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World-class innovators have figured out how to harvest the left and right brains of all employees.

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Left Brain and Right Brain can help create balance between Performance and Innovation. 

Just like every individual, every organization, business unit, and team has a left brain and right brain. Unfortunately most organizations have not developed an eco-system to allow both to co-exist visibly as a daily practice. That is akin to hiring an employee but only using 50% of their full capacity. 

What causes this to occur? 

One answer lies in the natural “S-curve” growth cycle in every business. When organizations grow large they gravitate toward process and execution, and gravitate away from their entrepreneurial roots. Focusing on execution forces them to rely on process, structure, and measurement. This ultimately creates amnesia; where they forget how they got started and how innovative they were at the early stage as a start-up. This amnesia grows into full-fledged sickness. This sickness shows up as risk-averse organizational culture focused only on short-term success and bottom line thinking as the driving force for all activities at every level. I call this culture “left-brain” centric. 

So what to do? 

Understand both brains and encourage both.

Left brain is about management, science, structure, analytics, predictability, certainty, and guarantee.  Left brain protects you from failure and keeps you in the center of “the box”. If we don’t do this work well, the organization can die quickly. We need process and financial predictability.

The problem is we overuse the left brain and don’t develop organizational right brain behavior.  Left brain helps protect organizational norms and orthodoxies (beliefs, standards). There are many examples of how corporate beliefs limit innovation.  Why didn’t Sony invent the iPhone? Why didn’t Kodak invent digital photography? 

Right brain is about leadership, art, creativity, passion, beliefs, fun, and learning through experimentation. Right brain gives you access to what is possible because it loves freedom and exploration. 

Right brain does not require planning and operates mostly in the moment. Most people are happiest when their right brain is fully engaged (hobbies, passion, family events, holidays, etc.)  

Most cultures value only left brain and most people leave their right brain at home when they enter the workplace.  Managers should learn to “tap into” the organizational right brain to help drive innovation and activate employee passion to create.  More engaged and energetic employees ultimately lead to improved revenue and profits (as evidenced by employee engagement surveys by Gallop and Hewitt). 

What are you doing to activate the right brain of your organization?

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