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Are You Ready For A Brain Battle?

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January 14, 2020

You can admit it.  You’ve definitely taken the online or social media pop-up quiz to determine which brain hemisphere dominates your modus operandi.  Everyone loves a good personality quiz.  (Sidebar: though an interestingly enough, I’ve never taken the Meyers-Briggs assessment, have you?).  For a quick primer on the hemispheric brain debate, authors of Innovation in Turbulent Times, offer a succinct breakdown:

The left-brain is astute at processing language, logic, numbers, sequential ordering and linear functions.  This manifests as mathematics, reading planning, scheduling, and organizing.  The right brain is a specialist in nonverbal ideation and holistic synthesizing, thus making it better at handling images, music, colors, patterns and quick non-sequential processing, like flashes of insight.

In HBR article, Putting Your Whole Brain to Work, Dorothy notes our work styles and decision making tips reveal our cognitive preferences.  So this week, we’re exploring the ultimate brain battle for managers: which style of thinking is better for organizations: Left or Right?

Right Brain  vs. Left Brain

In a Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argues that we’ve entered a future where right-brain thinkers will rule the world.  He articulates six human abilities that, he argues, are dominantly right-brain oriented that are fundamental to personal and profession achievement: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

Conversely, though most business schools are now say goodbye to dreaded GMAT which skews heavily to toward evaluating traditional processing activities related to data and analysis, the coveted MBA remains a social imprimatur of left brain orientation.  (now if only law schools would eliminate the LSAT exam!).

However, neuroscientists believe that research doesn’t support the stark differentiation between being a “Left Brain” or a “Right Brain” oriented person.  Rather, the distinctions lie in how information is processed in either sphere. Psychologist and neuroscientist clarify that the separation of duties is much more nuanced.  For example, as it relates to visual inputs, the left-brain processes visible objects while the right processes shape.  As it relates to language, the right-brain decodes verbal metaphors, implied or indirect meaning, while the left unpacks  grammar, constructions and literal translation.

Meeting in the Middle

Management consultants suggest that the correct balance is to strike a happy medium between both worlds.  Drawing on the fashion industry’s leadership on this approach, identifying left-brain / right-brain co-leaders remains critical to success in the increasingly hyper digital and fast paced industry. 

  • Creative Director: the imaginative, dominantly right brained creative who has a natural knack for foreshadowing consumer interests and desires with new ideas and product concepts
  • Brand Manager: inherently left brained, business saavy and eschews data driven and analytical decision-making.

The dynamic duo model extends well beyond the fashion market to marked success in other domains:

Does your most effective team possess these dual avatars for innovation? If not, consider how you might achieve a balance between both brain worlds within your organization.


Leigh-Ann / Venture Cafe Miami

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