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6 Ways to use the whole brain in Workplace Training

Medial longitudinal fissureIn the book, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, he compares both the left and right hemispheres of the brain and discussed that you need to include both hemispheres when creating anything new.

Look to the Left

The left hemisphere is rational, linear, logical and analytical.  It likes to analyses details.  Those who are more L-directed thinkers are accountants, lawyers and engineers.

Look to the Right

While the right hemisphere is instinctive, empathetic, understands context (the left brain handles what is said, while the right focuses on how it's said), non verbal and emotional cues. It sees the big picture.  Those who are more R-directed in their thinking are entertainers, artists, designers and counsellors.

Get it all together

Both sides work together - but they have different specialties.

The left hemisphere knows how to handle logic and the right hemisphere knows about the world.  Put them together and you have a powerful thinking machine.  Get them to work separately and life becomes, well one-sided and a little strange.

Using Both Hemispheres in Training

Our education system has tended to focus and reward more L-directed thinking such as using exams as the only way for students to access University and teaching students by talking a lot at them.  But we're now moving away from the era of left-brain dominance in our society.

Now, more R-directed techniques are being such in education.  These include using role plays, story-telling and getting students to build their own things rather than just being told how to make things.

So with training you need to appeal to both sides of the brain to maximise training outcomes.  After all, Daniel Pink tells us that to obtain professional success and personal fulfillment, we need to start activating our right brain more.

Let's take a look at producing an effective workplace training program that activates both sides of the brain (most of these you will already know about it, but you might not know why they work so well):

Right Brain

  1. Tell stories - This provides an emotional connection to information.  It represents a pathway to understanding that the right brain loves, while the left brain turns off.  NASA uses story-telling in its knowledge management initiatives, while 3M gives its top executives storytelling lessons.
  2. Use visuals - The right brain loves visuals and we learn much faster with visuals than with words.  Include colourful diagrams, interesting training videos and photos.
  3. Play - Make learning fun.  Using humour and getting trainees to undertake role-plays gets great results.  Consider including relevant video games for learning.  In "What good are positive emotions" by Barbara Frederickson, she mentions that playing makes children joyful, which in terms make them open to exploring and learning.  This holds true with adults.
  4. Using demonstrations during training -  Trainees learn better when they are shown what to do, but also when they are given a go and are coached on improving.  Left brain thinking was all about telling students how to do something (maths lecture, anyone?), while right brain training shows and gets trainees to have a "play".

Left Brain

  1. Give a test - Sorry to say that you still need to test people.  The left-brain needs to be involved.  In fact, research has found that if you tell people before a training session or even watching a training video that they will be tested, trainees will remember more and get more questions right than those who were not informed of a test.
  2. Provide information in a linear fashion - Our left brain needs order and understands information in a linear fashion.  Go to non-linear and you lose people.  This is why us humans love numbered lists on how to do something.  Even a right brain training video needs information presented in a linear fashion to help the left brain understand information.

What other left brain/right brain activities do you like to include?