Split-brain theories led to what may be an oversimplified assessment of “right-brained” and “left-brained” people. But management skills can get a healthy, holistic boost from them if companies are willing to explore and integrate the merits of both.
Right/left-brain theories started with Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1981 for his split-brain research. What started as an effort to understand and treat epilepsy led to an even greater understanding of the brain and its allocation of function.
In general, the left hemisphere of the brain is logical, linear and analytical. It’s also the seat of language processing. In terms of applicability to management skills, that equates to numbers, spreadsheets, cash flow analysis, and all things finance.
The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is credited with imagination, ideas, intuition, and all things creative. From a management perspective, the right-brainers can generate a gazillion ideas, but they don’t necessarily fit into the tidy box of predictable, measurable performance.
And therein lies the divide…and the precious expanse of brain power that just waits to be tapped. That is, of course, if companies commit to making their management skills reflect a connected — not a divided — brain.
Companies operating on a left-brain management model value the good of the organization over the success of the individual. The corporate model and mindset are carved in stone, and stability, experience and control are valued over new ideas and meeting external needs. Not much fun, no matter how “necessary” the rank-and-file may seem to those in charge.
Companies operating on a right-brain model, however, welcome creativity and new ideas. Their focus is on the needs of the customer and the autonomy of staff. Innovation is applauded, and adaptation to circumstances isn’t feared, but embraced. The environment is more fluid, with a natural alignment between the company and its individual team members. Think fun, cooperative, progressive.
You may want to roll your office chair out of your left-brained cubicle and straight into a right-brained biz from the “50 Best Places To Work” list. But don’t pack up your desk just yet.
Reality is that both sets of attributes are essential to a business. Unfortunately, most organizations yearn to ‘get out of the box,’ but don’t know how to do so without analyzing the box as they do.
Perhaps you recognize your company in the above descriptions. Perhaps you would like to create a more holistic, integrated work environment. If so, then consider some of these management skills and brainstorming techniques that utilize the left and right brain.
- Tend to the concerns of both your divergent and convergent thinkers. Open the floor to non-traditional ideas, then help your people select, evaluate and analyze them. “Stretch” then pull back in. Get everyone involved in both functions.
- Create an inspiring setting. Right-brain creativity thrives in spacious, airy, colorful, thought-provoking environments. Cubicles and sterile, cookie-cutter furniture don’t inspire much beyond a desire for 5:00.
- Remember that people already are creative. Your management skills don’t have to include teaching people to be creative. Instead work on evoking their creativity. Encourage individuals to reach back and remember times when creativity flourished for them.
- When brainstorming, go for quantity first. This idea fluency can feel very uncomfortable for your accountants and analysts, who will instinctively want to stop and critique every idea on the table.
Encourage a veritable flooding of ideas in order to short-circuit the criticism and self-editing. Think of the way photographers may take dozens of photos in order to get one keeper. Remind your rigid thinkers that they will have the opportunity to pare down the bank of ideas and evaluate them later.
- Establish criteria for evaluating ideas. Doing so will keep your lefties feeling a little more comfortable, while still engaging with new ideas.
- Encourage new ideas, both in one-on-one meetings and in group meetings and events. When employees aren’t afraid of being dismissed, their creative juices flow. And when they feel appreciated, they are a lot more willing to share their ideas. They are also more motivated to help execute them.
- Remind yourself and your team that chaos, messiness and ambiguity often precede creative breakthroughs. There is nothing to fear by being immersed in them. The company isn’t going to fall apart just because ‘what-if,’ ‘how-about’ and ‘wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if’ show up at a meeting.
Despite the touted strengths of each hemisphere of the brain, the truth is that the brain isn’t really so dichotomous. The specific abilities that light up the brain map in seemingly isolated ways are actually at their brightest when working together.
Language, for example, isn’t really communication without the emotional nuances behind it. And data is just raw content if you don’t know what to do with it.
If you are in management, applying innovative management skills with a full-brain focus can change the trajectory of your organization for the better. Remember that your edge is going to be the way in which you create, inspire and drive purpose. You set the tone, so make the journey fun. We can help you merge and maximize the skills of all your employees. If we can help you create innovative management skills with a full-brain approach, reach out to us here.