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The case for right & left brain thinkers December 6, 2009

Posted by cindy333 in A Whole New Mind, [Books] Ways of Thinking.

In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink shares 6 aptitudes that he believes are essential for fostering right brain thinking: design, story, symphony, empathy,play, and meaning.  The premise is that globalization and the increasing frequency of jobs being outsourced, the rise of technology and automation, and our society’s overabundance of resources has resulted in a backlash against traditional left-brain thinking.

Backing up for a bit — what’s left-brain versus right-brain thinking? Biologically, our brains are divided into two hemispheres. The left-brain is good at sequential reasoning, analysis, and words.  The right-brain is strong on holistic reasoning, pattern recognition, and interpretation of emotions and nonverbal expressions.  This insight can be extrapolated further to describe different ways of thinking and different approaches to the world.  People who are more left-brain leaning tend to be lawyers, accountants, engineers.  Those on the right, the artists, designers, writers.

Pink makes a strong case for integrated right- and left-brain thinkers.  In today’s world, it’s important to maintain balance but in particular, to foster traditional “right-brain” thinking.  To do so, Pink offers different exercises to allow the left-brain thinker to extend beyond their comfort zone and engage in improvisation, story telling, drawing, and playing games.

Given the 14-week semester that we’ve spent, as students in Sara Beckman’s Design and Systems Thinking class, I didn’t find Pink’s book particularly insightful or novel.  Many of the exercises and concepts were ones that have been shared by past speakers or previous readings.  Perhaps that’s a testament to Sara’s success in fostering “whole mind” MBA students this semester, or perhaps Pink’s book is better left as an introductory reader to the concepts behind design thinking.



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