Sinister Business: Left-Hand Business

Left Hand — AlphaCoders

“If a (wo)man does not keep pace with his (her) companions, perhaps it is because (s)he hears a different drummer. Let him (her) step to the music which (s)he hears, however measured or far away.” — Henry David Thoreau

In the Irish language, the word for a left-handed person is ciotóg. It comes from the Irish ciotach, which means clumsy or awkward. Ciotóg, also means a clumsy person. This sentiment towards left is not at all limited to narrow thinking in Ireland, the origin of the word left itself comes from the Latin sinister, as in evil, malevolent or underhanded. The word for right, is dexter as in dexterous, as in skilful with the hands.

In the past, left-handed children were beaten in schools, often by religious “leaders”. The use of the left hand to write, to use eating utensils or to shake hands was seen as a sin. Schools would turn a blind eye to children having their hands severely beaten or tied to a chair to discourage their use of the sinister hand. (I am ashamed to say, this was prominent in Ireland only 50 years ago.) Left handed children were ostracised for being left handed, considered awkward and even less intelligent. The school system, which programmes and socialises our children had programmed children to see left handers as less.

Cultural superstition and discrimination against left-handed children may seem ludicrous to us today, but even our global culture favours the use of the right hand. This Thursday Thought aims to shine a light on how we are still living with echoes of cultural and social programming in business and in life. We are still using archaic organisational structures and leadership styles, developed for an industrial age to create automatons for factory life, for life without purpose. These structures had their origins in the army and the church hundreds of years ago. The question to ponder is, “Are we still marginalising those who think differently, even though they can unlock much-needed change?”

If you look at search trends for terms like “Innovation”, Outside The Box” or “Critical Thinking”, they all spike in recent years. Businesses are looking for these skills. These are skills inherent in those who operate differently, in fact, left handers are naturally more creative. When we speak of a crazy/great/different ideas, we say it came from the left field. Left handedness is found in approximately 10% of the population, so 90% of us are right handed. Imagine instead of pigeon-holing left handed as different, as flawed, they were celebrated as gifted and liberated to use their gifts?

Google Trends



Laterilization is the tendency for some neural functions or cognitive processes to be specialised to the left or the right side of the brain. The brain is “cross-wired”, with the left hemisphere controlling movement on the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere controlling the left side of the body. Analytical and logical processing are usually carried out in the left hemisphere and spatial recognition, perception, emotion processing and creative functions usually occur in the right.

The world is crying out for innovative thinkers, so isn’t it possible left handers could be part of that revolution? Child educational psychologist and author professor Charlotte Reznick, PhD says this fragment of the population sees the world through a unique lens. “When we’re left-handed, our right brains are usually dominant, and that’s where creativity and intuition are centered. So it’s often easier for us to be creative than logical. And our brains more easily use both sides of the brain at once, so we have the advantage of also being more flexible in our thinking.”

An Aussie Foot Fetish

“If you compared all the left-footers and all the right-footers in the competition, the average kicking efficiency of left-footers was over 3 per cent better.” — Chris Pelchen

In sport, left handers and left footers have a distinct advantage. They have the element of surprise by embracing their difference. The majority of our population are right handed, so we learn sports that way. When an outlier, a left-tended player attacks, the well-formed right-hand routines learned in sport are slower to react to a lefty. For example, if you were defending a left-footed player in soccer, when you are accustomed to defending right footers, you will be fractionally slower to react. In high-level sports, split seconds can be the difference between success and failure.

Our guest on this week’s innovation show is Cody Royle. In his book “Where Others Won’t”, he tells the story of Aussie rules team Hawthorn Hawks and how coach Chris Pelchen embraced the talent of left-footed players.

In the run up to their shock 2008 premiership title, the Hawks recruited a record number of left-footers. Despite years of denials by the club, this was done with ultimate conviction.

“We’ve been loath to discuss it publicly in the last five years, but it would be fair to say it has been a deliberate focus of our club. We did target left-footers.” — Chris Pelchen

Studying data for winning Grand Final teams, Pelchen and his team observed that the winning teams all had superior kicking efficiency. Using this data as a base, he then discovered that left footers had an average kicking efficiency three per cent better than right footers. This became their secret weapon and in 2004 the left footer recruitment began. They reaped the reward four years later.

What Are The Lessons for Business (Life)?

  • The Hawthorn Hawks had a vision (to win the Grand Final)
  • They utilised existing data to inform a strategy
  • They looked for the white space where they would have a competitive advantage
  • They developed a strategy to achieve that vision
  • They recruited the right people to execute that strategy
  • They executed
  • They were patient
  • They were persistent
  • They succeeded

This Thursday Thought proposes that we must embrace different thinking to evolve in this world of rapid change. Change is both exciting and extremely scary, but the upside of this age of disruption is that it can also be an age of massive opportunity. To see the opportunity and then to seize it needs a step-change in thinking. For businesses to transform, the leaders in that business need to transform. To change business models, we must first change mental models.

Equipping our businesses with the right skillset and mindset is a great start. While we are all capable of change, some of us simply do not want to change. As every transformation involves decay and rebirth, some of the people who got you to where you are today are not the people who will bring you to where you need to be tomorrow. These people should be moved on to make room for new mindsets, such evolution is natural and should be expected. It is time to embrace the true meaning of diversity and inclusion. It is time to hire the right (left?) people to manage chaos and complexity.

Left-field thinking comes from left-field thinkers.

Left-field thinking comes from left-field thinkers.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” ― Albert Einstein

“Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling.” — Bill Belichick

EP 127: Where Others Won’t: Taking People Innovation from the Locker Room Into the Boardroom with Cody Royle

In the corporate world, we’re fast realising that people are our largest source of competitive advantage. The problem is, all of our systems and structures are set up for products, services and technology to give us an edge over our rivals. But whether it’s recruitment, leadership, culture or high-performance, pro sports has been quality-testing people strategies for decades, and now contains a treasure trove of ideas for you to harness.

We are joined by author of “Where Others Won’t: Taking People Innovation from the Locker Room Into the Boardroom”, Cody Royle

We talk:

Team building




Corporate Culture



Outside-the-box thinking

Best Principles

Leaders as Coaches

Have a Listen:







More about Cody here:

(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.