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Communication Breakdown: Left Brain vs. Right Brain

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In a previous post, our new infographic series, ”Between Minds: An Ongoing Taxonomy of Team Dynamics.” Going forward we intend to provide a detailed breakdown of your diverse—and maybe even dysfunctional—coworkers and team members. As you well know, a team divided cannot stand, let alone dominate the competition in your softball league tournament. Luckily, there are techniques that managers and team members can use to achieve team alignment. For example, understanding how different personalities function will help managers capitalize on their distinct skills and tendencies and better position you to succeed as a team and as individuals.

Our first entry in this series was was “Thought Leader vs. Do Leader.” While we acknowledged that the split was as much situational as personality-driven, and that few people fall exclusively into one camp or the other, we postulated that some people people really do work best in one role or the other. And the enormous feedback we received suggested that many of you agree.

This week we highlight: “Left Brain vs. Right Brain.”

The brain is divided laterally into two hemispheres, left and right. As we know, the two hemispheres process information in different and complementary ways. The right brain processes information holistically; the left brain processes information in a linear manner. This split is one of the most widely recognized cognitive contrasts. That said, the distinction is a subtle one: not all functions commonly associated with the left brain are located exclusively in that side of the cortex, and not all so-called right-brain functions are exclusive to the right. Still, the left-right breakdown does usefully capture the different ways of thinking, planning and problem solving of a single person—and, we think, a team as a whole.

The right side of the brain is somewhat haphazard—but brilliantly so. As a result, right dominant thinkers often move from one task to another in a seemingly random pattern, focusing on whatever shiny object (or project) attracts their attention. The work gets done, but without an obvious concern for priorities. As a result, right thinkers tend to overdeliver on some projects, but scramble to finish others. Managers can mitigate for their drifting tendency with carefully plotted “to do” lists. When right thinkers do opt to leapfrog to a particular assignment, they should justify their reason for doing so.

The left side of the brain thinks in a linear, sequential order. The left-brained person is a list maker who enjoys doing daily planning and completing tasks in order. But sometimes it’s important for left-thinkers to pull back and reevaluate their prioritizations. There may be a good reason that all of the right-thinkers are focusing on a particular project.

Right side thinkers depend upon intuition—”gut feeling”—to solve problems and process information. Right thinkers reference their repositories of past experiences to help them contextualize situations and feel out a proper response. The left brain, in turn, processes information in a much more logical manner. Problems are equations that can be broken down and solved. Left thinkers draw upon rules and best practices when they engage with a new idea.

Brainstorming for Left vs. Right Brain Thinking

Brainstorming is a useful technique to spur creativity from both right and left thinkers. Right-siders should feel liberated to throw out ideas and critiques. Left-siders can analyze the applicability of ideas and identify possible problems.

MindManager is a perfect tool for enabling these left vs. right brained team brainstorming session. Teams can use a brainstorming template within MindManager to capture, manipulate, groups, edit, and store ideas for everyone on the team in real time. Using drag and drop, and the variety of tagging and filtering capabilities, your team is able to structure the brainstorming mind map in a way that makes sense to both the left brain and the right brain thinkers.

To get you started, try this brainstorming template:

Are you a left or right brain thinker?

Do you recognize yourself as a left or right hemisphere thinker? (You can take this quiz to find out.) Do you make a plan, and follow it to the letter? Or do you let your gut lead the way? Is it lunchtime, yet? Could you spot us some cash for an Arby’s run? Let us know in the comments.


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