What Is The Whole Brain Model? Whole Brain Model In A Nutshell

The whole brain model is based on the theory of whole brain thinking developed by creativity researcher and author Ned Herrmann in the 1970s. The theory was honed while Hermann was employed as a training program design manager at General Electric. The whole brain model is a scalable framework for improving understanding and insight. It acknowledges that different people prefer different kinds of thinking and that different tasks require different mental processes.

Understanding the whole brain model

As part of his role, Hermann analyzed how employee productivity, motivation, and creativity could be maintained or even increased.

Using a combination of electroencephalogram (EEG) scans and questionnaires, Hermann set about analyzing trainee thinking styles and learning preferences.

He was also inspired by pioneering research into brain dominance theory, which suggested approaches to thinking and learning differed between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

The results of this research form the basis of the whole brain model, which divides the brain into four integrated systems or quadrants.

Each system describes a set of interrelated mental activities and thinking preferences. Despite every brain possessing all four quadrants, Hermann believed people had a single, preferred way of operating.

This preference may be selected consciously or subconsciously.

The four quadrants of the whole brain model

The four quadrants of the whole brain model are 

Analytical (logical, fact-based, quantitative)

These individuals prefer to deal in facts and figures and respond to clear and concise goals and objectives.

This means minimal text with lots of graphical data backed by reputable sources.

Practical (sequential, planned, detailed)

Organized individuals like to follow rules and share many of the traits of analytical individuals.

They prefer to be well-prepared and learn through following clear instructions, step-by-step exercises, and checklists.

Relational (feeling-based, kinesthetic, interpersonal)

These individuals love being around other people and tend to display higher levels of emotional intelligence.

They enjoy working in groups by engaging in collaborative discussion. Learning is facilitated through storytelling, reimagining, and the sharing of personal experiences.

Experimental (intuitive, integrating, synthesizing)

Experimental learners tend to be the most creative, with an ability to come up with new ideas and strategy plan using illustrations, mind maps, and collages. 

Applying the whole brain model to the workplace

Happily, there are several ways to apply the whole brain model to a workplace setting. 

A few of the most beneficial approaches for both the employee and the organization are listed below:

Whole brain process and practice integration

Most businesses prefer a single communicating method. While this may be effective for some people, it will not be the preferred method for the majority of employees.

Businesses should start by defining the quadrants it is ignoring and then incorporate new processes that cater to each learning style.

During presentations, for example, data should be humanized with personal experiences and case studies to ensure non-analytical types do not become bored, disinterested, or distracted.

Professional growth and competitiveness

Unfortunately, most employees are conditioned to learn the way information is presented to them.

They may have little understanding of their particular strengths and weaknesses or how these interact to influence the way they prefer to learn. Professional growth can be enabled when the employee has clarity in this area.

For example, they can begin their shift by completing tasks from their weakest quadrants when energy levels are highest.

Furthermore, building effective habits that increase motivation and productivity is made much easier when the employee understands how their mind responds to various stimuli.

Sustainable change

A lofty goal to which many businesses aspire but few actually reach. Sustainable change means creating new ways of doing business and avoiding the temptation to make quick fixes to surface-level problems.

Companies that employ a whole brain model mindset look at solutions that include every learning style instead of defaulting to a one-size-fits-all approach.

Key takeaways

  • The whole brain model is a scalable framework for improving understanding and insight. The model is based on the theory of whole brain thinking developed by creativity researcher and author Ned Herrmann in the 1970s.
  • The whole brain model describes four quadrants, or preferential systems of mental activities and thinking that influence learning styles. The four quadrants are analytical, practical, relational, and experimental.
  • The whole brain model can be used by organizations to ensure their messages are heard and understood by every employee. The model also facilitates professional growth, organizational productivity and competitiveness, and sustainable change.

Connected Analysis Frameworks

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

Monte Carlo Analysis

The Monte Carlo analysis is a quantitative risk management technique. The Monte Carlo analysis was developed by nuclear scientist Stanislaw Ulam in 1940 as work progressed on the atom bomb. The analysis first considers the impact of certain risks on project management such as time or budgetary constraints. Then, a computerized mathematical output gives businesses a range of possible outcomes and their probability of occurrence.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

CATWOE Analysis

The CATWOE analysis is a problem-solving strategy that asks businesses to look at an issue from six different perspectives. The CATWOE analysis is an in-depth and holistic approach to problem-solving because it enables businesses to consider all perspectives. This often forces management out of habitual ways of thinking that would otherwise hinder growth and profitability. Most importantly, the CATWOE analysis allows businesses to combine multiple perspectives into a single, unifying solution.

VTDF Framework

It’s possible to identify the key players that overlap with a company’s business model with a competitor analysis. This overlapping can be analyzed in terms of key customers, technologies, distribution, and financial models. When all those elements are analyzed, it is possible to map all the facets of competition for a tech business model to understand better where a business stands in the marketplace and its possible future developments.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Comparable Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

Business Analysis

Business analysis is a research discipline that helps driving change within an organization by identifying the key elements and processes that drive value. Business analysis can also be used in Identifying new business opportunities or how to take advantage of existing business opportunities to grow your business in the marketplace.

Financial Structure

In corporate finance, the financial structure is how corporations finance their assets (usually either through debt or equity). For the sake of reverse engineering businesses, we want to look at three critical elements to determine the model used to sustain its assets: cost structure, profitability, and cash flow generation.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Value Investing

Value investing is an investment philosophy that looks at companies’ fundamentals, to discover those companies whose intrinsic value is higher than what the market is currently pricing, in short value investing tries to evaluate a business by starting by its fundamentals.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Financial Analysis

Financial accounting is a subdiscipline within accounting that helps organizations provide reporting related to three critical areas of a business: its assets and liabilities (balance sheet), its revenues and expenses (income statement), and its cash flows (cash flow statement). Together those areas can be used for internal and external purposes.

Post-Mortem Analysis

Post-mortem analyses review projects from start to finish to determine process improvements and ensure that inefficiencies are not repeated in the future. In the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), this process is referred to as “lessons learned”.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.

Root Cause Analysis

In essence, a root cause analysis involves the identification of problem root causes to devise the most effective solutions. Note that the root cause is an underlying factor that sets the problem in motion or causes a particular situation such as non-conformance.

Blindspot Analysis


Break-even Analysis

A break-even analysis is commonly used to determine the point at which a new product or service will become profitable. The analysis is a financial calculation that tells the business how many products it must sell to cover its production costs.  A break-even analysis is a small business accounting process that tells the business what it needs to do to break even or recoup its initial investment. 

Decision Analysis

Stanford University Professor Ronald A. Howard first defined decision analysis as a profession in 1964. Over the ensuing decades, Howard has supervised many doctoral theses on the subject across topics including nuclear waste disposal, investment planning, hurricane seeding, and research strategy. Decision analysis (DA) is a systematic, visual, and quantitative decision-making approach where all aspects of a decision are evaluated before making an optimal choice.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Other related business frameworks:

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