I recently listened to an interview with Ian McGilchrist on NPR's Hidden Brain Podcast. The subject of the discussion is 'Why is the brain divided?' The answer opened a whole new perspective for me not only as it relates to design thinking, but also in my personal and professional relationships.
McGilchrist contends that the brain is not split so that each side controls particular actions or processes. Rather, the brain is designed to function collaboratively with the right side focused on the big picture, and the left side focused on detail. The left brain also prefers black & white; solving problems with workable solutions, while the right brain is all grey area; interpreting nuance, metaphor, and meaning.
I immediately started making connections. My husband and I tend to butt heads in the way we approach problem-solving. He's an engineer and musician. He's always looking for detail, proof, and mapped out suggestions i.e. music, engineering. I, on the other hand, tend to make broad suggestions, based on 'the long run,' letting things morph as they happen, i.e., teacher, design thinking consultant. See where I'm headed? What I found most interesting, is that ideologically he leans right while I lean left. Which I find ironic given what appears to be our individual brain strengths. And I even got a wry smile from him when I suggested we start telling people we've switched sides! ;)
This got me thinking-no pun intended! There are generally two types of people; detail-oriented and big-picture. But much like the brain neither can function successfully without the other. Without the creativity of the right-brained, innovation would never happen. You need a big-picture view, unconcerned with detail to get started on a project. However, these grand ideas would never get off the ground without the left-brained alongside to analyze, clarify, and calculate the specifics.
And this is where design thinking fits in perfectly. You leverage the strengths of both sides of the brains in your organization; imagining what could be in concert with how it can be. If you approach this process recognizing which side of the brain your individual team members work from, they can more readily overcome challenges that may arise related to work style, communication style, and embedded expectations.
Carol Glanville, M.Ed.
Organizational Design Consultant