RIGHT - LEFT What is your side?

Recent research into how the brain works has found that categorizing people as right- or left-brained is bunk, specifically when it comes to identifying individual ability to create. Starting in 1998, scientists Brenda Milner, Larry Squire, and Eric Kandel published “Cognitive Neuroscience and the Study of Memory” in Neuron, which suggested that all complex cognitive functions require both regions of the brain to work in an integrated fashion.

Everyone uses both sides of their brains to process information. While the right side of the brain remembers the gist of an experience or the big picture, the left side of the brain recalls the details. Complex cognitive functions require the brain regions to work in integrated fashion, shifting between divergent and convergent thinking to combine new information with old and even forgotten knowledge. People may feel more comfortable looking at concepts over minutiae, and vice versa, but the more easily you shift between both sides, the more complex a creative a thinker you can be.

The results of a 2008 study by Robert Epstein, PhD, a psychology researcher, founder, and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, and senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology demonstrated that by developing four core areas—capturing new ideas, engaging in challenging tasks, broaden

ing knowledge, and interacting with stimulating people and places—people can enhance their brain’s ability to innovate. Seventy-four city employees in Orange County, California, participated in creativity training consisting of exercises that focused on these four proficiencies. Eight months after the training, the employees increased their rate of new idea generation by 55%, brought in more than $600,000 in new revenue, and saved about $3.5 million through innovative cost reductions.

So while some people seem to be less adept than others at firing up both burners, making them appear more left-brained than right-brained, most brain scientists agree–and this is what’s exciting–that the ability to shift rapidly between divergent and convergent thinking, which is the key to innovation, can be sharpened and improved.

Allow your team to develop four core areas of intellectual stimulation to make them more inventive and better problem solvers.

1. Visualization and Hands-on activity together visualization is a right brain function. If nothing is done beyond that, the left brain is not engaged. To engage both sides, take up a hands-on project of some sort – perhaps making some shelving of planting a garden. Let your right brain visualize the end product. Then engage the left brain by identifying all of the steps necessary to complete the project.

2. games will engage both sides of the brain because there is a visual component to the game and also a strategic element. Chess and checkers are excellent examples of these types of game. Players must keep in their heads the visual of the entire board but must also develop strategies for their moves, sometimes several moves in advance. Jigsaw puzzles offer the same coordination.

3.Learn How to Play a Musical Instrument

Music enjoyment is very much a right hemisphere activity; however, learning placement of the fingers to achieve certain sounds and reading music engages the left hemisphere.

4. Set Up a Physical Environment that Engages the Other Hemisphere

If you work involves primarily left brain activity (bookkeeping, report writing, law research, etc.), set up physical space with art that reflects nature and music of different varieties. Having those things around allows the right hemisphere to engage, too.

5. Learn to Juggle juggling requires eye-hand coordination and forces both sides of the brain to work together.

6. Practice the Colored Pen Exercise take several pens of different colors and use each one to write the name of a color. However, the color name written must be different than the pen’s color. Now, instead of reading the words that are written, state the color. Your right brain sees the color, but your left brain must engage to remember not to read the word.

7.Practice using your non-dominant hand throughout the day.

This will offset the habit of using one side of your brain more than the other.

8. Use Mind-Mapping Tools for Projects. A mind map is a visual representation of the components of a project. Creating one stimulates the creative brainstorming and visual strength of the right brain. But words must be inserted into the map, and then they must be organized into categories – a left brain activity. There are many free apps for the creation of mind maps, and they are actually great starters for project work.

9. Find Apps That Will Force Hemispheric Cooperation. There are loads of apps to test brain skills, and many of them will force both hemispheres into action. These include such things as color tile moving games. Players must move tiles to create a color palette – easy enough until the added caveat of only having a certain number of moves in which to do it. Then the left-brain strategy must kick in.

10. Solve Math Problems in Multiple Ways. Solving algebraic equations is a linear brain function. Drawing pictures of equations takes those math problem over to the right hemisphere. This works for ration and proportion, percentage, rate, and time mathematical computations, as well.

The more connections made between the two brain hemispheres, the better problem solvers and innovators we become. Taking the logical, linear, detail-oriented cognitive functions of the left and being able to massage and manipulate them with the more creative, big picture of the right is something we all should strive for.

"Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success."

Swami Vivekananda

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