Are the left and right hand side of the brain mutually exclusive?
This came up on my newsfeed recently – Right Brain Vs Left Brain Creativity Test. The site’s owners indicate that ‘Creative people use the right side of their brains more than the left’ and the site’s quiz will help you determine if you a suitable for a creative career.
Sounds like it provides you with some valuable insight, right? Unfortunately, it’s total nonsense.
It seems to come from some research in the 60s where testing was done on independent halves of the brain in epilepsy patients and the results indicated that the different sides of the brain acted differently. But these patients had the thick bundle of fibres connecting their hemispheres cut. In healthy people, this is simply not the case. Our brains are marvellously interconnected.
In business, it seems, we hold onto this notion a lot. Check out another example here and another one here. And whenever the Left Brain / Right Brain myth is invoked, it is invariably around getting people to think differently.
Which is great – but why do we keep holding onto the myth of Left Brain vs Right Brain? I think it’s because the real answer (our brains are fabulously complex) is too hard to comprehend and we like things to be easy to understand.
Creativity doesn’t come down to some quiz (or whether an image turns left or right when you stare at it). Creativity can be learned and like all things, needs to be practiced.
This myth also passes the ‘well that makes sense’ test. It sounds plausible so we believe it. Sadly, this is a very common issue in business. For instance:
“Our Operating Costs have gone up because we run a complex business and the cost of wages has increased.”
When the reality might be:
“There is more variation in performance and people are taking longer to do the same job. We’re also making more mistakes which is causing a loss of sales and extensive re-work.”
There is simply no substitute for doing your own investigation when someone presents you with a certain ‘truth’. Especially in business.
Be careful when you hear ‘truths’. Challenge what you hear, especially if what you hear is being used to explain why something is not doing well, or why something can’t be changed.
Ignore your built-in impulse to agree with things that sound reasonable. Or prevailing myths.
And always remember to use your whole brain 🙂