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.
- 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.
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