What he was able to prove that was so revolutionary was that different parts of our brains - specifically the right and left brain - have fundamentally contrasting methodologies by which they process information. It's like taking an artist and a scientist and contrasting them - the scientist will believe only that which is proven by repeated and repeatable experimentation, and the artist is able to create based on little more than meandering thoughts. The scientist sees the world as conforming to a set of infrangible rules, whereas the artist believes, with a sprinkle of creativity on top of it, possibilities are infinite and rules don't exist, only customs to be broken.
The right brain is quite the opposite - on top of having greater spatial and visual aptitudes, it is able to put puzzle pieces together in order to see the whole of an issue, which allows it to commonly solve problems quickly by making intuitive leaps. On the downside, it is not time-oriented nor quite as logical as the left brain in its thinking.
In his excellent work A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink calls the type of thinking directed by the left brain 'L-Directed' thinking, and conversely the right brain 'R-Directed' thinking. He argues that three factors (Abundance, Automation, and Asia) are driving us into a new age of business - 'The Conceptual Age'. Just as the outsourcing of manual labor jobs at the end of America's Industrial Revolution caused a shift in the type of work we did over the past century (from the iron factories to cubicle plains), the outsourcing and automation of today's cubicle-based tasks will cause a new shift in the type of work we do here in the U.S., requiring successful businesses and employees to have highly developed R-Directed aptitudes in combination with their L-Directed skills. Essentially: the fundamentally human skills and tasks that computers can't do faster or people in India can't do cheaper. I see what you are thinking. Why the F*** does all of this matter for you!?
Here's why: cubicle life has turned us into a nation that (among other things) values L-Directed thinking above all else; yet, to be successful you will need to develop your R-Directed thinking as well. This is a chance for you to learn how you learn and emphasize your strengths. And remember: "He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still." -Lao Tzu.
For proof of our L-Directed bias, just look to schools - students who succeed are the ones that do well on scantron-based multiple choice tests and write neatly-constructed, logical-argument-based papers. What about the students who are visual, design-oriented artists? What about those who craft perfectly compelling, empathy-demanding stories? To paraphrase former schoolteacher Dean Dwyer, if I had to draw every assignment I was given in high school, I would have done terribly. Yet, I now use design-oriented thinking and storytelling everyday in hoping to convey my messages effectively (and I am still hoping to get better!).
I'm not saying that the school system doesn't teach R-Directed aptitudes at all. I am just saying it is biased toward L-Directed aptitudes. The point? If you think you aren't smart, it could be the system holding you down.
The solution: examine your own strengths and learn how to highlight them further. Now, this isn't a clear or universal science... yet. Since brains are as unique as fingerprints, each person is going to have different strengths and techniques that work for them, and Self-Experimentation is going to be necessary. However, I will be running a series of these posts that will give you a few tips as to how to improve your own brain skills, and to highlight your unique strengths.
So, this is a call to action: I want you to tell me what type of a learner are you, and how have you successfully highlighted your unique talents? Comment below!
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