Innovation is a product of ‘whole brain’ thinking and ‘whole brain’ thinking, is a huge advantage for any business.
I was first introduced to ‘whole brain’ thinking in the 1990’s. I remember bringing Ned Hermann’s heavy, thick, paperback book home with me, staring at his title, ‘The Creative Brain’, and thinking ‘This is going to take me forever to read.’ But it didn’t. I couldn’t put it down.
Ned Hermann developed his ‘whole brain’ thinking concept while he was manager of management education at General Electric. Since then his insights via the Hermann Institute, have been applied in huge companies such as Coca Cola, American Express and IBM, and in tiny start ups such as all the 600+ companies backed by the accelerator VC, SOSV, in the last few years. The premise is simple. The purposeful application of four different thinking styles, to business, or any endeavour, leads to more creativity and better results.
So, what are the four thinking styles? They are:-
First – creative thinking- easily seen in artists, visionaries and entrepreneurial thinkers.
Second – analytical thinking – the application of logical, linear and quantitative thinking.
Third – operational thinking – favoured by those who like order, detail, are good at planning etc. And
Fourth – emotional thinking – intuition, feelings, an orientation towards people etc.
The ‘whole brain’ metaphor came from what was perceived as the integration of the activities of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain. We all use all four kinds of thinking, but we tend to prefer one, or two, or three styles and that is reflected in what we say and do.
The original Star Trek team embraced all four thinking mindsets from the outset. There was the visionary & creative thinking of Captain Kirk, the analytical thinking of Spock, the operational brilliance of Scotty and the people focus of Dr McCoy. Together this is a fun but excellent model of a ‘high performing’ team.
Some teams however, are not so lucky. Sometimes there are too many Spocks, too many Captain Kirks, too many Scotty’s or too many McCoys. And in other teams, one or more players are missing altogether. The result? Teams performing below par and possibly even witnessing conflict through a lack of understanding of each other’s thinking preferences.
I have seen magic happen in ‘whole brain’ thinking workshops when the penny drops.
- Deeper self awareness when participants gain insight into their own thinking preferences.
- Aha’s & greater tolerances when they see the thinking preferences of ‘others’.
- Greater creativity, innovation and mental agility when all 4 types of thinking are applied.
- Expanded problem solving capability.
- Enhanced communication & relationships
- Radical changes to sales pitches and communication styles for greater effectiveness.
- Restructuring of teams to increase performance.
- Changes to hiring plans & job specifications.
Plus much more.
Today ‘whole-brain’ thinking has relevance in all organisations. Particularly as creativity and innovation are now so critical to success.
The reality however is this. For many, it’s still a relatively unexplored capability and opportunities to increase performance across the board, are being left on the table.