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Leaking Left Brain Knowledge into Right Brain Action

I am at the annual Balaton Group meeting this week and we have been talking about, among other things, how to motivate people to change their behaviour – in this case, towards more sustainable actions.

One of our speakers on change agentry put up a slide titled, “Obstacles to change,” which included all kinds of reasons people give for not adopting more green behaviour (such as “my company needs to make a profit, my small contribution will not count for much, I can’t afford it”, etc.) Someone asked the quesion – are these obstacles to change, or rationalisations for not changing behaviour? Here was the argument:

People know what they want to do. When you encourage them to do something differently, they can easily come up with rationalisations of why they cannot possibly do it. Action emerges, it was suggested, in the right side of the brain. Action is vocalised, in the left side of the brain. Models, data, causal loop diagrams, and so on appeal to the left side of the brain. They can help people logically see what they should do and say so. In the right brain however, where the stories, emotions, images lie, is where the motivation to do something is initiated. The left side of the brain picks the song, but the right side of the brain dances to it.

If we want people to dance, to change their behaviour (for example after our systems visioning workshops), we need to do something that leaks over into the right side of their brain. We can’t just give them rationale, data, causal loop diagrams to get them to do things differently. That will help them find their direction. It will be the games, the images and maps, great questions and the heated discussions, that will get them to do something differently after our workshop. Let’s dance!

1 reply
  1. Lizzie
    Lizzie says:

    Thinking back to my post on thought leadership, i'm seeing limitations in the label as herein lies the great challenge to everyone who dons the shoes of 'thought leader', facilitator, trainer, presenter: to get the best balance of different learning styles and preferences (such as audio-visual & kinetic); just the right mix of right-left brain thinking; the perfect blend of leading thought and leading action. My feeling is that we are certainly better at the former than the latter (though the team hug has been around for some time :)).

    Take games. Most games seem to use right brain activities to stimulate left brain thinking. (Such as speed catch to stimulate thinking about the difference between incremental and radical change.) The challenge comes in the piece that then follows; how to progress from this stimulated left brain thinking to right brain action thereafter? Presumably we don’t want people to simply repeat the games. (The action of throwing around the ball is unlikely to help all that much.)

    It seems to be that, if during our workshops we want to take the opportunity to be more powerful 'thought-&-action-leaders', we need to devise new ways of practising the actions we have been thinking about. Rehearsing our recommended next actions as part of the system we are trying to change before leaving the workshop may be a powerful start.

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