Ever since I can remember, I was making music.  As soon as I mastered the glockenspiel in Kindermusik, I soon moved on to the piano at the age of four. Although I still continue to play classical piano, I picked up the flute in middle-school marching band and focused heavily on vocal performance in high school.  At Berea College, I participated in various choirs, dabbled in jazz piano, and spent a few semesters taking organ lessons.  Because the piano and organ are not that mobile, I started playing the acoustic guitar in law school.   Music has always been a creative release for me.  Despite tiresome days and hectic schedules, music allows me to relax and reflect on my life. 

Despite this rich background and love of music, I usually find myself taking the “left-brain” approach.  As a kid, I excelled in math.  In college, I majored in philosophy with a particular interest in symbolic logic and the role of language in our society.  Law school only furthered my left-brain thinking with its analytic and logical approach.   So many of us are in careers that focus so heavily on logic and rationality that we fail to tap into our right-brain creativity—essentially leaving out a big piece of ourselves. 

Left-brain thinking tends to piece together new information in an orderly stable model; therefore, when new information is acquired, it falls within the already-established pattern (instead of taking the model apart and reorganizing with the new information at hand).  This approach causes rigidity and stunts the creative process.  On the other hand, the right brain receives information and rearranges it until the information is organized into a workable solution.  When new information is received, the brain freely manipulates the information into new patterns or new ideas. 

Recently, the often-undervalued “right-brain” approach is getting some attention.In “A Whole New Mind,” Daniel Payne argues that there is a new shift in society towards the creative, empathetic approach of right-brain thinkers. In “Innovation in Turbulent Times,” the authors argue that using more right-brain thinking might help companies facing difficult economic times.   I found the following quotes particularly interesting:

“Uncreative people have an annoying tendency to kill good ideas, encourage bad ones, and demand multiple rounds of “improvements.”…  Many companies allow left-brain analytic types to approve ideas at various stages of the innovation process. This is a cardinal error… . When resources are constrained, the key to growth is pairing an analytic left-brain thinker with an imaginative right-brain partner.”

The authors conclude that creating “both-brain partnerships” is an effective way to foster talent and nurture collaboration so long as roles and decision-making are clearly established. Businesses in need of renovation or a “makeover” need creative and empathetic people. Teams will be most successful with people from both styles—each bringing something different to the table.  It is important to recognize which approach is your “default.”  Even if the left-brain approach is your default, one can learn how to utilize more right-brain creative solutions or one can position oneself to have right-brain thinkers on the team.  For me, it is about balance—I need the creative outlet that music provides, but I also enjoy bringing creativity into my otherwise left-brain job.

Darrell K. Rigby, Kara Gruver, and James Allen, Innovation in Turbulent Times, (2009) HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW 79,

Mikita is the Editor-in-Chief of ADR Times. As an associate at Northrup Schlueter LLC, she focuses predominantly on litigation and arbitration in the field of construction insurance defense. She received her Juris Doctorate at Pepperdine and a Masters in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute. Mikita has been published in the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal and worked at the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London. As an avid traveler, she continues to explore various dispute resolution issues and how they vary from region to region.