The Right-Brain Left-Brain Concept is Untrue

I had the opportunity to attend the HRPA 2019 Annual Conference & Trade Show last week, and needless to say, it was one of the best I’ve attended to date. I attended many sessions this time around, but one session, in particular, caught my attention. It was called “Self-Awareness Through Science: Improving Workplace Performance Through Cognitive Diversity”(watch the short intro video below) with Calgary-based Gregor Jeffrey (btw, great last name). Organizations that understand and leverage cognitive diversity are more successful.

I have always been really interested in how brain function connects to the workplace, specifically how groups of people can work together to perform and achieve great things. Brain functionality is anything but simple, which is why the right-brain left-brain model didn’t make any sense to me. Jeffrey confirmed this in his session. How can we possibly be one, or the other? It’s impossible. Our brains are too dynamic and complicated.

An interesting point that Jeffrey made was that our brains process things differently, and are the cause of conflict and tension between people. It’s also not about personality. You can have highly extroverted and highly introverted employees working harmoniously with one another. The difference is when you look at their cognitive abilities. How these 2 employees naturally process information is what matters.

Another interesting point is about trying to get to a place where you get to do the work that you absolutely love doing. We all do work that we’re great at, but also intensely despise. You simply force your way through the work because it’s what your job requires of you, but you hate it. So imagine if your work primarily consists of tasks that aligns with your neurological preferences. That would be complete euphoria. If anyone experiences this at work please let me know… we need to talk.

4 Neurological Preference Groups

I’m not sure what to call it so I used “neurological preference groups”. I’m sure if Jeffrey reads my post he’ll either nod in agreement or correct me if I’m wrong. Note that you are likely a combination of two or three of these. It’s possible that you’re all of them, and even just one of them. It makes a lot more sense that humans are naturally some kind of combination. Here they are:

  1. Analytical Thinker
  2. Structural Thinker
  3. Conceptual Thinker
  4. Social Thinker

Analytical Thinker

This group requires data, evidence and proof for everything. They’re brilliant rational thinkers and very good at quickly breaking down to rational conclusions. They will easily see errors and imperfections. They’re not the most engaging speakers/presenters, and only care about the analytics, business case and numbers. Calling all CFOs, Data Scientists and Researchers.

Structural Thinker

This group requires order and structure in everything. They need to see the introduction, main body and conclusion. If you’re missing any part of a whole they’ll get disrupted. They’re highly organized and live and die off of their calendars. So, if you work in a highly chaotic environment and a co-worker is highly structural, the chance is really good that they’re struggling.

Conceptual Thinker

This group loves new ideas, are highly creative and their brains are constantly racing ahead of what “could be”. They crave conclusions — i.e. “what’s next”? They don’t need the background or the body… they just want the conclusion so they can explore new ideas and create cool stuff. They easily go off on a tangent and can be easily distracted when the situation is quiet, orderly and boring. They love chaos and can be hugely optimistic when they see, hear and discover something new.

Social Thinker

This group was the most difficult for me to wrap my head around. These people are connectors, networkers and advocates. They can see through bullshit and are immediately turned off by inauthenticity. They are generally the ones you want on your side if you want to influence and change something. They influence, persuade and get people on their side. They hear new ideas and immediately think about how it can be implemented and work. They’re about community — i.e. “we”, “us”.

The Main Point

It was really eye-opening for me because this model makes a lot of sense. All organizations need employees who are in each of the four groups. I think the trick is to know where you stand, and who you work with so that you know how to maximize your impact. I know this isn’t easy but if we can at least start to better understand ourselves and our colleagues, we will be much better off.

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