From Left to Right
If you’ve ever attended a class on Design Thinking (and I really hope you haven’t or else this post will be rendered useless), you might have heard of ‘left-brained’ and ‘right-brained’. To those of you who are new to the concept (*phew*), psychologists say that the human brain is divided into two halves - the left and the right. Each half handles a specific set of functions to maximize efficiency. Simply put, it’s nature’s way of ensuring that both sides are satisfied with their roles and feel equally important. Similar to when your mom assigns separate chores to both you and your sibling to ensure fair distribution of mundane household tasks. Except that nature doesn’t ask the brain to clean its room 12 times a day.
So how does this divide make a difference?
The left side of your brain is conditioned to think analytically and deal with calculation, logic and a huge chunk of fact-retrieval. The right side, often called the creative one, is mainly concerned with facial recognition, understanding visuals and making sense of what you see.
But how do these sides work together?
Suppose you're in your room binge-watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and you hear a sound. The left side of the brain hears that the sound is your mom telling you to clean your room and understands that there is a task at hand that needs to be completed. The right receives this information and detects a tinge of exasperation in her tone sensing that the task needs to be done immediately or else you’re grounded for all of next week. Thus, the left analyses and the right interprets both in an attempt to save your sorry ass!
As designers, we’re urged to be right-brain thinkers, and that is, by far, one of the hardest things we’re expected to do. Since childhood, we’ve been subconsciously trained to think analytically. Left- brain strategies being more prominent in classrooms, we’re taught that calculation supersedes imagination. But really, why is one better than the other? Since when did words become better than pictures? Isn’t it just as important to know the tune of the song, as it is to remember the lyrics?
A lesser known fact is that right-brain thinking, once adopted, can be fairly addictive. Instead of asking ‘What is it?’, simply asking ‘What can I do with it?’ is the best way we designers exercise this. A relevant example is today’s smartphone. No longer a mere communication device, it is your alarm clock, calendar, camera, weatherman, stock broker, news provider and so much more. This need to constantly innovate comes from creative thinking and is singlehandedly responsible for revolutionizing technology as we know it.
So, the next time your brain offers a weird solution to a problem, don’t ridicule its ingenuity. Encourage it to explore your imagination. It’s the only way you’ll learn to think differently. And as we’ve been told time and again, “Creative thinking is not about what you look at – it’s about what you see.”