(Note: Best selling author Bill Donius was what he would term a classic “left brain” type, before he discovered Dr. Roger Sperry’s Nobel prize winning discovery about the independence of brain function between the left and right hemisphere. Donius, who works for Endeavor Management as a consultant, will be in San Antonio, Feb. 6 for a reception at the Omni Hotel. Matt Scherer, our San Antonio correspondent, got the chance to interview the former St. Louis-based Pulaski Bank executive about his conversion process. You can find more on his book Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius here at this link.)
Matt Scherer: What inspired you to write this book? What were your motivations
in doing so?
Bill Donius: The methodology described in the book is one that worked for me over a 14-year period in both my personal life and as the CEO of a public company. I wondered if it could work as well for others. Based on this question, I decided to conduct research interviews. I did not plan initially to do over 200 of these. But, they caught on and I was amazed by the results. A book emerged from this process. I wish I could report it was an easy task. As a first time writer, it took seven drafts to get to the finish line.
Scherer: To all of those classic left brainers out there, how would you help them begin the transition to embrace the right brain?
Donius: I can start with a logical (left brain) appeal. What if there was a way you could turbo charge your thought process, resulting in literally twice as many alternatives to consider? Wouldn’t you want to try it? Especially if that process could be learned in under an hour? Still not convinced? Then how about if I play the “age” card? I think of tapping into the right brain as a great way to avenge advancing age.
Scientists know our patterns become more ingrained and habituated as progress in age. We’re able to do some tasks faster and better. But, when it comes to thinking differently about those same functions, it’s not easy. In fact, it’s where younger minds edge out older ones. Tapping into the right brain is the neural equivalent of getting a fresh perspective on a topic. No longer do we have to “sleep on it.” Thanks to Dr. Sperry’s Nobel prize winning discovery, we can get that thought, “on demand.”
Scherer: As a banker, you have worked in a highly regulated industry, one that has been dominated by left brain types. How can you work within the framework of the FDIC to help financial executives within banking, insurance and other financial industries to embrace the creative elements of your right brain?
Donius: In regulated industries where we’re forced to be “inside the box” most of the time, it’s easy to surrender to left brain (linear, logical and analytical) thinking as the default mode. The few who learn how to tap into a different way of thinking will more easily be able to differentiate themselves and their companies’ strategies. They will learn to spark intuitive, creative and innovative ideas, courtesy of the right brain initiated thinking process, allowing for a true competitive advantage. In industries awash in competition with little variation, the creative “first movers” can win big.
Scherer: In addition to banking, the medical industry is also highly regulated and has a steep background in left brain thinking? How can hospital administrators and doctors embrace the right brain activities that will help them stay competitive?
Donius: All of us carry around both the knowledge and insights that come from the long-term experiences we have our chosen industry: healthcare, banking, insurance, or another industry. Instead of freeing us to have a more global perspective, we tend to think from a more confined perspective. We know what “is and is not possible” from experience. Consequently, we seldom get the flashes of brilliance or the “Aha” moments that give us a glimpse into a different approach or solution. Moreover, those flashes rarely occur when we need them–in strategic thinking sessions. In a globally competitive world, we must find ways to deliver unique, faster, better, more customized, enlightened, specific solutions.
Scherer: The other day I was talking to a mid-level executive at a major company. He’s charged with bringing significant innovation to his company, and his chief executive fully embraces the need for the work his organization is doing for his organization. Yet, in his opinion, he’s faced with some decision makers, probably people who haven’t read your book or embraced the right brain, who are resistant to change. How does someone like this foster the needed change within his organization?
Donius: We’re all resistant to change. Some of us more than others. Our brains crave familiar patterns over unfamiliar ones. Perhaps the only thing we dislike more than change itself is the change that someone else comes up with. This can be much more threatening. A team that collaborates to create change stands a much better chance at succeeding. If that team is equally disadvantaged by learning a new skill (like learning how to tap into the right brain), then, they are more likely to embrace both the methodology and the forthcoming results because they have a shared investment. Along the way, they may feel equally inept and initially foolish. I’ve noticed too this experience tends to bring down barriers and strengthen teams. My advice to the mid-level executive you cited: get buy in by getting the higher level execs into an innovative ideation session (one that includes the right brain methodology).
(Important disclosure: Scherer work as the public relations manager for Endeavor Management. )