The Left-Right March Toward Success

Problem Solving

Dr. Jill Taylor gave a TED Talk documenting her experience with a stroke. As a brain scientist herself, the stroke became a gift after her 8-year recovery, allowing her to share an incredible experience with the world. Her experience tells us a great deal about how we are built as human beings and how much we need the harmonic differences of both halves of our brains. She shares how she felt the loss of her left side brain in her stroke which resulted in a hemorrhage and excruciating headache. She shares with us what that did to her consciousness and experience of the world around her as she struggled to call for help in the midst.

In the TED Talk, you can learn about the strengths and limitations of each half of the brain by observing what happens when one side leaves.

Dr. Jill explains that the right hemisphere is a powerful parallel processor and the left hemisphere a serial processor. The halves work together harmoniously in order to process the world we see in an intelligible manner. Without the right side, we would see the world one object at a time and never grasping a full picture. Without the left side, our world would be a beautiful, continuous blur that makes no real sense and lacks true comprehension. Only when we have both halves can we see the world in its totality and understand it.

It is this same harmony that allows us to envision the future and engineer a better tomorrow. The exacting calculation of the left side and the chaotic creativity of the right allow us to define our desires and ideate solutions. Understanding and optimising this harmony will make us better problem-solvers.

When we are faced with an issue, whatever kind that is, an unbiased left side analysis yields us reality and how it falls short of our desire (problem definition). Our next step is to bring ourselves into a creative space, and the right side is let loose (brainstorming). The left side picks up the best and brightest ideas for a thorough and fair chance at bringing our reality a little closer to that which we desire (refinement).

I have found that this left-right-left march is how our brains work best, and I see it reflected in so many places, including in my favorite course in college. Engineering design methodology sounds like a very intimidating, theory-heavy, dry course with a gigantic textbook and sleepy students, but it was so much the opposite. It was all about being methodical when problem-solving, bringing out the best ideas and most creativity, and using that creativity constructively. It was the most fun I have ever had in a classroom setting.

Working with our nature is truly the key to bettering our future, from the foods we eat to the way we think. Comment below about your experiences with left- and right-brained activities, and about their harmony.