The simplicity of dividing the brain into two hemispheres, and attributing certain abilities to each side, is a very attractive and seductive proposal. Unfortunately, people and organizations embrace and promote the myth as the “truth.” What they aren’t aware of is how this has harmed our workforce.
Both hemispheres of the brain function differently. It is true that many cognitive functions tend to occur on one side of the brain, referred to as “lateralized.” But that doesn’t mean that the two halves of the brain operate exclusively.
This concept of exclusivity is what gave birth to the Left Brain | Right Brain myth. The brain fires neurons to process information or perform specific tasks. Yet, related “neuro-activities” are not limited to one side of the brain.
The Myth at Work
The seductive nature of this myth can’t be underestimated.
- The Internet provides volumes of graphic images mapping functions to a either hemispheres, which are celebrated in full color. Such artwork and related blogs continue to propagate the Left Brain | Right Brain myth, keeping it alive.
- Many in our workforce have succumbed to the power of this myth. They refuse to venture into tasks or functions not related to their core dominant side of the brain. Left unchecked, people become specialized, never able to complete projects without someone else’s input.
The truth is that the right-side of the brain does engage in expressive and creative work. This includes:
And it’s also true that the left-side of the brain immerse in logic and analytical task, including:
- Critical Thought
But what is NOT true is that the brain works exclusively with one side of the brain. Not surprising, top performers in all industries are beginning to reject this myth. While an individual may lean more to their logic or creative side, it doesn’t mean they only work with half a brain. Consider the following:
- We may be left or right handed, but we use both hands.
- We may have one stronger eye but rely on both.
- We use both ears to help us receive sound.
- So why can’t we use both sides of our brain?
Operating as if the idea of the Left Brain | Right Brain myth is true, we tend to develop one side of our brain. Think about that — we are only developed one side. It’s like lifting weights and becoming muscular with one arm.
Review the Neuroscience of Teaching and Learning course offered by Harvard University. It shows that culture and social forces contribute to the way we learn. This course expresses the need to debunk the Left Brain | Right Brain Myth. It locks us into “ways of thinking about brain function that reduce our understanding of the brain.“
In other words, we limit ourselves. The author states that “the left-brain/right-brain metaphor puts us into the very box out of which we encourage creative people to think.”
How do you know if you have succumbed to this myth? Here are a few tendencies that betray your stance:
- You write a business proposal and focus on the layout. But when you need to insert “numbers,” you hand the document to someone else to complete.
- You review analytical data, create pivot tables and graphics. But you ask someone else to apply colors and appropriate typography.
- When asked to “think out of the box,” you can’t help but think about the dimensions of that box.
There is no harm, no foul if you continue to operate this way. But if you want to become a top performer, or remain as one, you cannot give up opportunities to expand and grow. How long will you remain unbalance and incomplete? What can you do?
Simple. Bring both sides of your brain into your daily routine. For example:
- If you are a graphic artist, who tends to be more creative and visual, then set aside time to review your project or task. Organize your thoughts and analyze what you have created. Write and submit a summary of your design choices. Tell your team why these choices are important, along with the completed visual work.
- If you are a project leader, who tends to be more logical and analytical, then get ready. Express genuine emotions to your team for working so well together. Submit sketches to graphic designers of what the project needs. Your artwork doesn’t need to be good. It only needs to convey your ideas. So, don’t only rely on words, spreadsheets, or Kanban cards.
Call to Action – Feed Your Brain!
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