So, play helps to develop your right-brain and ludodidactics can actually change your behavior by using game design. Playing games is one of the things you can start with to re-activate your right-brain, but Pink mentioned as well that joining a laughter club helps. I think the most important thing is that it is based on a lean forward principle, meaning you are able to influence the progress of something. This can be a painting you’re working on, a book you’re writing or a serious game you’re playing. These are examples to re-activate your right-brain, necessary in our 21st century.