Monday, 14 February 2011

Time to put on the thinking cap

According to the news (thanks to Ian C for pointing this out), Australian scientists are working on a 'thinking cap' that would help stimulate creative thought. The idea is to use electrical impulses to stimulate the right side of the brain and suppress the left, enabling more creative thought to take place.

Now, for a good number of years I've been helping people be more creative about problem solving and idea generation through Creativity Unleashed. And, yes, we do discuss the two sides of the brain. But the simplistic view portrayed in this story (which to be fair, could be the fault of the news media, rather than the Australian researchers), is really not good enough.

Firstly, although the brain does have two modes of operation that are labelled left brain and right brain, as illustrated in the rather pretty slide from one of my talks (it's either a brain or an enormous walnut), the left/right labels are now rather out of date. A fair amount of 'left brain' activity takes places in the right hand half of the brain and vice versa.

And secondly, it's a mistake to think that creativity is all about right brain (as conventionally labelled) activity. Most people do need to push up the right brain side when trying to be creative in a business context, because the natural tendency when doing business is to use a left brain style - but a lot of creativity in the artistic context has too much right brain and not enough left. What's more, even the business creative process needs both. Typically business creativity involves a sequences of activities, where you might need more right brain (say when generating ideas) or more left brain (when structuring and assessing ideas). Without doubt you need both, and the artificial example of solving a puzzle is really no help when looking at real creativity. Sorry guys, you are working on a myth.

Hey, I managed to get through a whole post on 14 February without mentioning Valentine's Day! Damn.

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