Right vs. Left Brain Thinking
Brain research has demonstrated that two different sides of the brain (“hemisphere”) are responsible for different mode of thinking. Both of these modes of thinking are required for uncovering the effective solution of the problem.
Right brain qualities involve imagination, risk taking, artistic abilities, highly philosophical, creative, etc. ‘Left’ brain people, on the other hand, are practical, conformist, seek order, have good comprehension skills, etc. Thus ‘right-brain’ people are said to think subjectively, holistically and have strong intuition, while ‘left-brain’ people tend to be more logical, analytical and highly rational. Stereotypically, left-brained thinkers become Engineers or Accountants while their right-brained friends become Entertainers or Innovators.
However, neither side of the brain or tendency is better than the other and both are necessary. In fact, the more balanced we are, the more we tap into both sides of our brains equally. And while most individuals have a preference for one style or another, the real key is to build the capacity for whole brain thinking. This helps us to work with different kinds of people that are comfortable in one style or another and it gives us better aptitude to use different parts of our brain depending on the needs of the situation.
It all sounds simple and yet I believe that the workplace is typically unbalanced in this area. To some extent we live in a society that has been built on rewarding the left brain activities which minimizes the focus of the right brain. Our jobs and daily lives support the left-brain focus on forward movement, ticking off to-do lists, reading/processing/filing email, scheduling meetings etc. And yet we know that the reason we thrive and stay in a job comes down to work that’s fulfilling (Meaning) and the people we work with (Relationships).
Expanding your whole brain can be enhanced by focusing on creativity, empathy and interpersonal skills. These are the things that can make you stand out as a manager and leader!
Exercises that Expand Aspects of Your Right Brain
Try these on your own or with your team! Change habits. And most importantly, have fun!
1) Connect with others in meaningful ways: The simplest one: Instead of sending an IM or email, pick up the phone or better yet physically walk to another person’s office. While your there take the time to ask them something you’re curious about them. Curiosity is a great tool for getting to know and connecting with people at a deeper level.
2) Discover what you really love: Ask yourself what you really LOVE about your job and what aspects of it are the most meaningful. Jot down whatever comes into your mind. Connect with others in your organization who you sense may feel the same way. Decide to commit to one change that can bring more of that work into your role or company.
3) Create a Day in the Life of your team or co-workers: Have each participant write their name on a flipchart and list four categories: my highs, my lows, my frustrations, my rewards. Post all sheets. Ask everyone to write what they think the answers are for their colleagues on each person’s sheet. Then each person reviews their own sheet and is given an opportunity to talk about what their job is REALLY like. This is a great way to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
4) Allocate a specific amount of time to creative activities during your week: Yes, this means just as sifting through email is a part of your routine, so is going to the theater, taking an art class, listening to music, painting/drawing, singing, writing etc. I’ve worked with very senior level executives who I ask to commit to at least 30 minutes during their day to simply reading, writing or listening to music – for fun (no, not for work – nice try!) and they realize the profound shift that can take place by taking this time. Try it – it’s rejuvenating.