Oprah: Another right-brained skill you talk about is "story."
Daniel: We live in a world where facts are everywhere. If we wanted to know the gross domestic product of Ecuador, my kids could find that online in 15 seconds. What matters more now is the ability to put facts into context and deliver them with emotional impact. And that's what a story does. We have in our head something called story grammar. We see the world as a series of episodes rather than logical propositions; when your spouse asks, "How was your day?" you don't whip out a PowerPoint presentation and a pie chart. Instead, you narrate: "First, this happened, and you'll never believe what happened after that...," and so on. In our serious society, storytelling is seen as being soft. But people process the world through story. Companies are now using a product's backstory as a way to differentiate items in a crowded marketplace.
Oprah: Of course, I have a great affection for story because I make my living telling others' stories. Story is a way to build connection.
Daniel: Amen. That's why business schools are slowly starting to recognize the power of narrative—if you want to lead an organization, you have to be effective in creating a compelling vision with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Oprah: Tell me about the skill you call "symphony."
Daniel: Symphony is the ability to see the big picture, connect the dots, combine disparate things into something new. It's a signature ability that is a great predictor of star performance in the workplace. Visual artists in particular are good at seeing how the pieces come together. I experienced this myself by trying to learn to draw. The teacher showed us how to see proportions, relationships, light and shadow, negative space, and space between space—something I never noticed before! In one week, I went from not knowing how to draw to sketching a detailed portrait. It literally changed the way I see things; now I view the world in a much more holistic, symphonic way.
Oprah: What about the right-brain ability you mention in your book, "play"? I've got to get better at play.
Daniel: Me too. One aspect of play is the importance of laughter, which has physiological and psychological benefits. Did you know that there are thousands of laughter clubs around the world? People get together and laugh for no reason at all!
Oprah: Isn't it kind of pitiful? You don't have anything really to laugh about so you go to a club, you have a meeting to laugh?