In today’s rapidly changing business environment, leaders and entrepreneurs are required to be more adaptive, responsive, and innovative than ever before

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, leaders and entrepreneurs are required to be more adaptive, responsive, and innovative than ever before. Assessing situations quickly, and developing novel solutions have become a requirement. Differentiating your self, your product or your organization is essential–and requires creative thinking.

If you approach a new situation with the your habitual thinking, it’s impossible to generate new ideas, visions or solutions. Your thought patterns will travel down the same neural pathways in your brain the same way they always do–and the outcome will be the same ideas you typically have. Thinking in novel ways requires new connections within the brain. New thinking requires pattern breaking. Research shows that by actively engaging the brain’s capacities from both hemispheres, you have a larger “playing field” from which to create – there is more cross fertilization between neural synapses which leads to original ideas and “A-ha” moments.

The “left brain” organizes what already exists and thinks linearly. There is a sequential, analytical process toward a specific outcome. The often overlooked (but not less important) “right brain” imagines what can be and thinks in nonlinear interconnections. It has immediate access to insights and novel connections. Cultivating the use of both sides leads to breakthrough leaps and the ability to think on your feet under pressure.

I developed a simple Whole Brain Brain Dimensions chart to help you better understand your dominant thinking style. The words in the left hand column are typically associated with the “left brain thinking,” and the words in the right hand column are typically associated with “right brain thinking.” These are simple generalizations, designed to get you thinking about the habitual thinking patterns you use to approach your work. The more integrated your brain hemispheres are – accessing and using the elements associated with both sides of this list – the more effective you will be at generating elegant solutions and developing new solutions. Most individuals and most organizational cultures lean more toward one side or the other. Which are you? Which is your organization? Which is your culture?

Quickly scan the list for the words that apply to you in your work. Don’t think about it—go by initial instinct. Keep track of how many words in each column describe you. You don’t have to choose between the 2 columns – just check off each word that speaks to you as part of your own process, even if they seem opposite. For example, you may find you already use both detailed and big picture thinking in your work. If so, check both.

Whole Brain Dimensions Chart

Left Brain…………….Right Brain

Rational………………..Intuitive
Logical…………………Metaphorical
Sequential…………….Synthesizing
Details Big…………….Picture
Plan…………………….Improvise
Verbal………………….Visual, Kinesthetic
Analyze………………..Imagine
Objective………………Subjective
Parts……………………Wholes
Observes………………Imagines
Facts……………………Inspiration
Prove, Verify…………..Envision
Reduce…………………Expand
Preparation…………….Incubation
Pattern Perception…..Spatial Perception
Sorts & Separates……Infuses & Blends
Discerns……………….Generates
Convergent…………….Divergent
Conclusion…………….A-ha Moment
Facts……………………..Story
Levels & Stages………Dimensions
Successive…………….Simultaneous
Strategies………………Possibilities
Segmented…………….Contextual
Independent……………Interdependent
Distinctions……………Relations
Evaluation………………Imagination
Categorizes…………….Assimilates

Add up the totals on each side to become aware of your dominant thinking approach. What are your dominant thinking patterns? Where is there room for skill development for more whole brain thinking?

Whole Brain Integration Techniques

The flowing are some quick and simple exercises you can use at your desk to begin to integrate the hemispheres and strengthen your less dominant side.

1. Opposite functions – Spend some time doing everything with your non-dominant hand. Every time you break a dominance habit, you create new neural pathways and give the brain more options. It become easier to think in new ways throughout your day, and easier to adapt, respond and create in high pressure environments.

2. Color and No Lines – Instead of using lined legal paper and a pen in meetings, brainstorming sessions or any other work related functions, try use unlined paper and colored markers. Lines have a subconscious effect on us which keep the brain locked in habitual thought patterns. By removing the lines, the brain is more free to think visually and instead of just in words. Using colored markers has a stimulating effect on the brain because the right brain thinks in color.

3. Sensory Immersion – engage all of your senses in your ideation process. Instead of coming to a situation from analytical thinking alone:

> Visualize it
> Use different types of music to stimulate thinking
> Use 3-dimentional objects to move around on your desk as your are brainstorming
> Talk about it out loud (left brain) as you are seeing it (right brain)
> Develop mindmaps with both images and words
> Use body nonlinearly, i.e., have the right and left arms doing 2 different tasks at the same time.
> Try Crossover Movements – cross the left hand over the right, or touch the left know with the right hand and vice versa for a couple minutes.

The more senses you use simultaneously, the more the brain sides work in harmony and the information you receive.

4. Embodiment – become the project, problem, vision, product and act from its point of view. New ideas will flood your mind. This is easy to prove. First, try imagining new features to add to any product in a certain time period, i.e., 5 minutes. You will come up with a number of features. Then, pretend you actually are the product – become the product -and start talking as the product, again for 5 minutes. You will learn exponentially more about what additional features it “needs.” The act of becoming a product or concept will give you new insights and awareness’ into the product, and therefore, potential new features, that you cannot get from just thinking about it.

Innovation has become one of the top business values today, and thinking creatively is requisite for sustainable innovation. Whole brain thinking is the one of the most effective – and accessible – approaches to break out of limited thinking and develop consistently fresh thinking patterns. Once you access your brain’s creative wellspring, business challenges can become innovative opportunities.

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