Your Brain on Business: How to Tap Your Full Potential
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Did you know that western society and education may set you up to fail as an entrepreneur? Starting and managing your own business requires us to access our full potential as human beings, however most of us go into business with a brain handicap.
Before explaining more about what I mean, a quick science lesson. Our brain is made of two hemispheres: the left and right. Each hemisphere is responsible for different processes of thinking and gathering information about the world, and impacts our behaviors. The left-brain is responsible for analysis, language, numbers and logic. The right brain is the risk taker and big picture oriented, using feeling and intuition for decision-making. It processes via symbols and images and is responsible for our imagination. Our memories, subconscious thoughts and feelings, best ideas, and creative power are housed in the right-brain, but often kept prisoner by the left-brain’s verbal filter (yes, you don’t always say what you mean), suppressing our full self-expression.
Although technically, we are never only using half of our brain, most people are left or right dominant (think right handed or left handed) and when we are faced with a challenge, depending on how we were raised to learn, we often will go in ‘autopilot’ to the preferred side of the brain, creating an imbalance and untapped resources. When we look at how our education system is built, the value is placed most on languages, numbers, logic and analysis; namely ‘left-brain’ processes. When budgets are cut in schools, the first department to go is the arts, a field often seen as disposable. Ask any MBA-toting CEO if he had art class or ‘creative brainstorming’ in business school and the answer will be an awkward ‘no’.
Society further reinforces left-brain thinking by placing higher value (via salary) to certain occupations. Payscale’s 2011 study revealed the top paying jobs were in mathematics, economics, and engineering (all left-brain dominant!) with the lowest paid jobs being in education, the arts, and social work (all right brained!). It is ingrained at an early age that left-brained processes are the most valued. Thus our natural tendency as human beings to play and create is neglected, if not dismissed as irrelevant, as we become adults. Most of us going into business had no choice but to be left-brained dominant! This creates adversity for budding entrepreneurs. We have been taught to approach our business to play it safe, keeping an eye on the numbers and statistics. We will analyze our problems until the cows come home (do they ever actually come home?). Risk taking is avoided, full self-expression is suppressed (you have to remain ‘professional’) and our ‘practical’ left-brain dismisses some of our right-brain’s best ideas! Most of this is happening outside of our awareness. It is necessary to tap into our full potential as humans to bring the best and complete version of ourselves to our business. An example of a company that does this is Apple. Apple’s continued success can easily be related to the permission Steve Jobs gave himself and his employees to be creative, explore, take risks and think outside of the box. The focus was on the product and customer experience (i.e. ‘right brain’ feelings) instead of the bottom line and profits. And the brand has always been authentic and expressive.
So start to think where you have been ‘left-brained’ in your business and look at where you can add wonder and creativity. Are you attached to results and income instead of focusing on being of service to your customers? Does your business truly express who you are or are you suppressing your authentic self? Do you approach challenges with caution instead of taking some leaps? It is the innovation and your willingness to take on going out of your ‘comfort zone’ that will give you an advantage over the competition (who are still playing it safe ‘in the box’) so start tapping into that right-brain!