We all know that the brain is divided into hemispheres that govern our functions and abilities. While research has proven that both sides are involved in almost every human activity, each of us has a "dominant" side–a hemisphere we rely on a bit more than the other. Simply put, the left side is the more logical, rational, sequential, and numerical. The right side is more holistic, emotional, organic, and visual.
One of the many advantages I had growing up was I was raised between these hemispheres. My artist mother is a right brainer who taught us how to draw outside of the lines. My accountant father has a big left brain and taught us to analyze the data. As kids, it was confusing at times, but we learned the benefits of both points of view. It was funny to watch my mom paint and my dad price the paintings!
Brain Dominance Test Are you a right or left brainer? Take this test.
What happens is you have a hemisphere that is stronger and you start to favor it. It becomes part of your identity and then others reinforce it by what they say and how they encourage you. And often this defines life choices you make, your educational path, your network, your job and career choices.
Many years ago my mother encouraged me to read Betty Edwards, Drawing on the right side of the brain. Can you draw what you see vs what you are thinking? I learned that through awareness you could engage the other hemisphere. You can change your preferences and abilities—and this alters the way you label and identify yourself. My drawing ability is still limited but I can see a lot more.
It is well known that regardless what hemisphere of your brain is dominant, you can be creative. Creativity is not determined by the hemispheres. It will be more determined by your network and your appetite to not accept the labels you give yourself or are assigned to you.
Jonah Lehrer's new book, which comes out later this month, Imagine:How Creativity Works outlines the forces and sources of creativity. Of course, there are many factors both environmental and personal that influence and generate creative thoughts. One of the most important of these factors revealed by this book is your network. Most of the most innovative companies encourage their employees to form "diverse networks" where they explore other disciplines and fields. Another of many compelling studies cited by Lehrer, is Martin Ruef's research on more than 750 Stanford MBA grads. All of them started their own companies. Those with "diverse networks" were 3X more creative. 3 Times! "Diverse networks" always mean networks that represent people who are different than you–ethnic, religious, political, geographic, occupational, age, economic and educational diversity.
Diverse always means different than you. It means different perspectives that you have to learn to understand. It means letting go of your assumptions.
I have learned not to pre-judge a source or to under-estimate a person. Everyone has talent, power, and ideas. Approaching every meeting, encounter and experience with expectations can destroy the opportunity to see and hear something new.
Who you know and talk to determines what you know and what ideas you will have.
How diverse is your network? Probably not enough. How will you reach out to new people with new and different perspectives?
What you read matters
Who you interact with at the organizations you belong to
Your propensity to attend events outside of your affiliations
The frequency in which you engage in discussions with people with different perspectives
Doing things because it it is interesting not obligated
A diverse network is never really complete. Because you evolve and your needs evolve. What sparks insight and innovation changes. What is diverse to you changes. So to remain creative and fresh you have to have a network that constantly enhances your world view.
When we reach out to new experiences and connections, it sparks creativity. Your potential to offer solutions increases and your appreciation for other points of view rises. The world becomes more interconnected and interdependent. And your opportunities to contribute expands.
We can not let our dominant hemisphere dominate our identities and our choices. Creativity is within everyone. You need to open up your mind to new sources of ideas and inspiration by breaking out of a network that looks and sounds like you.
Thanks for reading. John