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VOL. 128 | NO. 90 | Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Graber Atkinson

Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

Both Sides Win in ‘Battle of the Brains’

By Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson

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If you have ever engaged someone in a discussion about left- and right-brain thinking they almost always take a side. Sometimes it seems that the two sides are incompatible and unbending in their view of how one should see the world. The right-brain people are typically labeled “creative” and “artistic” with a unique ability to see things intuitively and as a whole. The left-brain people are “analytical” and “detail oriented” utilizing linear process and logic to solve problems.

Business has traditionally favored the left-brain approach, perhaps leaving a chip on the shoulder of the right-brainers. What most people don’t realize is that while they may be stronger in one area over the other, we can all access both sets of abilities if we chose to do so. We have two brain hemispheres for a reason. It is not a zero sum game.

There has been ample discussion over the last 10 years about the shift from the Knowledge Economy to the Creative Economy. Dr. Richard Florida, a thought leader in economic competitiveness, demographic trends, and cultural and technological innovation, was one of the original voices in the choir with his 2004 book, “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Florida argues that there is a growing role of creativity in our economy. Leading this transformation are 40 million Americans – more than a third of our national workforce – who create for a living.

Many deduce that the “creative class” is made up of right-brained individuals, a counter-culture that rejects the corporate mind-set. We would argue that this assessment is wrong. Florida describes the creative class this way: “I define the creative class to include people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content.” He says that

“they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit.” He argues for full human potential put forth to create new solutions.

We agree. The world would be a terribly unbalanced place if the human mind was not capable of both analyzing and creating. Creative people can analyze and analytical people can create. Creative people sometimes wear suits and analytical people often have tattoos – right and left brain doesn’t necessarily have a typified physical appearance.

In our experience the best insights comes from bringing these folks together to solve complex problems collaboratively. They push each other further and stimulate cross-brain thinking in one another. Diversity of thought and experience is needed to create, validate and implement new ideas that have sizable impact on the market.

Genius lies in the intersection of the linear and the non-linear. Encourage ambidextrous thinking in your team to cultivate creative and effective solutions to some of your industry’s toughest challenges.

Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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