Some people think they’re a left brainer, “I’m a left brainer,” they say, “I deal with computers, I deal with numbers. I get things organised, I turn up on time. I’m always smart. I’ve always got a pen. I’m a left brainer. I’m not an art-farty right brainer, wasting everybody’s time.”
Some people think that creativity is purely a right brain activity. Some think they’re right brain people and say “Well I’m an artist, I don’t have to turn up on time, I’m not interested, I like being in a mess, I do what I like because I’m an artist and I don’t have to wear a suit. Just don’t ask me to add anything up.”
Well they’re both wrong because we use both hemispheres of our brain all the time. If you really did use just your left brain you would be autistic. If you use just your right brain you would be in a mental hospital. What is really going on is that one hemisphere directs thinking for a particular task (not for a particular individual). The left brain dominates logical thinking, the concept of time, names for things and processes in a linear way. The right brain dominates language and meaning, opertaing in a holistic way. But the two always work together – and must do for you to function.
It’s important that we understand the specialisms of the hemispheres so that we know when it’s appropriate to use left-brain or right-brain directed thinking for a particular task. Let’s have a more detailed look:
Left Brain = Linear, Logical and Sequential
Right Brain = Holistic, Intuitive and Random
The left-brain does things in straight lines (linear) with no deviation. It processes in a logical fashion. It does one thing after another (sequential), one thing at a time. This is exactly how a computer works. The left brain is perfect for knowledge based tasks and since we’ve just come through the Industrial and Information ages, left-brain thinking has, quite rightly, dominated business in the west for a century and a half.
The right-brain looks at the big picture (holistic). This is why a large proportion of successful entrepreurs are creative right-brain directed thinkers. You need to be able to think holistically and see the big picture to have a business plan. The right-brain makes unusual links between disparate ideas (intuition). It carries out processes in a non-sequential order. There may be a pattern, but it won’t be A to B to C. In fact the right brain is a pattern generating and pattern recognising machine.
The left-brain is interested in utility, the right-brain in significance. So the left-brain is ‘function’, the right brain is ‘form’. In business this has a wider implication. When anyone is taught how to sell they are told something very important: sell the benefits, not the features. Few people are interested in how ABS brakes work on a car or even what ABS stands for. They don’t care if they have got ABS brakes or not. But when you tell them that ABS brakes stop your brakes from locking and going into a skid, that ABS brakes will save their life in an emergency stop, that’s a benefit. You sell the benefit and leave the technical description of the features to the appendix at the back of the brochure. A benefit is really ‘so what does that mean?’.
This shows that it’s the right brain that we appeal to when selling, in most people. People want meaning and significance in their lives, in the products they buy and in the services they use. Does your offering appeal to this need or are you trapped in left-brain directed thinking all the time and wonder why your service doesn’t connect with people or that you can’t think of new ideas?
Many business tasks need to be directed by right-brain thinking in the new Conceptual Age: marketing, sales, brainstorming, product development, human resources, lean productivity and customer service to name but a few.