Are you naturally brilliant at certain work related tasks and perhaps feel like a bumbling fool at others? Chances are if you’re like the rest of us, you most likely do and there is good a reason for it.
It’s because the brain has two hemispheres, each with their own natural tendencies, capabilities & individual patterns of thinking. The most dominant side of your brain determines your strengths and weaknesses. Theories and experimentation indicate that the two sides, or hemispheres of the brain are responsible for various and different patterns of thinking.
Learning styles and personality
Ned Herrmann a researcher considered the “Father of brain dominance technology” developed the brain dominance theory that people develop a dominant mode of thinking preference. These range from an analytical “left brain” approach to “right brain” approaches involving pattern matching and intuitive understanding. As we develop from childhood we tend to respond with our strongest abilities as these lead to quicker short-term rewards and a positive feedback system that strengthens those abilities. Eventually this can lead to a powerful preference for one style over the other and a dislike and discomfort for other modes of thinking. 1
In early school years, students who responded well to curriculum requiring logic, analytics, and fact interpretation as with math and science would primarily engage the left side of the brain, and are thereby considered “Left-Brained” people. Alternatively, students who exceled in art, music or writing would become the “Right-Brained” thinkers.
Some people actually engage both sides of the brain and are competent in a broad spectrum of activities, but this is not the norm. The majority of people have a distinct disposition toward one of these patterns of thinking.
Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and engineers are required to use logic, analysis, and fact interpretation to be successful. People possessing left-brain dominance are drawn to careers like these and tend to be naturally successful. Alternatively, design professionals, sales people, and athletes are usually people who enlist the intuitive, aesthetic, creative and physical skills located in the right side of the brain
So what happens when a job requires transitioning from left-brain to right brain job functions? For example, a physician who is an excellent technician and very analytical, gets promoted to department head which requires emotional competencies that are under-developed? What does the individual do? Bumble around, or take intentional steps to increase his or her emotional competencies? The same goes for the right brained graphic artist who may be promoted to an art director now responsible for managing others within a structured environment and budget. Can this person tap into the analytical skills necessary to be successful in this new role?
Is it possible to train the non-dominant side of the brain in order to improve our skills and emotional intelligence? The answer is YES. The brain’s hemisphere divider is a thick layer of cells called the corpus callosum. Neuroplasticity theory tells us we are able to increase the function of the corpus callosum to integrate our right & left-brain functions. 2
But how does one begin to engage skills from the less non-dominant side of the brain? It simply starts by learning something new. The brain is like a muscle, the more it is “flexed”, the stronger it will become.
For the left-brained physician who just became the department chief, by flexing the right side of the brain she can dramatically improve success factors such as innovation and teamwork within the department. The same holds true for the right-brained sales person who has just been promoted to manager. By training the left brain he can improve success factors using analytics and metrics.
Hey You! The Left-brain Thinker!
Right brain training in emotional competencies is a foundation for improvement for analytical thinkers. It will be further enhanced by exercises include team building and group games, social activities, even something fun like painting a group mural. Adding music or movement can also stimulate the right side of the brain. It’s important for the individual to recognize the importance and take the initiative to step out of their comfort zone to develop these new skills.
What does Whole Brain Thinking have to do with Leadership?
Will this trend toward emphasis on improving whole-brain thinking result in a new age of right-brained CEO’s chanting in the workplace? Or lonely graphic artists crunching numbers for a higher paycheck? We are living in an era where new ideas and corporate innovation from CEOs, require higher levels of emotional intelligence and whole brain thinking.
Daniel H. Pink author of five books and who has sold two million copies worldwide writes in A Whole New Mind, “the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind. According to Pink, “The era of ‘left-brain’ dominance, and the information age that it engendered, is giving way to a new world in which creative and holistic ‘right brain’ abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind.” Pink states, “Left brain approaches haven’t become obsolete. They’ve become insufficient. What people need today isn’t one side of the brain or the other, but a whole new mind.” 3
Whole Brain Competitive Advantage
One company that harnessed the power of whole brain thinking is IBM. “To be truly global requires that (we) be culturally adaptable.” says Rich DeSerio, manager of the IBM global leadership development program. “This extends beyond just understanding our cultural diversity to using this diversity to extend that competitive advantage. Whole brain thinking allows us to understand, appreciate, and most importantly, leverage the diversity of thought that naturally exists in our company.” 4
Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, author, researcher and daughter of Dr. Ned Herrmann summarizes so eloquently why professionals and future business leaders should be exercising the whole brain in business “Whole brain thinking can build bridges between functions, generations, and levels, and between any “disconnects” that exist in an organization. This in turn contributes to reaching greater productivity, innovative solutions, increased speed, and even cultural transformation.”
The Golden Nugget
Put simply, we can learn to become better whole-brain thinkers.Whole-brain thinkers have higher emotional intelligence.Emotional intelligence is proven to lead to high performance leadership, high trust, high engagement, effective teamwork, and HIGHER SALARIES. These outcomes lead to higher productivity and profits.Higher productivity and profits give opportunity for greater freedom and happiness for you.
When you see a need to improve whole-brain thinking at your organization, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
References & Citations:
- Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Academy Publisher
- Herrmann International