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Left brain vs. right brain: What does this mean to the way you work?

Left brain vs. right brain: What does this mean to the way you work?

June 2010

We’ve all heard the terms left-brained and right-brained, but you may not know which side of your brain you use most, or why this knowledge is even important to you. We’ve explored how the different sides of your brain influence the way you process information, ultimately affecting how you communicate and learn—in your work environment and beyond.  

From IT to creative fields, knowing your brain dominance, and that of others in your workplace, can help you adapt your message and bridge the communication gap so everyone can work more efficiently and more contentedly.   

Small misunderstanding, big consequences
According to Businessperformance.com, poor communication in the workplace can be directly linked to increased operating costs and reduced efficiency causing:  
  • lower productivity
  • employee dissatisfaction and turnover
  • lack of understanding of business strategy
  • lack of common direction
And, poor communication can also be extremely costly. IDC research shows that UK and US enterprises are losing an estimated $37 billion a year as a result of employee misunderstanding.  

To help you improve your communication, we’ll take a look at the root of communication—how your brain processes information—and give you tips on how to better maximize the full capacity of your brain in a workplace setting.    

What’s the difference?
Although we all work using both the left and right hemispheres of our brain, most of us have a dominant side which affects the way we process information, approach problems and communicate. Understanding the key differences can help you communicate (and also be understood) better every day.  

The left side of the brain processes information from part to whole. Think of it as a linear approach; taking pieces of information, lining them up in a logical order, reflecting on this structured information and finally drawing a conclusion.   In the other hemisphere, the right side of the brain processes from whole to parts. It starts with the answer, grasping the big picture first, not the details. Individuals with right-brain dominance need to know the purpose of their actions. Just knowing “the overview” can help them better prepare and absorb the more detailed information to come.  

Left-brained people tend to be more:
  • Analytical
  • Logical
  • Mathematically and scientifically inclined
  • Verbal and concise
  • Detail oriented
Right-brained people tend to be more:
  • Visual
  • Intuitive, pick up on other’s feelings
  • Imaginative
  • Non-verbal
  • Spatial
When reading the above, you may see traits on both sides that pertain to you, and that’s a good thing. A key to enhancing your own learning and thinking process is to tap into both sides as much as possible.  

Two halves make a whole
No matter what your dominance, here are a few tips for the workplace that can help the two sides work together in harmony.  

Power up your presentations: Consider your audience when preparing any presentation, lesson or meeting, and tailor your approach as much as possible to their brain dominance using tactics they will best comprehend.   If you aren’t sure about the brain dominance of your audience, here’s a general list of professions and the characteristic brain dominance of each.  

Professions that are typically suited to right-brained people include:
  • The arts and entertaining
  • Teaching
  • Writing
  • Decorating
  • Architecture
  • Counseling
  • Motivational speaking
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Sales
Professions that generally attract left-brained people are:
  • Engineering
  • Accounting
  • Research
  • Law
  • Computer technology
  • Science
Tip #1: When presenting to the right-brained, include visuals with your message, charts, graphs and images. When presenting to the left-brained, structure your presentation so it starts with the details and leads up to the big picture.

Tip #2: Use the traits listed above as a cheat-sheet or check list. Include information in your presentation that meets characteristics from both sides. For the right-brain’s “imaginative” characteristic, include a true story about your topic or try incorporating a metaphor to explain your point. For the left-brain’s “mathematically-inclined” characteristic, find statistics on your topic which further prove your point.

Amplify color usage: Color can be a powerful tool in the workplace. In fact, the use of color, printed, on screen or otherwise, increases retention by an average of 65%.  

Tip #1: Communicate in color. If you have colored markers lying around your office, use them! Do you use a white board or flip chart in meetings? Or frequently sketch your ideas on paper when communicating with clients? If so, organize your thoughts using a variety of colors, pairing like ideas and correlations with similar colors. Both your left- and right-brained colleagues will better grasp the big picture through your use of structure and color to explain your ideas.   

Tip #2: Incorporate a color-coded filing system to signify categories of information. It will appeal to the right-brain, image-trained mind, while the part-to-whole nature of grouping by color appeals to those who are left-brained.  

Provide agendas: This might be a no-brainer, yet you might not realize how it affects our ability to process information. Sending out an agenda with the objective of the meeting in advance allows your right-brained coworkers to get a sneak peek of the overview, helping them better prepare for the details to come, while your left-brained coworkers can identify which topics (in parts) will be discussed. Using this simple technique gives you a good start to ensuring your message gets through to everyone.  

Whether you favor the left side of your brain, or the right, supporting the dominance of those you interact with can add up to a more focused, more creative and more productive workplace.
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