Creative Exercises Designed for Left/Right Brain Types

Welcome back to this series of articles on how you can consistently create 12 X more ideas than brainstorming. This process works for any need where ideas are required to satisfy that need.

In previous articles I’ve addressed two of the four elements of Quantum Idea Generation – a process proven in two Oklahoma State University studies to deliver 12 X more ideas than brainstorming. Those first two elements are introducing powerful stimulus into the creative process and making sure that you have the right highly diverse group of people to create ideas.

I am now going provide and overview of how you bring your understanding of the brain types—left and right brain thinkers– into an idea generating meeting. The very important insight here is that we are all about equally creative. Having said that, left and right brain people are optimally creative in very different ways. Knowing the makeup of left and right brain people in your creative session guides your choice of creative exercises that will optimize creative output.

Left brained thinkers and right brain thinkers go about developing new ideas very differently. Traditionally left brained thinkers are logical, love facts, are methodical, like working alone or in small groups, and are more comfortable looking at the parts of a problem instead of the whole problem. On the other hand, right brain thinkers are people who love looking at the big picture, think more emotionally and intuitively, are very comfortable working in larger unstructured situations, and like visuals and pictures for more than charts of numbers.

To leverage this insight, start by determining the makeup of left and right brain thinkers in your session. Ask them to take a simple online and free test. You can find available tests simply by Googling “left brain, right brain test” or “brain dominance.”

Here are some thoughts on how to use what you learn about the left and right brain makeup of your group.  If your group is 60% or more left brain, primarily use left brain idea generating exercises, which I’ll cover in a moment.

Conversely, if your group is 60% or more, primarily use right brain idea generating exercises.  If there is a fairly even split between left and right brain participants, you will probably want to start with some left brain exercises. Depending upon how positively people react to the process, you can continue with mostly left brain with occasional right brain exercises or if the reaction is not positive consider using mostly right brain exercises with an occasional left brain exercise.

Here are a couple of simple examples of the different left and right brain exercises we use at Innovate2Grow Experts/i2ge.com.

First, here is a left brain exercise example.

  • These start by giving the group an assignment. For example, “in this exercise you are asked to generate ideas to create a 50% improvement in our customer service scores.”
  • Before people are asked to generate ideas, there can often be a stimulus presentation that precedes the request.
  • Left brained people like to start generating ideas on their own. So the first step is asking people to take out a writing pad and working alone to write down ideas to accomplish this goal.
  • In the next step, they are asked to share their ideas with one other person. The goal is to make each other’s ideas bigger and better.
  • In the next step, they are asked to share their ideas in a group of four. The goal is the same – make ideas bigger and better.
  • In the last step the four people share their ideas with the larger group to get feedback and improvements.
  • This is a traditional and highly effective left brain idea generating exercise.
  • It can be followed up by another sequence of steps where people are asked to take the top 2-4 ideas from the previous exercise and make them better and much bigger.

Next, here is a simple right brain exercise example.

  • These start by giving each group of four people an assignment. For example, “in this exercise you are asked to generate ideas to create a 50% improvement in our customer service scores.”
  • You will immediately see how dramatically different right brain exercises are from left brain exercises.
  • People are given Post It notes and a pen. They are shown images on the screen that may or may not have any relevance to the idea generating need.  For example, they could be shown an image of a happy customer followed by an image of a polar bear on an ice flow.
  • As each person sees the image, they very quickly write down single words on a Post-it that come to mind when they see the image. They are asked to write down the very first words that come to mind – no judging allowed.
  • After all the images have been viewed and all the Post Its written, they are mounted onto a sheet. There are squares numbered 2-12– these numbers correspond to the results that can come from rolling dice. The four people in a group put the notes evenly on all the squares.
  • The facilitator then rolls the dice and calls out a number. The top note on that number is put onto a flipchart page. After rolling the dice about four times and getting four different notes put onto the flipchart page, the group of four people is given a new task.
  • Using the four randomly chosen words on their flipchart page, they are to generate ideas that are capable of achieving the objective.
  • Right brained people love this kind of exercise. It’s fun. It gives them tremendous freedom. They love the spontaneous interaction with others.

Here are some considerations when putting together left and right brain idea generating exercises.

  • You need to pay close attention to the energy of the group. You want them to be highly engaged. You want them to be having fun. You want them to feel that they’re having a high level of accomplishment.
  • Do not be afraid to mix it up. Use the occasional right brain exercise with a left brain group and vice versa.
  • I have given you the basics of left and right brain exercises. In my company, Innovate2Grow Experts we have more than 100 pages of left and right brain exercises. I frequently call audibles in a session and pull an exercise from one of the 100 pages.

In the next article on the Quantum Idea Generation process, I will address the fourth element – no fear, only fun.

You can learn more about all of these elements by listening to the free early episodes of the Innovation Best Practices podcast – listeners in over 104 countries.

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:


Richard has spent most of his career in and around innovation – senior leader at Procter & Gamble and Gallo, professor at Arizona State University, author of six books, and a successful entrepreneur in the innovation and creativity business. He’s a regular podcaster. Check out i2ge.com and bluesagecreative.com. Follow him @Innovate2Grow

Leave a Reply