Right Versus Left: The Struggle At EllisDon

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


I'm no psychologist, though I often wish I was. I believe that it's generally accepted though, that people tend to think primarily either with the left side of their brain or the right side. And even if this isn't generally accepted, it has certainly been my experience (and hey, this is my blog).

If you are a 'left brain' person, then you value objectivity, facts, proof and clear analysis. And in many respects, that's a pretty good basis for a construction company, not just in terms of execution but also in terms of strategy - show me a company that is so disciplined that it never fails in day to day operations, and I will show you one that has many new opportunities thrown at it.

Right up until the earth shifts, and then it ends.

Right brain people, as I generally understand it, are more creative. They are more comfortable with the unknown, more willing to take risks, more inclined to move first, ahead of the others, even though the facts aren't clear and the proof isn't in. They are the entrepreneurs, the people who will succeed today, fail tomorrow, do it all again, and be unable to fathom the insights contained in a million process manuals. You wouldn't hire them to engineer a hydro dam, but Steve Jobs changed the world. Innovation and risk taking amid uncertainty are the keys to continued success, and that's the right brain.

If you want to build a great company, you need both. Objective and subjective. Creativity and discipline. Entrepreneurialism and focus. You want your company to exist at the place where the right brain meets the left brain.

The problem is that the right and left brained people don't always understand each other and they don't always get along. And they can't change - you are the way you are, you think the way you think. We are trying to build a perpetually entrepreneurial 'free thinking' construction company and, I don't mind acknowledging, these stresses are everywhere.

How do we bridge the gap? I doubt that you can ever blend the two. But you can get them to respect each other, and engage with each other. If you can build a company that exists precisely at the point, at the moment, where execution meets entrepreneurialism, then you will really have something.

If everyone understands where they are, and values the overall goal, then maybe you can get there. And then you could conquer the world.

You think?