Creativity and the Right-Brain

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
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

“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,


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Mikita Weaver
Mikita is the Editor-in-Chief of ADR Times. She is also an attorney at Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy focusing solely on Family Law. Before that, she worked predominantly in litigation and arbitration in the field of construction and business litigation 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. She welcomes your inquiries, and can be reached at [email protected] or (800) 616-1202

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