Obviously it is crucial for freelancers to have a specialised skillset – this is what sets them apart and keeps them in demand. But since they are operating as a whole business and not just part of a company, they really need to be knowledgeable across all relevant disciplines.
Right or Wrong?
The oft-touted theories of ‘Left’ & ‘Right’ brain are fast becoming a touchy and controversial subject. Check the comments section of any article proclaiming the untapped potential of the ‘right brain’ and you will no doubt see many posts debunking the entire theory.
And while we’re at it, let’s scrap the whole “you only ever use 10% of your brain” too. It’s more along the lines of … we’re only using approximately 10% of our brain at ANY GIVEN TIME, but throughout the course of a day most of the brain will have been active at some stage.
It’s not so clear cut …
Brain functions related to language functions do tend to be clustered on the left, and attention to the right. But, this develops from complex clusters of a million related connections, rather than any distinct division between ‘left’ and ‘right’.
“For example, it’s become almost common knowledge that in most people the left brain is dominant for language. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is implicated more strongly in emotional processing and representing the mental states of others. However, the distinctions aren’t as clear cut as the myth makes out – for instance, the right hemisphere is involved in processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis.” – Christian Jarrett, Ph.D, Psychology Today
So yes, it would seem the ‘Left vs. Right Brain’ theories are more a figure of speech than anything, but is that cause to reject the concept entirely? … What can science confirm? And how can we interpret this in relation to creativity, productivity and the successful execution of projects?
We need to redefine creativity.
The science is ever-evolving, but most ‘creative’ functions fall into one of two categories: lateral or linear. Lateral functions involve flexible thinking that can jump around and generate multiple ideas. Linear functions tend to recognise patterns within ‘the chaos’, then prioritise and organise this mass of ideas into a logical sequence of steps.
People tend to feel more comfortable identifying with one side or the other. But in reality, are the ‘visual, artsy types’ incapable of a math’s equation? And can your typical, logic-based engineer not write a poem to save themselves? Personal experience tells me no, but there could be something in the way each ‘type’ will approach a problem, directly affecting the solution they use to resolve it.
The definition of ‘creativity’ is ever-evolving, going from ‘some people are just born with it’ to the idea that every human being is latently creative. We now see that creativity manifests itself in many different forms, which calls into question whether ‘personality traits’ and working style are determined more by nurture or nature.
It would seem the real question is: are there two distinct sets of personality traits or modes of thinking that can only be engaged independently of each other? Or can linear and lateral thinking be used simultaneously to bring the best of both worlds to problem-solving, conceptualisation stages and the genesis of ideas?
Branching out …
Thanks to the dawn of the ‘digital age’, job roles are getting less and less defined and require the individual to possess a more diverse skillset than ever. It seems the ‘optimal brain’ would be a healthy balance of so-called ‘left’ and ‘right’ traits.
“Most creative people alternate fluently between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. In both art and science, movement forward involves a leap of imagination, a leap into a world that is different from our present. Interestingly, this visionary imagination works in conjunction with a hyper-awareness of reality. Attention to real details allows a creative person to imagine ways to improve them.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People’
It is highly beneficial for a contractor to dedicate some time to developing the areas that are not their ‘strengths’, even if only to a basic level. This ‘Multi-Brained’ approach will give an understanding of how each component works together on a larger scale and will improve communication between the client and other contractor.
By taking time to dabble in something that you may think we’re ‘just not good at’ or don’t want to do as part of a career, the better we will then be at communicating and allocating these parts of a project to someone who DOES have the expert skills needed. Yep, this means programmers picking up paints, writers trying their hand at an algorithm and designers penning some poetry. Try it, you might just surprise yourself and have some fun in the process.