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

Tips for Leading Cognitive Diversity in Teams

One of the things we know from the research on team performance is that getting great results from a team isn’t just about everyone getting along or coming to quick agreement. In fact, when the problems are complex or we need to push the boundaries for innovation, creative abrasion, which comes from the collaboration of diverse thinking styles and perspectives, can make the difference.

But it can also make people uncomfortable.

That’s why just having cognitive diversity on a team isn’t enough. If the process isn’t managed properly, the team can devolve into unproductive conflict, frustration and chaos.

Particularly in the case of highly diverse groups, an effective leader or facilitator is essential. The most successful team leaders value the differences on the team and encourage people to bring their best thinking to work, helping to both bridge the diversity of thought in the group and keep the Whole Brain® in mind so all perspectives are heard.

Here are some tips for managing the team’s collective brainpower and making the abrasion that sometimes occurs an advantage:

  • Encourage team members to learn about and share their preferred thinking styles and discuss the impact of differences and similarities among team members on the performance of the team.
  •  Understand the strengths of the group and how the dominant preferences can be effectively harnessed towards reaching the team’s objectives.
  •  Recognize and bring in the diversity of thought necessary to get the best results.
  •  Use the Whole Brain® Model as a framework to guide the team’s actions. At the beginning of a project or periodically throughout the team’s engagement, ask questions from each quadrant, such as:

A. Do we have clear performance goals, objectives and measurements?

B. Do we have clear priorities, a plan and a timeline?

C. Do we have an understanding of our “customer” and each other?

D. Are we taking appropriate risks to challenge ourselves and come up with new ideas?

Don’t discount the importance of this key team role, whether it’s a manager, team lead, or even a more informal rotating assignment.

What are your tips for getting the most of a team’s cognitive diversity?

Be Inspired to Celebrate YOUR Thinking

conference room

WWSD? (What would Steve do?)

He would change!

Since the passing two weeks ago of one of the world’s greatest thinkers, we have had a media deluge of information about Steve Jobs, his life, his words and his brilliance. As a student of great thinkers and a lover of quotes, I have compiled in this post many of my favorites and some food for thought as you contemplate what we can learn from Steve.

Most of all, it is not about trying to imitate his thinking! The irony, I believe, is that what is happening—in a way, making him a thinking “God,” as we strive to push our own innovation and thinking by studying him to replicate what he did— is the last thing Steve would have wanted. As he said in the Stanford commencement address:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

As a thinker, Jobs was a leader who could “see around corners”—a trait I hear many are working to develop in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” (Inc. Magazine)

His thinking epitomized the future-oriented, conceptual, design-focused thinking preference (Yellow D-quadrant thinking in our Whole Brain® parlance.) Yet his ability to serve all needs of the business while still honoring his core tenants, great design, usability and user friendly technical innovation showed how his thinking actually served a Whole Brain® outcome.

I believe this contributed to what made him the truly remarkable business person he was: his ability to drive the top and bottom line, create a culture of extreme change and project the needs of the customer before the customer knows what they are. In addition, his obsession with quality and execution rounded out his thinking approach:

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Most of all, like most great leaders I have observed, Steve understood what he was good at and where he struggled:

 “My model for business is the Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They believed in each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts.” (60 Minutes interview, 2008)

 One of the most important lessons we can learn from Steve is this: The secret is leveraging the thinking of others who complement your thinking. Steve’s “islands of brilliance” were more oriented to those traits we often associate with the right brain. COO Tim Cook complemented him as more of the traditional left. The 2009 Harvard Business Review article Innovation in Turbulent Times noted:

Apple may have the best-known both-brain partnership. CEO Steve Jobs has always acted as the creative director and has helped to shape everything from product design and user interfaces to the customer experience at Apple’s stores. COO Tim Cook has long handled the day-to-day running of the business.

Ironically, I understand that much of Steve’s net worth was actually in Disney assets. Steve was acutely aware of what happened after Walt Disney passed. If people would ask, “What would Walt have done?” Steve knew the answer: Walt would have changed! The last thing Steve would have wanted is for people try to think like he did to solve problems we will face in the future.

 Those who knew him personally as a friend are grieving a great father and family man. May he rest in peace.

And for us, instead of trying to figure out what Steve would have done, we should follow one of his key messages: Celebrate your own thinking. Be inspired. Take action. Live!

What can you learn from Steve Jobs that will help you celebrate your thinking? Which of his quotes that follow are your favorites, or are there others that inspire your thinking? Share them with us in the comments.

Read more

Innovative Learning Takes on Today’s Workplace Challenges


As new challenges place greater demands on businesses to be nimbler, smarter and more innovative, companies are looking for the most efficient and effective ways to rapidly build the capabilities of their high-potential employees.

With the recent announcement of the US Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Awards, Herrmann International’s program, The Thinking Accelerator™ featuring HBDIinteractive™, is demonstrating that a Whole Brain® approach – both in content and delivery methods – is vital for addressing today’s workplace performance challenges.


This blended learning solution received the USDLA’s 2010 Gold Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning Programming. It was also recognized last fall with a Silver Learning in Practice Award for Excellence in Content from Chief Learning Officer Magazine.

Originally developed with IBM as part of its global new leader development program, The Thinking Accelerator™ featuring HBDIinteractive™ gives companies the ability to meet learners “where they are” with insights into their own thinking preferences and skills to apply Whole Brain® Thinking to improve their on-the-job effectiveness. It is now being implemented by organizations of all sizes and industries in a variety of applications.

Some are deploying it to meet individual learner needs while others are finding it useful in ramping up large-scale initiatives spanning continents. We’ve heard about its role in initiatives to improve teamwork, communication and innovation in addition to leadership development – all the critical skills organizations are dealing with in the 21st century work environment.

And beyond traditional elearning, many HBDI® Certified Practitioners are using it in conjunction with classroom workshops. As Deb DeNure, founder of DB Associates, told us:

“Ultimately it helps learners to be self-directed and learn to communicate in an appropriate fashion for the situation.”

The essence of Whole Brain® Thinking and learning.

Tell us: How are you using the Thinking Accelerator™ to get better results?

Haven’t seen it yet? Be sure to contact us to learn more about this award-winning learning solution.

Whole Brain® Thinking Killer Apps

lightening in hand

In last week’s THINC™ Webinar, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi discussed five Whole Brain® Thinking “Killer Apps” for 2010:

  1. Accelerating Leadership Development
  2. Making Connections That Pay Dividends
  3. Mindful Engagement
  4. Innovating Ahead
  5. Thinking Strategically to Think Around Corners

Is your organization prepared to effectively deal with these issues? They’ll not only impact success in 2010, they will also shape how well the organization is positioned moving into the years ahead.

During the webinar, Ann shared some examples of what forward-thinking companies are doing to hone in on these mission-critical issues, and how Whole Brain® Thinking is driving that process.

If you missed the webinar, you can view the recording, 5 Essential Applications of Whole Brain® Thinking for Success in 2010, to see the specific examples and find out what other participants had to say about issues such as customer service, innovation and leadership development.

The Trends We’re Watching in 2010: How Will They Impact You?


From leadership strength to innovation, virtual teams to social learning, faster on-boarding to better measurement, business leaders and learning professionals have a full plate in 2010.

We’ve distilled down the trends and focus areas organizations are talking about into our list of Top 10 for 2010, including the Whole Brain® implications for each of these trend areas.

So tell us: What stands out to you when you read through this list? What will be the top 3 hot button topics that you, your organization or your clients will be dealing with this year?

Share your top 3 and any other thoughts you have about trends for the year in the comments section of this post. A few lucky commenters will be winners of our next prize give-away on the Whole Brain® Blog!

Note: This is an expansion of an article that appears in our January BrainBytes™ e-newsletter. Be sure to sign up if you’re not already receiving our monthly newsletter.

  1. Strengthening Overall Leadership Skills. With the planned economic rebound, never has there been such a demand for leadership. After a year in which much development was “on hold,” many organizations are reviewing their existing curricula, updating their approaches with new blended offerings and emphasizing competencies that stress a broader range of skills and a need for situational thinking.Whole Brain® Implication: Understanding leadership through a Whole Brain® lens allows for a fresh approach to leader development. I am currently working on a model of the leadership attributes required for 21st Century leaders. (Please email me if you are interested in receiving a copy.)
  2. A Broader Definition of Diversity (and related talent management implications). Diversity and diversity initiatives continue to play a significant role in the workplace, and the definition is expanding to include such areas as thinking and generational differences. There is also a growing focus on the business benefits of inclusion, beyond an articulation of the process and need. Whole Brain® Implication: When the HBDI® is used as a platform or introduction to diversity, it provides a broader lens for viewing diversity and immediately gives the initiative a practical, relatable and actionable context. A recent article on Harrah’s approach to “diverse by design” teaming is a great example of how cognitive diversity can be leveraged for increased innovation.
  3. Adapting to Virtual Leadership and Team Roles. Reduced travel and a growing “virtual workforce” have decreased face-to-face time and both highlighted and heightened the need for more effective approaches to virtual leadership, teaming and communications.Whole Brain® Implication: Terrific research on Virtual Distance has emerged, and it recommends the use of an approach (like Herrmann International’s!) to reduce the perceived distance between virtual colleagues and increase their effectiveness. It’s a topic we’re considering for a future webinar if there is enough interest. If you have a particular interest or need, be sure to consult with your Herrmann Client Relationship Manager for information and assistance.
  4. Faster On-Boarding and Ramp-up to New Functions, Teams and Responsibilities. In light of the desired mobility and shorter job stints of younger generations, the need for rapid assimilation has increased even further. Whole Brain® Implication: Several organizations in the United States and around the globe are using the HBDI® as an accelerator for assimilation and “culture positioning.”
  5. Developing and Retaining High-Potential Employees. Emerging leaders, or “Hi-Po’s” as they are often called, are a precious resource and will be at risk for poaching from the competition as soon as the economy rebounds (and don’t kid yourself: The best are already weighing their options!). Whole Brain® Implication: As early as in the 1980s, Ned Herrmann used the HBDI® at Crotonville as a development platform for Hi-Po’s. Since then a multitude of companies have found the model to be a good fit because it helps to build off of and honor preference in addition to providing the opportunity for stretching thinking as needed – thus, no cop-outs!
  6. Building Teams That Fuel Innovation. Many believe that innovation will be the key for succeeding in the wake of this economic crisis. The opportunity is there, but innovating out of the recession requires work at both the organizational culture level and the team level – work that many organizations have yet to take on or simply aren’t doing well. Whole Brain® Implication: In her recent book, The Firefly Effect, Kimberly Douglas, President of FireFly Facilitation, a Herrmann HBDI® Certified Practitioner and a nationally recognized team effectiveness expert, shares a multitude of ways she has used Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® to help her clients transform group talents and energies into innovative business ideas.
  7. Social Media Implications on Customer Experience, Service and Brand. A recent article in Scientific American Mind on social networks and mental health addresses many of the questions we are asking about what it all means for us as humans. Clearly, there are huge organizational implications as we look for effective, informal touch points with those we serve. Whole Brain® Implication: I addressed the phenomenon of hyperthinking and its impact on the brain in an article last year. With so many communication options accessible to us all, it’s never been more important to look for ways to communicate using a Whole Brain® approach: Who is your target? How do they like to be communicated to?
  8. Expanding Effective Use of Informal Learning, Social Learning and Self-Paced E-Learning. We have learned much in recent years about the power and effectiveness of informal learning from many thought leaders, including my friend Jay Cross. Jane Hart from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies is great resource on social learning (follow her on Twitter or check out her blog, Social Media in Learning). The economic crisis has led to a renewed interest in self-paced e-learning and simulations as a viable part of a blended solution. Whole Brain® Implication: The brain is an essential part of all learning processes. As you reflect on your design options, think about ways to use a Whole Brain® Approach to enhance the outcomes. For more on Whole Brain® learning and design, download the recent white paper, The Best of Both Worlds – Making Blended Learning Really Work by Engaging the Whole Brain®, or see my article, The Learner – What We Need to Know, in the ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals.
  9. Better Measurement of Learning Impact/Demonstrating Connection to Bottom-Line Results. Demonstrating ROI is still one of the biggest challenges of many in our profession, and with resources tight, the connection to the bottom line is ever more critical. Learning leaders are redoubling their efforts to better measure and more effectively articulate training’s impact on organizational success. Whole Brain® Implication: For several years I have referred to ROI as Return on (a) Investment, (b) Implementation, (c) Interaction and (d) Ideas. All four are vital. What results are you trying to drive?
  10. Increasing Training in 2010 (but not necessarily increasing resources). The need is there! Many are saying there is a pent-up demand for training and development and feel they have some catching up to do. Others kept things going in ‘09 but see a growing demand for development in a growing (albeit slowly) economy. Whole Brain® Implication: Clients are telling us that the Whole Brain® approach gives them the advantage of a platform for learning that is fast to teach, can address a wide range of applications and has great stickability.
  11. Sources