You learn a lot of fascinating things when you study neuroscience. The whole-brain thinking approach is one such thing.
This approach has multiple applications and is a common approach to learning. Many high performing managers leverage what they learn through whole-brain thinking to gain a competitive edge in the professional market.
It still surprises me when I speak with managers that want to grow and scale but haven’t yet heard about this approach. Whole-brain thinking can optimise various learning processes, including Elearning.
Whole-brain thinking also allows for managers to take an approach best suited for their business when things become uncertain or volatile—helping to create a dynamic approach to management that enables you to tackle any challenges that come your way.
Before we can dive into the nuances of the whole brain thinking approach, we must first understand what it is and where it originates.
Where Does the Whole Brain Thinking Approach Come From?
We usually refer to one side of our brain when discussing various traits or expressions. The left side is associated with logical thinking, mathematics and linear thinking while the right is associated with visualisation, imagination and holistic thinking.
Despite this, we know that the brain is a sum of its parts. It takes the whole system to function correctly. With time, research into the right/left brain was challenged and adapted as the whole brain.
It’s a thinking theory that was conceptualised in 1976 by Ned Herrmann during his research into the brain. They discovered that the brain has “four distinct and specialised structures”.
I certainly don’t want to give you a neuroscience or history lesson, but it’s interesting to understand where vital discoveries originate.
These structures can be segmented as follows:
Blue/A) Analytical, Quantitative & Logical
Green/B) Practical, Detailed & Organised
Red/C) Relational, Emotional & Kinesthetic
Yellow/D) Experimental, Holistic & Intuitive
The whole-brain thinking approach is powerful as it emphasises that we, as humans, were designed to be whole. Even so, we are all different. Our brains develop with their own set of preferences.
Consider this your brains favoured way to think and learn, this comes with its own set of benefits and consequences. Luckily, despite what left/right side research would have you believe, we can think with the whole brain, even if we do have strong preferences with which we regularly default.
Sure, knowing that there are four quadrants is interesting, but how does this apply to anything? I hear you asking.
You can take various assessments to discover how your brain functions and response to learning. The most notable being the Herrmann brain dominance instrument (HBDI) which has you complete an evaluation in which the results are interpreted to give you an idea of what areas of your brain are more dominant.
Before you can begin to apply the principles of whole-brain thinking, you must first understand how each quadrant favours learning:
Those with analytical preferences love facts, numbers and figures. This group likes to learn in a structured, step by step laid out process. You may also find you are more analytical if you love setting goals for yourself and following specific objectives.
When delivering information, charts, data & figures, images and research influenced goals are favoured.
Those with a practical/organised preference are detailed in their approach, taking extra time to plan our their process. Following instructions, steps and procedures help them work more effectively. Valuable feedback also goes a long way in assisting them to become more efficient.
They will often prefer to know future steps so they can plan ahead.
More commonly referred to as people persons. They often have higher emotional intelligence and are empathetic towards others. They prefer to work as a team and bounce ideas off one another.
Storytelling, personal experiences and reimagining are effective ways to learn.
Those with an experimental preference excel at thought exercises. They are often the ones coming up with new ideas and planning out their approach with mind maps, collages, illustrations and other visual muses.
They can grasp ideas and learn more effectively when the approach tailors to their creative nature.
How Can You Apply This Approach to the Workplace?
How well do you know your employees, colleagues or manager?
The great thing about this approach is that there are ways to apply it, right now, regardless of your position, industry or business. Leveraging your knowledge of the whole brain can be beneficial for personal growth, professional growth and competitive edge and can create opportunities for you to get noticed in the workplace.
For those in a managerial position, understanding how your employees learn is critical to creating an employee-friendly learning process. One that increases engagement, improves efficiency, reduces errors and allows you to adapt when you need to.
Here are a few ways you can use this approach to your advantage:
Integrate Whole Brain Processes & Practices
If you are looking to integrate the whole brain approach into your workplace, you have to start at the beginning. This means analysing and evaluating the effectiveness of the communication throughout your business.
No doubt, you have processes in place that have been effective in the past. Perhaps you always deliver one piece of information a certain way; This is akin to learning via presentations through college or university. While this might be a useful learning format for some, it certainly won’t apply to everyone. If you’ve noticed that some people struggle to hold attention, then this could be an indication that these processes aren’t tailoring to all preferences.
From here, you should gain a greater understanding of what quadrants the business is ignoring. Now it’s time to incorporate new processes that tailor to each learning style.
For example, adding in extra steps or taking care to include other quadrants when presenting the information. If you are introducing data to teach a specific topic, understand that those that aren’t analytical may switch off.
You can present that information via personal experiences or case studies that humanise the data. From there, display your data through strong, enticing visuals, finally, instead of an abrupt ending, encourage discussion and idea exploration.
As you can see, we’ve quickly turned a one quadrant learning opportunity into one that includes the whole brain.
Professional Growth & Competitive Edge
When we understand the inner workings of our brain, we’re able to identify our strengths and weaknesses. The truth is, many people don’t know how they prefer to learn.
We’re conditioned to learn the way information is presented to us, rather than seeking out an alternative we prefer. By understanding and thinking with the whole brain, we can make decisions based on who the outcomes involve, the results and adapt the process to align with set goals. An increase in productivity is a prime example of the effect whole brain thinking can have. You can start your day by tackling tasks in your weakness quadrants whilst your energy levels are high.
You will also better understand how to motivate yourself, allowing you to create to-do lists and organise your environment to fit your preferences.
These all work together to improve your performance. If you are looking to cement your new position in your workplace or strive for a promotion, understanding how to best communicate with those around, you will help you stand out.
Most notably, you will be able to identify your weaknesses with more accuracy, enabling you to work on self-improvement on areas that matter. Implementing neuroscience approaches can benefit us in other areas as well. For example, building habits can be made much easier once you understand how the mind responds to stimuli.
Creating sustainable change is a dream a lot of business chase, yet, only a handful ever achieve. By looking at surface level problems and creating “quick fixes’ ‘, businesses fall into the trap of making episodic changes, as opposed to truly creating sustainable change.
Every great manager will tell you that the lifeblood of their business is their people. Without them, the business simply cannot function. Likewise, you can’t create a great business without having great people within it.
Sustainable change is about creating new ways of doing business. It’s about supporting the notion of continuous improvements and not falling complacent.
By implementing whole-brain thinking processes, you begin to adapt the standardised ways of conducting business. Instead of following patterns of “this is how it was always done” you now take a different approach and look for solutions that include every preference.
I saw this first hand, and the impact it has on the way communication is handled, the way meetings are arranged and how information is presented.
If you want to implement more whole-brain thinking approaches into your workplace but don’t know where to start, book a no-obligation call with me and we can outline strategies that you can begin using ASAP.