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The New Economy: Retrain Your Brain

The New Economy: Retrain Your Brain

USA Today

August 24, 2009

“Most of us are innately creative in some way,” says Skillings, who herself left a job in the financial sector to start her consulting business. “Many big companies are still about following rules and doing what’s been done in the past. But we want to be in situations where our free-thinking sides are being put to use.”

From lawyer to designer

Gordon Chin never thought he’d be able to do just that. As someone who wanted to be an attorney since he was a child, the Washington, D.C., resident was happily working for a large law firm when the company ran into the economic iceberg. With his billable hours shrinking, he opted to leave in February as layoffs loomed. Now he’s juggling clients as an interior designer.

“I always had a passion for decorating but just did it for friends,” Chin says. “This was a daunting leap of faith. But where I was a happy cog in a large firm, now I get to use my creativity with immediate, gratifying results.”

Chin kick-started his small business in a decidedly creative way. He made an audition tape for Design Star, the HGTV reality show that seeks the next great designer. He didn’t get the call from the cable channel, but those who saw his video on his Facebook page got in touch.

“If it hadn’t been for the slowdown in the economy, I wouldn’t have done this,” he says. “But now that I have, I’d absolutely love to pursue this full time. It really blends my organizational strengths with my creative side.”

In fact, fusing left-brain skills with right-brain insights is considered the killer app in a new economy that will put a premium on creative breakthroughs, says Laszlo Bock, vice president of people operations at Google. “We’re convinced true innovation comes at the intersection of different fields,” he says.

When Bock and his team look to hire new talent, they assess a candidate’s “Googliness” — the ability to solve problems in unique ways, lead co-workers and thrive in a loose organizational structure. “If you have those skills, you can learn any job we give you,” he says.

In Cambridge, Mass., Joel Katz has spent the past six years proving that doctors will be better at their left-brain craft if they’re well-versed in art. First- and second-year Harvard Med students now vie to get into Katz’s 10-week course that uses Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to teach future physicians how to critically analyze famous paintings.