It has been an article of faith that the famous Left Brain/Right Brain split explains why some people are creative and others not. So much for that easy crutch. New studies are uncovering evidence that turning off or turning on either side of the brain (or even being a “right-or-left-brained” person at all) simply does not happen.
So all that brainstorming that has been going on in corporate America for thirty years? A waste of time, or at least, a less productive use of it. Turns out you can’t turn on or off your brain’s left side when you need to think creatively. And brainstorming goes on at every desk in every company everyday. We just do a poor job of capturing it.
What follows cribs from this article.
A short history lesson
The two-sided brain theory showed up in 1981, and it “spread quickly throughout the business world, because it seemed to explain why some people came up with creative ideas while others struggled.”
On to 1998, with the publication of a work that proposed to replace the “left/right” model with one that has the entire brain working on “learning and recall.”
Put simply: The brain collects experiences, and uses new experiences to combine old ones in logical patterns. This process of storing old memories in an orderly fashion is called “analysis”; the combining of old memories with new experiences to create new thoughts is labeled “intuition.” So, a brainstormed idea actually comes not from turning off the storage and analysis functions of the brain, but keeping them all fired up, and interacting with new information (this may be why brainstorming sessions can work, as participants acquire a big set of new experiences in a confined period.)
These authors posit, however, that the best new ideas seem to pop up “in the shower, or driving, or when falling asleep at night – When your brain is relaxed and wandering…”
Brainstorming? The best sort happens all the time.
The lesson? Brainstorming needs to be moved out of the meeting room and back into journals, diaries, regular meetings and phone conversations that occur every day in corporate America. Employees who are energized and engaged in their jobs will naturally let their brains creatively wander and make connections between stored and new information, allowing insight to flourish on a daily basis! All you need to do is put a culture in place that allows those steadily bubbling ideas to be captured, and acted on.
And you need to let your workers figure out how to get that done, by engaging them in the process!