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Use Your Whole Brain: Leveraging Right-Brained Thinking in a Left-Brained World

~ By Debra Jennings

Human brain right and left hemispheres

Modern learning has done us a disservice. From Kindergarten on, we've been taught to learn with primarily one side of our brain, the left one, where analytical skills, facts, rational thought and logic are housed. Primary schools with shrinking budgets have focused their efforts on reading, writing and arithmetic, cutting "superfluous" classes in art, music and physical education. Even the SAT exam has traditionally focused on left-brained verbal skills and maths.

But what if we moved beyond thinking with just the left side of our brain, and started incorporating skills from the right side? Well, we might learn something new that would help us become even better at what we do everyday. After all, it's the right side of the brain that helps us strategise and see the big picture. It's also the place where we get key business and life skills such as intuition, empathy, creative thinking and pattern recognition. You may think you already use the right side of your brain. No doubt there have been times you've trusted your gut and have been right. But the brain is a muscle, the more you flex it, the stronger it will be.

For organisations, flexing the right side of the brain can dramatically improve decision making, team building and innovation, and ultimately drive greater organisational performance. In fact, whole brain thinking is a secret weapon that successful organisations are using to evolve their business to the next level, and stay ahead of the competition. When you combine left-brained data-driven decision making skills with non-linear right-brained thinking, the result is greater insight and more well-rounded experience that will ultimately help you arrive at better solutions to complex problems.

Don't think for a moment this shift toward the "fuzzy" right brain isn't based in metrics. In fact, it is the future of metrics. Witness the groundswell of interest in innovation from leading CEOs, perhaps driven by the ever-increasing pace and pressure from global competitors with access to the same data, tools and cheap labour. What CEOs now realise is that having data is less important than what you do with it.

As Daniel Pink writes in his book, "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. In his book, Pink looks at what it takes for organisations to excel now that having access to data is significantly less important than knowing how to create, inspire and drive purpose.

For those still wondering "Where's the beef?" this new approach offers several benefits including:

  • Improved working environments where more high-quality ideas are fostered and put to use
  • Stronger team performance through a greater understanding of how people operate
  • More informed decision making that takes into account all sides of an issue
  • Higher performing organisations as the troops rally behind the purpose of the company

So what can you do to incorporate the two halves of your brain? To begin with, you can introduce more creative problem-solving tools. Instead of trying to develop rational, left-brain solutions to the next problem your team encounters, try using a technique such as brainstorming or random picture association to encourage ideas to surface from the right side of the brain.

In addition to more creative problem-solving sessions, you easily institute any number of right-brain activities, such as team-building exercises, sanctioned recreational areas or social lunchtime gatherings. You can paint drab white walls with bright colours, or even put up murals. The integration of music or movement also stimulates the right side of the brain. And, perhaps most importantly, an environment where ideas of all types are lauded, and where everyone is encouraged to think outside the box, can go a long way toward enabling employees to use their whole brain.

Breakthrough Management Group International (BMGI) helps organisations around the world systematically improve processes and increase innovation.

Enjoyed this article? Now read Right-Brain Project Management

Comments (11)

Topic: Use Your Whole Brain: Leveraging Right-Brained Thinking in a Left-Brained World
4/5 (9)
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16th September 2020 6:01pm
Stuart Mori (Rocklin) says...
I remember when I was a teenager doing math homework. I could not get it. I was getting so frustrated. My Mom came by my room and noticed my frustration. She then said, "Let's go to the beach!" I thought that was strange coming from my Mom, who endorsed putting your nose to the grind stone. Anyway, I went with her, and swam in the ocean. It was great. I returned home, and was able to finish the homework with no problems. Left brain, right brain. Or did I take my left brain swimming, so my right brain could work on the math. She also told me how important it was to have a balanced life. She's a Libra. I never understood why and what were the benefits. Anyway, in addition to work, I do toastmasters, bike, swim, hike, travel, read, and learn Japanese. Life is better when you live a rich life of variety.
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10th September 2020 5:59pm
Eugene Levy (Stratford Connecticut) says...
Left/right brain thinking models were debunked years ago. The ideas that logic is on one side and creativity on another or language on one side and attention on another was based on bad science from the 1800s.
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2nd September 2020 5:22am
Bola Lawson (Lagos) says...
I think we should be exposed to whole brain thinking from early days. If only we were aware and conscious of thinking outside the box a good number of "us" would not be where we are today. It's a real different thinking, like moving from analogue to digital.
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30th August 2020 11:01am
Ayodele Adio (Lagos) says...
Agreed that both sides of the brain are of equal importance. They must complement each other. However, the extent depends on the weight of the challenges at hand and available resources such as time.
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14th July 2020 3:07pm
Amie Genabia (Zamboanga City) says...
When I was still attending schools, I always knew that I'm a right-brained person, and that I could never be good at using logical and analytical thinking skills. I always thought I'm bad at it. What I'm missing then is just how to access and use my left-brain! If I had only known this concept of whole-brain thinking and learning before, I wouldn't have wasted my 15 years of attending schools and pursuing my degree resenting myself for believing I'm a crack brain who is incapable of understanding numbers!
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10th June 2020 1:35pm
DINESH KUMAR (Delhi) says...
I think we use both sides of our brain, but not at the same time. If we are able to use both side of our brain at the same time, then we can utilise our brain with better efficiency.
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1st June 2020 8:38pm
Nicole (Germany) says...
Whole brain thinking is necessary to solve our world challenges questions.
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25th May 2020 10:03am
Sajja Divya (Guntur) says...
Using the whole brain process is a necessary solution for solving many problems.
10th April 2020 8:50am
Obinna Nwankwo (Lagos) says...
Using Whole Brain will definitely improve competitive advantage of a team or organisation. I am immediately curious on how to apply it to myself. Would love to see more in-depth analysis and strategies on developing whole brain thinking. Inclusive of steps, methods and tactics.
3rd July 2019 8:51am
Yasmin (Sri Lanka) says...
All countries must make this a mandatory practice from playgroup until high school to bring in a new generation of whole brain thinkers and doers.

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