Brain Check

Sep 19, 2012 1 Comment by

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I found a great illustration that might come in handy when it comes to helping Facilitators understand how creative people and logical thinkers can work together to get things done.

Check this out:

This cartoon really demonstrated for me the vast differences in the way that people perceive their world and process information. Understanding this difference can be critical to the work of facilitation.

I’ll get back to that in a minute, but first a word about the artist…

This illustration is the creation of cartoonist Bryant Arnold. To see more of his awesome stuff, visit his website at Bryant is a gifted illustrator and he has some very cool insights into life, politics and a host of other topics. I’m sure you can even get posters and prints of this and other illustrations through his website. Kudos to you Bryant!

Think About How We Think: There’s quite a stack of medical/psychological research into the behavioral variations of people whose thought patterns are dominated by either their left or right brain hemispheres.

This research is summed up by two shorthand labels:

Right Brain Thinking and Left Brain Thinking.

Here’s a link to a nifty little summary of this topic by psychology writer Kendra Cherry. In a nutshell, the theory is not necessarily proven, but offers insight into how differently people can process information and handle interpersonal situations…

Psychology Writer Kendra Cherry

Cherry writes: “The right brain-left brain theory grew out of the work of Roger W. Sperry, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981. According to the left-brain, right-brain dominance theory, the right side of the brain is best at expressive and creative tasks. The left-side of the brain is considered to be adept at tasks that involve logic, language and analytical thinking.

Later research has shown that the brain is not nearly as dichotomous as once thought. For example, recent research has shown that abilities in subjects such as math are actually strongest when both halves of the brain work together.”

Change Agent Tip #43: Recognize People’s Different Thinking Styles

Food for Thought: Before we try to apply it, let’s take a closer look at this theory by first understanding the two ends of the spectrum.

Who’s Right? Those whose thoughts are dominantly creative, artistic, passionate and free-flowing are considered “right brainers” and they tend to:

  • …be intuitive, relationship-oriented and thoughtful.
  • …be fairly comfortable expressing their emotions.
  • …excel at thinking “outside the box”.
  • …imagine things before they can see or touch them.
  • …trust in the validity of their solutions, even if the data doesn’t fully support them (yet).
  • …feel comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity.
  • …be less focused on practicality, numbers, “keeping score” and “winning”.
  • …be less decisive – even to the point of avoiding critical decisions that could imperil relationships or situations where a crisp decision could really help their group move forward.

Who’s Left? The more analytical, logical folks are considered “left brainers“. Some would say that groups need a few left-brain thinkers if they hope to make progress, so let’s consider what they might offer. Left-brainers tend to:

  • …consider things factually and analytically.

    Every crew needs at least one soft-skills guy plus one of these fellows… It’s only logical.

  • …prefer to use orderly, stepwise techniques for processing information and getting work done.
  • …value disciplined approaches to problem-solving above the seeming disarray demonstrated by their creative peers when facing a similar challenge.
  • …rely on data to support their conclusions.
  • …avoid rushing out solutions – even if it takes a while to share them – their ideas are usually well-thought-out by the time they are released.
  • …take pride in being practical.
  • …have limited patience for frivolous discussions.
  • …think strategically.
  • …be predisposed to taking some kind of action as opposed to observing a situation and “letting it play out on its own”.

Bottom Line: Most of us can probably recall a time when we thought more like the first group and other times when we found the second approach more useful. In fact, very few people fit neatly into the theoretical boxes this theory draws.

Instead, we move from one style to another and settle somewhere in the middle as we apply creativity and logic to our daily lives.

Next Step – Leveraging the Theory: While it’s not iron-clad, I think “Left Brain/Right Brain” theory can offer some cool insights into how people think – and it can be especially useful when one notices people getting “stuck” on one end of this spectrum. In my next article, I’ll get into how we can take advantage of theories like this one to become better Facilitators and more effective Change Agents. Here’s a Hint: You may need to change the way you think…


Questions for Chatter:

  1. Have you had better success trying to “change the way people think” or “leverage the natural ways people think”?
  2. What risks have you noticed when working with groups that think “too much alike”? (for example, everyone is a creative thinker or everyone is a logical thinker?)

Change Agent Skills, Change Communication, Change Execution, Change Leadership, Stakeholder Readiness, Team Dynamics

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One Response to “Brain Check”

  1. group facilitation says:

    […] ← Brain Check A Learning Attitude […]

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