Why Being Right Can Be So Wrong

You're wrong, right?

Have you ever noticed that you’re always right?

You probably don’t believe that everything you think and say is the final, capital-T TRUTH—not at a conscious level, anyway. But like me, you probably tend to act that way.

That’s because each of us defines for ourselves what’s true and what’s untrue. We grow attached to a body of beliefs, which means that we resist new ideas. We tolerate other people’s opinions to the extent that they match our own. Beyond that, we unconsciously tune out.

When choosing friends, we gravitate toward people who agree with us. When encountering a new idea, we argue against it. We look for ways to make people wrong. When seeking feedback or solving a problem, we search out the people who reinforce us. We’d rather get validated than get challenged.

In other words, we’re always “right.” Read more

What Does Diversity Have to Do with Innovation?

What cognitive diversity has to do with innovation

For many, the word “diversity” brings up images of staid EEOC training or well-intended but not necessarily critical programs—the “have-to-dos” that don’t get much buy-in or enthusiastic support across the business. So it’s probably not the first word that comes to mind when you’re talking about innovation.

But here’s why it should be.

“A diverse group of people can be more innovative than a homogenous group.”

In making that statement, David Greenberg, Senior Vice President of HR for L’Oréal US, emphasized that he’s not just talking about the more traditional definition of diversity but also diversity of thought, which he says is key to how L’Oréal fosters innovation. While he acknowledges that there can be more friction and discomfort when you bring together people who think differently, “the output,” he says, “is more innovative.”

Cognitive diversity­ has been getting a lot of attention lately for this very reason. Modern business issues demand innovative thinking, especially when you consider the fact that, from market conditions to customer demographics to the problems, tasks and tools, nearly all of the variables have changed. With so much complexity, we need diverse perspectives and ideas. You can’t use old processes to fix new problems.

Our research, including the six-year study on team effectiveness conducted by the US Forest Service, as well as numerous examples from companies like Caesars/Harrahs Entertainment, has consistently shown that you get greater creative output and, ultimately, more effective solutions when you bring together heterogeneous thinking teams and give them practical tools to leverage their differences. Furthermore, mentally balanced teams consider more options, make better decisions and exceed expectations more often than homogeneous teams. Read more

Plan for 2015 (and Beyond) By Building a Pathway to the Future

As 2014 begins to wind down, you’re probably starting to think about your plans for next year, and maybe even further down the road.  But where to begin?

As the Cheshire cat reminded Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.” You have to think about where it is you want to go before you can create the path to it.

In this brief video learning nugget, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shares an easy exercise you can do to build your pathway to the future, whether you’re looking at the next year, or five years down the road, or even further. Try it and see where your imagination leads you!


How to Get Value from a Team’s Thinking Diversity

Trying to navigate a thorny issue? Need an innovative solution? Looking for a way to help your team dig deeper and really flex their thinking muscles?

Bring in diversity—of all kinds.

Our research, and the experience of companies like Harrahs Entertainment and Brown- Forman, has shown what a difference difference makes on a team, whether you’re trying to solve a complex problem or come up with more creative ideas. A recent Scientific-American article echoes this point with the particularly eye-catching title, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.”

The article points out that not only do people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives benefit from the diverse information they bring to the group, the diversity itself provokes different thinking, “jolting us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.”

So difference in a group can lead to better problem solving and decision making as well as more innovative ideas—but it’s not just as simple as putting diverse people on a team and seeing what comes out of it.

From a thinking preference standpoint, we know that when a team has representation from across the thinking spectrum, each person will approach problems quite differently. This is a huge benefit to the team, but only if the team recognizes each others’ preferences and how they each add value.

Honoring different thinking approaches will allow every member to share their thinking and ideas openly. Once that openness occurs, the team’s creativity begins to emerge as they’re motivated to take advantage of the different thinking styles rather than viewing them as obstacles. And as a foundation for a discussion about diversity, thinking gives people a non-judgmental starting point. It’s not about behaviors, personalities or other attributes; this is just how someone prefers to process information.

Here’s what we’ve learned about setting up a diverse team for success:

  1. The more heterogeneous (mentally diverse) a group is, the more they need a multi-dominant facilitator/leader. Agile team leaders are critical for managing and leveraging difference on the team.
  2. Heterogeneous groups can be extremely creative and successful OR they can “crash,” unless they take the steps and time necessary to find synergy.
  3. Stereotyping of others is a major impediment to team development (he’s a “this” or she’s a “that”).
  4. Because cultural differences can make working as a team even more challenging, more process time and consistent communication are even more important.
  5. Virtual teams need a common language even more than co-located teams to increase the speed of relationship building and decrease miscommunication.

Remember: Successful teams practice “creative contention.” Any team that does not disagree is not doing effective work or leveraging their differences. The art is in knowing how to do it productively.

Are you bringing together diverse thinking to get more innovative? How do you encourage and manage creative contention?

Recent News on Thinking and the Brain

Your monthly round-up of news from the world of thinking and learning:

  • Tracking memory at the speed of thought. Just how much information can you store in your brain? New research methods that monitor memories in near real time are helping scientists get a better sense of the brain’s capacity limits. “People can only think about a couple of things at a time,” says one of the researchers, “and they miss things that would seem to be extremely obvious and memorable if that limited set of resources is diverted elsewhere.”
  • Could the end of boredom be bad news for creativity? Digital devices have made it easy to avoid boredom, but at what cost? Bored people have the opportunity to connect with their idle thoughts, daydream and let their minds wander. And recent research published in the Creativity Research Journal suggests that bored people come up with more ideas, and more creative ones, than others do.
  • Slow down your brain’s aging by picking up another language. Being bilingual doesn’t just help you become a more well-rounded person. New research suggests that the brains of bilingual people age more slowly than others’ and that bilngual people have “better baseline cognintive functions” as they age.

Find more news in this month’s BrainBytes® Newsletter, including:

HBDI® Certification Workshops: July 22-24, New York, NY; August 12-14, Memphis, TN

Putting the ‘Fun’ into Functional


It is rare that anyone pushes back on having some fun, unless it feels like we are doing something “too serious.” Fun is, in fact, one of the most effective ways to engage, learn and gain compliance.

Perhaps you have seen the video on YouTube that shows the piano stairs in Sweden, designed to get people to take the stairs rather than the escalator for improved health reasons. Before they know it, subway riders have actually enjoyed their climb up the stairs.

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The current issue of BusinessWeek Magazine has a fascinating story about a new approach to childhood education and compliance for those who suffer from diabetes. Didget is a glucose testing meter that plugs into a video console: Why not make the annoying process of drawing blood for testing something fun?

Research done with our partners in South Africa clearly demonstrated the challenges associated with getting compliance from diabetic kids. The typical approach used by educators and parents focused solely on the rules, schedules and other compliance issues (the B quadrant of the Whole Brain® Model). Once they adopted a Whole Brain® approach – which included an element of fun – compliance happened (and parents stopped nagging!).

What are your examples of making functional more fun?

What could you do in your day-to-day that would take an unpleasant activity and turn it into something really appealing and enjoyable? Share your ideas—we will send a “fabulous prize” to the person who submits the best example.

Don’t Fall Back! Spring Ahead To Get Ready for the New Normal


We’ve entered a “New Normal” in the wake of this recession, and our world will never be the same. Fall may be in the air, but now’s the time to use your Whole Brain® to Spring forward with a new creative and strategic mindset.

In this month’s BrainBytes newsletter, we explore the steps you can take using your Whole Brain® to get into a new mindset:

  • Try a zero-based approach to your personal or professional situation, and capture what is “in.” Do a gap analysis to see what is currently “in” that may need to go.
  • Imagine what your world will be like post recession, and identify at least one opportunity that is new and could be explored. Use magic wand thinking or any other creative tool you know to find new possibilities.
  • Get outside your own head. Engage your team, friends and/or family in looking for ways to reduce stress and lighten up so you can temper or ward off the proverbial “reptilian downshifts” that can so easily occur.
  • Develop a New Normal plan. Start by looking at the Spring (or later in next year if you are more comfortable with that) to chart out your “New Normal” and the steps that will get you there. If you find your self worrying about how the old normal will get taken care of, go back to the A quadrant and use a zero-based approach to imagine that this is a new start. Try it! It works!

Learn more about the “New Normal” and these steps in this month’s BrainBytes™ newsletter.