Thursday, August 07, 2014

Left Brain, Right Brain - no difference!

In 2013, a group of scientist from the University of Utah decided to test the popular hypothesis that the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for different cognitive functions than the right hemisphere. "Left-brain" people were supposed to be more logical, while "right-brain" ones more spontaneous.

The scientists ran a number of experiments by analysing their subjects' — 1011 individuals between the ages of 7 and 29 — on various tasks, while observing their brain activity using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). No significant difference was found.

Source: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071275

The study is "old news", so why do I write about it now? Mainly, because I just found the study, but also because I deal with human creativity issues on an everyday basis. To me, there are two important points to that relate to the study:

First, a person's creativity is not confined to a specific portion of the brain. Therefore, conclusions like "I'm a left-brain person and I can't be creative" are wrong. Creativity is about having created something new and useful to other people, rather than pigeonholing yourself into a "creative vs non-creative" categories. In many ways, creativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, the study highlights the difference between science and entrepreneurship. Science moves slowly, by creating insights, postulating hypothesis, then testing and re-testing them. Initial scientific results can be invalidated much later, which only adds to the value of science. The brain study from the University of Utah is good science.

On the other hand, entrepreneurship requires us to move fast, act on incomplete or even wrong information,  take huge risks, and make outrageous claims in order to gain advantage in the marketplace. For example, Christopher Columbus was not a good scientist because his calculations assumed that the Earth was 3 times smaller than it turned out in reality. Scientists of his time already knew that and were highly skeptical of his idea!

Nevertheless, he was a great entrepreneur because he not only convinced the king of Spain to give hime ships for discovering a new way to Asia, but did succeed in discovering a new continent, although by mistake. Eventually, scientists proved him wrong, but it didn't diminish the value of his accomplishment.

One of the most striking aspects of Silicon Valley's success is its reliance on an entrepreneur's desire to discover a new business "continent", rather than do perfect science. Most remarkable examples would be the Moore's Law, Computer Games, the Web, Social Networking, and the iPhone.

tags: creativity, innovation, science, entrepreneurship,

1 comment:

Steve Suh said...

There's a book called "Left in the Dark" by Tony Wright and Graham Gynn that has a different take. There is an iBooks version you can buy.

Steve Suh