Business Success: Activities by Brain Function

Considering the complexity of today’s volatile global economy, the role of the right brain is increasingly vital. With computers becoming more and more adept at handling the linear processes, the competitive advantage for humans is in the ability to access the power of the right hemisphere. And the skills needed to participate in an adaptive organization are also dominantly right-brained. In fact, research suggests that our right hemisphere is the only area that deals effectively with change.


In general, the two halves of the brain work together to orchestrate every human activity. However, neuroscientists suggest that the two hemispheres approach every situation slightly differently. Understanding and enhancing the use of one side or the other can enhance creative endeavors.

The differences in the hemispheres can be characterized in four major ways:

1. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body; the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. This fact is well known. But it is interesting to note that the written word goes from left to right, a movement controlled by the left hemisphere. Therefore, reading and writing are controlled by the linear, logical, sequential part of the brain. Until recently, this was the source of almost all knowledge. Only since the twentieth century has information been conveyed in pictures, encouraging right hemisphere or even whole-brain synthesis.

2. The left hemisphere is sequential; the right hemisphere is simultaneous. As described, reading is sequential. The left hemisphere also manages other sequential processes, such as talking and interpreting speech. By contrast, the right hemisphere has the ability to interpret information simultaneously. This enables people to make sense of very complex situations. To illustrate, consider a comparison to computer software. SAS software can perform statistical calculations faster than humans can. But the most powerful software cannot recognize a human face as fast as the average person. “Think of the sequential/simultaneous difference like this: the right hemisphere is the picture; the left hemisphere is the thousand words.” As the flow of complex information accelerates, frequent and proficient use of the right hemisphere becomes increasingly important.

3. The left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context. In most people, both left- and right-handed, the left hemisphere is the source of language. However, the ability to comprehend language is a bit more nuanced and requires both hemispheres. Chapter 3 described the mechanics of both verbal and nonverbal communication. Within the brain, the left hemisphere interprets the words. The right hemisphere processes all of the nonverbal parts of the communication, such as tone, pace, facial expressions, and body language. In addition, the right hemisphere’s ability to consider context gives it responsibility for filling in blanks, translating nuance, and interpreting metaphor.

4. The left hemisphere analyzes the details; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture. Basically, the left brain analyzes information in a linear fashion. The right brain synthesizes information to create a whole. The left brain can find problems, identify parts, and grasp details. The right brain focuses on interactions and relationships. And “only the right brain can see the big picture.”

Ned Herrmann, a well-known brain researcher, created a list of common business functions and mapped them to the quadrant of the brain that primarily handles each one.

Left Cerebral Cortex
• Gather facts.
• Analyze issues.
• Solve problems logically.
• Argue rationally.
• Measure precisely.
• Understand technical elements.
• Consider financial aspects.

Right Cerebral Cortex
• Read signs of coming change.
• See the “big picture.”
• Recognize new possibilities.
• Tolerate ambiguity.
• Integrate ideas and concepts.
• Bend or challenge established policies.
• Synthesize unlike elements into a new whole.
• Problem solve in intuitive ways.

Left Limbic System
• Find overlooked flaws.
• Approach problems practically.
• Stand firm on issues.
• Maintain a standard of consistency.
• Provide stable leadership and supervision.
• Read fine print in documents and/or contracts.
• Organize and keep track of essential data.
• Develop detailed plans and procedures.
• Implement projects in a timely manner.
• Articulate plans in an orderly way.
• Keep financial records straight.

Right Limbic System
• Recognize interpersonal difficulties.
• Anticipate how others will feel.
• Intuitively understand how others feel.
• Pick up nonverbal cues of interpersonal stress.
• Relate to others in empathetic ways.
• Engender enthusiasm.
• Persuade.
• Teach.
• Conciliate.
• Understand emotional elements.
• Consider values.

Come back next week for an article about fostering creativing.  We welcome your comments and feedback and love it when you share our blog with your co-workers and friends.

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