Creativity and strategy are no longer optional in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Now considered essential to maintaining a competitive edge, many organizations are seeking ways to unleash new perspectives and fresh thinking about their products, markets, challenges and competitors. Understanding the thinking styles involved in the different phases of the creative and strategic thinking processes allow individuals and organizations to more effectively take advantage and apply the brain power available to them.


Radical change and re-engineering seem to have permeated every aspect of our day to day business existence in this current decade. The focus on re-engineering business systems has distracted away from the core requirement that this new era of re-engineering requires. By its very definition, re-engineering requires re-invention, which cannot effectively occur without creativity and strategy. Ned Herrmann, author of The Creative Brain puts it this way: “In the corporation of the future, the leadership task will be to anticipate the signs of coming change, to inspire creativity, and to get the best ideas from everybody.”


The key to tapping into the thinking potential of an individual or organization lies first in understanding the mentality of their day to day decision making process and what they pay most attention to. In order to determine what you pay most attention to, it can be helpful to look at the Whole Brain model shown below.

The four quadrants describe different processing modes that we all have access to. However, we often prefer some of these modes over others. Our research has shown that the creative process and the strategic process use all of the above approaches but use them at different stages in the process.




An understanding of different thinking styles is the foundation for any team or group wishing to work on problems creatively. First, individuals need to recognize the unique creative ability that resides within each of them and their preferred thinking styles. Due to their uniqueness and style, each individual will approach problems quite differently. Honoring different thinking approaches will allow every member of a team or group to share their thinking and ideas openly. Once that openness occurs, the team’s creativity begins to emerge, taking advantage of the different thinking styles, rather than experiencing them as obstacles.


In light of the above, it is easy to understand why many of us learn and use creative problem solving tools that ‘fit’ our preferred thinking style. In team settings, groups can take advantage of the different styles, tools and skills by applying as many different tools and styles as possible to their given problem as a strategy to avoid getting “stuck” or stumped.


For example, Brainstorming, a widely used idea generation technique, (which falls into the Upper Right D category of the whole brain model) certainly won’t appeal to everyone.  The solution is to explore other tools and strategies from all four quadrants. This allows all group members to see a value in their contribution and significantly increases the quality of the output. Members discover that when motivated, they can acquire skills and tools in areas outside of their preferences through practice and skill building.



Perhaps it is because we get “stuck” that we sometimes call creative thinking “Out of the box thinking”. Clearly we appear to have an intuitive sense that each of us needs to “break out” of our natural thinking processes, to “get out of out our own box”. Understanding your brain dominance profile provides a new definition of the mental “boxes” or boundaries we may have created for ourselves.