The Calm Before the Brainstorm

Weather warning: brainstorming may cause your mind to wander.

Grab an umbrella, we are storm chasing a brainstorm! Nearly 4,000 years ago Egyptians invented the umbrella for sun protection. These innovators saw a problem and generated ideas to solve them. In today’s world, we call this “brainstorming.” Weather warning: brainstorming may cause your mind to wander. Are you a day dreamer or a night thinker? Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by… late night thinking. It started out as tomorrow’s to-do list and 3 hours later morphed into why does the center of mass of a donut have no mass? Brainstorming feels like our neuronal connections are firing all over and going from one thought to the next. Where does brainstorming occur, what is the foundation of it, and how can we effectively brainstorm? Jump in your galoshes, hang onto your umbrella like the Morton Salt logo, and let’s go chase a brainstorm!

Brain Advisory: Chance of Showering Thoughts in Both Hemispheres:

Without looking at the clock, guess the time. If you are within 10 minutes, stand on the left side of the room. If you are unable to calculate the sun’s natural clock, stand on the right side of the room. I will never forget the time my art teacher told us, “if you stood on the left side of the room more often, you are left brain dominant, and you will fail this class.” Neuroscientists traditionally viewed brainstorming as turning off the analytical-logical-left side of the brain and flipping the switch to the artistic-imaginative-right side. Is brainstorming a left or right brain dominant phenomena? Split brain experiments not only prove cerebral dominance, but more importantly prove the two hemispheres actually work together!

Neuroscientists prepared a split brain experiment where the corpus callosum was completely cut and the two hemispheres of the brain were no longer connected. Now you have two individual hemispheres: the left side and the right side. The subject views a dot in the center of a screen. To the right of the dot, a picture of an apple is displayed. Because the picture of the apple on the right side of the screen crosses to the left hemisphere (known for language), the subject verbally  interprets “apple.” Now the opposite: Experimenters switched the picture of the apple to the left of the dot. Because the picture of the apple on the left side of the screen crosses to the right hemisphere (known for visual imagery), the subject is not able to verbally say “apple.” Instead, the subject physically picks up an apple to visually identify the object. Now, Neuroscientists are reconstructing traditional views and interpreting brainstorming as the utilization of both hemispheres.

Strong Foundation for a Brainstorm:

We already determined brainstorming is the generation of ideas for problem solving; however, the MVP of brainstorming is creativity. Creativity is having a purpose and using imagination to construct a result (Andrey Vyshedskiy). In order to get a better understanding of this, I went straight to the experts in creativity: children! I have a ten year old niece who loves raking leaves (as much as the world loves black licorice flavoring) that she came up with a creative way…. not to do it. She reconstructed an early Egyptian invention, flipped 3 umbrellas upside-down, tied and circled them around the trunk of a tree, and let the umbrellas upside-down canopies catch the fallen leaves. Creativity is the foundation of brainstorming. It does not mean turning off one side of the brain and only using creativity sitting all cozy in the right hemisphere.

According to the Journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, researchers developed a method in brain imaging analysis that reported a correlation between highly creative thinking and synchrony between both hemispheres. The most creative minds simultaneously engage in all parts of our brain, not one side more than the other. Collectively working together is the default mode network (memory), salience network (detection of important information), and executive control network (focus).

How to Brew a Brainstorm:

How is it possible to control a storm? In order to maximize the process of brainstorming, I am here to help you out! Step 1. Your team needs to have a focused goal. Step 2. Take 1 day and individually think about this goal and write down your own ideas. Step 3. Collaborate as a group all the pros and cons of the ideas. Scientist Kevin Dunbar took a “Big Brother” approach and recorded reasonings in science labs. He showed evidence that supported the most important ideas stemmed from group discussions and not when an individual was secluded to their microscope. Step 4 is my personal favorite, break for snacks! Food provides energy and glucose to the brain to help shower thoughts! I am leaving you with this: Take a fun 8 question quiz to determine if you are left brain or right brain dominant. Do you believe you could strengthen one side more than the other? Do you believe you utilize both hemispheres? Brainstorm your thoughts and ideas and share them with us!

Written by: Hunter Hill , CNIM