Do you have right or left brain thinking abilities? Or do you use both sides equally well? Although we use both hemispheres, scientists suggest we have preferences or strengths for one or the other.
To be competitive in today's job market we must develop both creative and analytical thinking styles.
Analytical and creative problem solving abilities rely on different skill sets. Sometimes the difference is described in terms of left-brain or analytical, and right brain or creative thinking.
Analytical thinking means to examine, or think about, the different parts or details of something in order to understand or explain it better, or to work logically and systematically to resolve an issue. In contrast, creative thinking describes cognitive processes that lead to ideas, solutions, concepts, artistic forms, theories or new products. Below are suggestions for enhancing each side of your brain
Boost creative, right brain thinking abilities
- Choose another angle. Approach the project from a different vantage point. Become more open-minded. Listen, without judgment, to others’ ideas or suggestions. Ask for feedback from people with different backgrounds.
View your work differently. What would happen if you shrink, enlarge or change its shape? Add or subtract something? What positive, new perspective can you bring?
- Brainstorm. Work with a team. Without restrictions or judgment, encourage ideas to flow. Use “igniter phrases” such as “That’s great.” Avoid “killer phrases” such as “It won’t work.” Don’t display subtle disapproval such as raised eyebrows. Alternate private and group work. Individual work generates ideas. Groups then select and act on them.
Active wishing, a type of brainstorming, suggests you articulate needs, desires, opinions or feelings about an issue using action-oriented statements. For example, if you want to solve a challenging task or resolve an issue with a boss, express this in your wish list. Then brainstorm ways to resolve the situation by writing ideas.
- Attribute listing. Improve or change the parts or characteristics of a given object, or transfer attributes from one object or situation to another. Objects could come from technology, literature or other cultural aspect. For example, to get new fashion ideas, view a museum display of historic clothing.
- Capture ideas. New ideas are fleeting. Carry a journal, sketch pad or pocket computer to record insights. Identify settings and times when ideas come easily, such as bed, bath, bus, or cabin.
- Challenge yourself. Put yourself in difficult situations in which usual reinforcers won’t work. This encourages you to try behaviors that worked previously. Embrace failure. If properly managed, it can spark creativity.
- Broaden education and experience. Continue to acquire knowledge and skills in you field, but also expose yourself to information outside your specialty. Take courses. Read. Surround yourself with diverse stimuli.
- Draw or "Doodle." Write a question that clearly states what you want to know. Underneath it, draw whatever flows though your hands. Let your mind roam. Don’t evaluate ideas. Then draw lines with different colored pencils to connect the ideas. Use your intuitive skills to interpret the meaning and symbols in the drawing. Note the sequence of steps and your thoughts and feelings as you study the drawing.
Strengthen analytical, left-brain thinking abilities
- Research. Investigate relevant information. Pay attention to facts and details. Be precise, accurate. Make notes ahead of time to ensure you’re gathering appropriate information. Ask questions to learn details.
- Manage time. Value efficiency, competency, meeting deadlines. Follow through on commitments. Write goals, time lines, and strategies on a daily organizer.
Make a “to do” list. Write everything you need to do to daily to achieve goals. Prioritize.
Get up an hour earlier each day to think and plan. This quiet hour, period of interrupted concentration will enable you to think and plan projects with set deadlines.
Solicit suggestions from others before beginning projects. Team up with practical colleagues.
- Set and act on goals. Establish priorities. Write down the precise steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goals. List expected completion dates. Reward yourself for meeting deadlines.
Focus. Commit to fewer projects and complete these. Ensure all daily activities are related to these goals.
- Clarify the problem. List different resolutions, and gather facts, details. Chart the consequences of each possibility.
List steps involved in each approach.
- Stay objective when making decisions. Don’t make decisions too quickly. Develop a reasonable list of options to pursue, and a timetable in which to research them. Hold yourself accountable for meeting an established quota and/or time frame. Consider all data. Critically evaluate projects or ideas. Use objective analyses to observe results of potential actions.
Take time to think things through, but don’t procrastinate. Seek feedback from a trusted friend or colleague.
- Structure and plan thoughts. For example, when giving a presentation, know the purpose of your talk, main points and their logical sequence. Give examples or anecdotes reinforcing each point. Identify how you can open the presentation to captivate and involve the audience, and where you can inject humor. Know how to summarize for understanding and remembrance, and action you want the audience to take. Evaluate situations before responding. Then act.
- Adhere to outlines and time limits. Begin projects by asking who, what, where, why when and how. This grounds thinking. Make two lists: one of required job tasks; the second of tasks that can wait. Outline plans and time lines on your calendar. Check it daily. Reward yourself for completing required tasks.
Try using some of the forgoing thinking styles when dealing with work, family or other issues. Consider working with a partner or small group to share ideas and give each other feedback.