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To develop better managers, executives and leaders is increasingly becoming a process of not so much of imparting new knowledge to people but enabling them to change behaviours - and we now know that to change behaviours requires people to alter the patterns and processes in their brains. So it is important that those interested and responsible for managing change in organisations have a good understanding of how the brain operates.
Iain McGilchrist, a renowned psychiatrist, recently gave a lecture at the RSA in London exploring some of the myths and complexities of the brain - starting with the confusion surrounding the 'certainty' we used to have that the right hemisphere of the brain handled emotion, and the left dealt with reason. And that as the right brain is more dominant in left-handers and the left in right-handers, that left-handers were therefore more likely to be creative, and right-handers more logical. McGilchrist explains that the truth is much less clear, and more complex.
Emotions and reason are drawn from both parts - infact a major role of the divided brain is so that one side can inhibit the other. This creates the gap which prevents one side of the brain ruling the mind at any one time, it allows multi-tasking in all mammals and enables in humans sustained broad vigilance from the right hemisphere and deep focus from the left. But the human frontal lobe allows us to inhibit 'the immediate happening' to make us stand back and reflect on what is going on - and work it out.
McGilchrist continues that the left brain if left unchecked would be a closed system that only seeks perfection - with all the problems that can cause more widely. The right brain absorbs and manages 'living knowledge' and balances the more perfection seeking side. Together they enable us to cope with the paradoxes that modern life throws at us - the more we seek happiness, the more resentful we are; the more freedom is seen as a goal the more we are tied up in a network of laws and petty rules; the information we gain the less understanding we appear to have; the left brain would prioritise virtual worlds over real; today we are less interested in the 'how' than the 'what'.
Modern life, McGilchrist claims is increasingly left-brain structured - depending on rules, and pure logic and dialectic language - but intuitively (a right brain function) we know that that is not enough to achieve happiness and freedom - our real desires.
Einstein had it right when he said 'The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant'. To many the servant is now in charge.
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