Where Are All the Bright Lights Going?
Posted on 26 May 2013
By William A. Donius
Is it possible that the once and familiar business technique of brainstorming has gone stale? Could brainstorming itself be in need of an innovative makeover? Interestingly, ninety-two per cent of Americans are right handed, and consequently are primarily controlled by the left brain. So it’s no surprise that brainstorming exercises have gradually morphed into a more linear, mathematical, analytical process, proven traits of the left hemisphere of the brain. Is it any wonder why innovation, creativity and ideation are slow in coming?
Daniel Pink first sounded a wake-up call to the business world for more right-brain thinking in his 2005 bestseller, “A Whole New Mind.” Pink’s thesis is that conventional thinking needs to change dramatically in today’s conceptual age. Left- brain skills served us well through the agrarian, industrial and even information ages. No longer do they suffice, however, as breakthrough ideas are bursting through and changing the global landscape. CEO surveys list “transformative change” as the number one issue organizations face today. Yet, the same tools continue to be deployed in the hopes of producing fresh solutions. For instance, long favored “SWOT,” used for evaluating a product or strategy, was invented over fifty years ago at Stanford University. It’s now become the box that keeps management trapped into thinking “inside the box.”
The newer, “open space” concept for creating more stimulating meetings is over twenty years old. General Motors, Dell Inc. and other corporations serve as examples of legacy companies that run aground because of focus on small, incremental “don’t rock the boat” management thinking.
Innovation is still alive and well in the United States. Look no further than the familiar names of Apple Inc., Google Inc., Facebook and Amazon.com, Inc. Apple didn’t even exist before 1977 and is today one of the world’s most valuable companies. The others have created amazing value in even shorter time periods. It’s all about innovation, ideation, creativity and the relentless pursuit of “getting it right.”
What can CEOs learn from the above? Based on their own wording, it’s clear that “Transformative Change” is needed. Pink eloquently makes the case for “Why” right-brain thinking may be the answer. But CEOs, anxious for results, may wonder how they get to this “transformative change.”
Unfortunately, the business world is forty years behind the art world and thirty years behind the psychological community’s seminal book in both fields applying Dr. Roger Sperry’s groundbreaking work at California Institute of Technology on split brain research in the 1950s. Sperry ultimately won a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his discovery of the independence of brain function between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Betty Edwards taught generations of art students to draw better by learning how to “see” an image differently in her book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” first published in 1970. Dr. Lucia Capacchione taught legions of therapists and patients how to tap into the right brain to resolve psychological trauma in her book, “Recovery of Your Inner Child,” first published in 1981.
The trail stops cold, however, at the front door of the business world. With several famous notable exceptions already mentioned, not integrating the right brain into the fabric of our problem-solving and strategic-thinking processes has resulted in business doing a lot more planning than thinking. Management has thereby missed creativity, innovation and the important insights from the right brain needed to keep an organization agile and dynamic.
It’s a sobering thought to believe the whole mind is being used in the art and psychological worlds more effectively than in the business world. Worse still, CEOs tend to hire management with similar ideas, resulting in the executive ranks filled with individuals who think and act in like manner.
The CEO of a publicly traded company can learn how to tap into the right brain. The transformative experience becomes the tool necessary to provide a second opinion, offer fresh insights and produce those “aha” moments. Importantly, all this experience is now available “on demand.” Following the protocol of neuroscientists and earlier implementers, it turns out literally to be possible to get beyond the box by tapping into the right hemisphere of the brain.
Small as well as large Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries are turning to a more innovative form of brainstorming or ideation to solve the same problems addressed in earlier years. They are getting different and more comprehensive answers from employees’ whole minds to the same problems they historically faced.
Tips for the next problem solving or brainstorming session based on experienced gleaned over the past four years include invoking the right brains of the participants. Otherwise the left brains will dominate the session and the results will be predictable. Invite participants from different perspectives. Include those who can bring the voice of the customer and the employee too. Balance out the grey hairs with some of the young shining stars. (Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg each did their most important work in their twenties.)
If conducted properly, CEOs will experience one of the most productive, engaging, insightful meetings of their careers. It may also provide the transformative underpinnings to jolt the company in a new direction.
Bill Donius is a Strategist with Houston-based Endeavor Management and author of “Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius.” Bill is the former Chairman & CEO of Pulaski Bank and served a two-year term on the U.S. Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C.
On April 3, 2013 EG Radio Marketing, Scott Ragain and the STL Biz Radio show hosted the leadership round table conference at Paraquad headquarters in St. Louis, MO. Christopher Riley and Jeff Arthur mediated a dynamic panel (outlined below) on the topic of leadership in today’s turbulent economy.
Listen in as Host Brenda Fraser interviews Bill Donius about, Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius. Brenda asks Bill about the personal ramifications in his life as well as how this works translates into the business space.
Interviewed by morning news anchor, Cassandra Lazenby about how and why the methodology described in the book works in business to improve the bottom line by boosting innovation, intuition and creativity.
William Donius was featured on Fox and Friends today. He discussed his book, Thought Revolution and guided the hosts through the Animal Exercise. He explained that by using your non-dominant hand that you can tap into new neural pathways between analytical and creative sides of your brain to use your intuition. He says that this has helped him to discover new things about himself, work out issues, foster revolutionary thinking, and improve his overall life. Then end of the exercise detailed how one answer to the question is aspirational and the other is representational.
It happens when you are rushing around town to get the dry cleaning or meeting with your accountant. You know it happens because you feel it more than you think it. It is that new idea. It’s that answer that was there all the time, and you just couldn’t see it. You fumble around in your car, trying to find a place to write it down. Sometimes you record it, and other times you try to convince yourself that what you thought up was not that insightful.
Call it what you will – intuition, poetic muse, innovative thinking or creativity – most entrepreneurs regard it as a tricky or almost magical thing. As the business owner, you know that the vision for your company and your ability to think differently are related to your company’s performance, but, like lightning, there is no telling when inspiration will strike.
Waiting around for that lightning strike is not good enough for Bill Donius. Twelve years ago, he learned a technique for short-circuiting his creative or intuitive thinking. Since then, he has been able to tap into what he refers to as his inner genius. He no longer waits for inspiration to strike him. Instead, he accesses that part of his intuitive thinking intentionally.
Twelve years ago, Donius was the third-generation CEO of Pulaski Bank. Under his leadership, the bank exploded. It grew eightfold and by 400 people. It went public and expanded into the Kansas City market.
“I loved the bank, but things just kept getting bigger and bigger, and by the end it was out of control,” says Donius. “All of my success had come at the expense of my personal life. I had seen too many of my colleagues drop dead from heart attacks in their 50s and 60s, and my life was very unbalanced.”
In 2008, at age 50, Donius retired from the bank and started on a personal journey to find himself. This included a road trip à la Jack Kerouac across the United States. It was during this journey that Donius found what his next mission in life was to be. He decided to write a book about his process for innovative thinking. Released in March, “Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius” is a guide for creativity that Donius says is a perfect fit for CEOs and business owners.
“My intention was to create a how-to book that was a short read like Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who Moved My Cheese?,’” says Donius. “Books like that were game changers for me when I was a CEO. So I wanted to write something as short, clear and specific that people could read on a weekend and understand. This book is written for an individual that is ready for a completely new perspective.”
Writing with the right brain Donius’ approach to creativity is based on a technique used in psychotherapy. The person seeking new ideas writes down a series of questions with his dominant hand. He then writes answers with his dominant hand. Then the person clears his mind and answers the same questions with his nondominant hand. The answers from that hand are tied to pathways that lead to the brain’s more subconscious or intuitive thoughts and ideas. So, it is new perspective from the same mind.
“The power of this process is that the answers you get with your nondominant hand may feel foreign to you, but they came from your mind and not from some life coach or outside source,” says Donius. “No one else is telling you what you should do. These answers are coming from your own mind. They have been in there in some form or another all along.”
The process is backed by 50-year-old brain research. It turns out that the left hemisphere of the brain is analytical and linear. The right brain is intuitive and creative. Research has shown that the two hemispheres operate independently from one another. One hemisphere does not communicate with the other. The dominant hand is connected to the left hemisphere, while the nondominant hand is connected via neural pathways to the right hemisphere.
“We live in a left-hemisphere world,” says Donius. “That analytical side has served us well for many years. It certainly served me well. But there is another side to the mind that we miss out on. And we have shut ourselves off from more creative thinking,”
Some people Donius coached before his book was published have mistaken the process for nothing more than learning to write with your nondominant hand. However, Donius says there is much more to it than that.
“It is not a handwriting exercise,” he says. “Some think that if they just train themselves to write with their nondominant hand that a bunch of answers will appear. But that misses most of the point. What we are doing is disengaging the conventional thought process. You have to follow the steps to get the result. It is more complicated than penmanship.”
What does it look like? Donius admits that while he was the CEO of Pulaski, he didn’t want to publicly talk about this process he uses. He was afraid it would sound a little kooky. Also, Donius spent 20 years in banking. Not many pursuits are more left-brain and analytical.
“The real creative bankers are in jail right now,” he says. “I mean, creativity is not one of the four C’s of credit.”
However, Donius does recall one time when he used what he calls “right-brain writing” when faced with a difficult decision as a CEO. Pulaski was looking to expand into the Kansas City market. The night before a crucial meeting, Donius was still on the fence about what to do. He had made pro/con lists. He had done the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and made a weighted matrix. Everything from his left brain told him the time was right.
“It seemed like a logical choice to move forward,” says Donius. “But then, when I asked myself, ‘Should we expand into Kansas City?,’ I wrote a big ‘NO’ on the page with my nondominant hand. So I asked for clarification: ‘Why not now?’ And with my nondominant hand, I wrote, ‘Too many risks.’ I was disappointed. But I knew I had to trust my intuition.”
Donius told his executive vice president to cancel the meeting. They were not going to expand. It turns out the choice was a good one. About nine months after that night, many other factors that mitigated the risks fell into place. And, after again consulting with his nondominant hand, Donius expanded the bank into Kansas City. The expansion was much more successful than it would have been if Pulaski had just moved forward initially.
Metaphorical answers Although Donius used the technique to solve practical questions as a CEO, the experiences of many other people have created more poetic responses. That is what happened to Anne Milford, author of “How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy.” Just a few months ago, she was feeling blocked about what she was supposed to do next. She didn’t want to write another book, and her creativity felt far away. So she used the right-brain writing process with Donius’ help. She asked herself, ‘What is the next thing that I can do to make money?’ With her dominant hand, she wrote nothing. With her nondominant hand, she wrote one word: nurse.
Milford didn’t like this response. She said to Donius: “I am 47 years old, and I have three daughters in college. This isn’t right.” So Donius asked her to do the process again and ask for clarity. With her nondominant hand, she wrote, “You have the ability and talent to nurse and care for other authors in writing their books.” Donius says that as soon as Milford wrote that answer, her face lit up. Milford started a new business, Book Nurse. She already has several clients and is working on growing in a completely new direction based on a one-word answer from her right brain.
“Often the answers you get with your nondominant hand are more poetic or metaphorical,” says Donius. “You don’t know what it initially means. Some people draw pictures, and others have single words. But the greatest part about it is that it is your idea. Not someone else’s.”
Think differently or die Donius’ process comes at a critical time for small businesses trying to remain competitive. According to Donius, it is time for American businesses to have a higher calling because business as usual is not cutting it.
“We need businesses to look more like Steve Jobs and less like General Motors,” says Donius. “This writing process is a simple way to tap into your creative inner genius, and every business owner has one, no matter how left-brain they think they are. You really couldn’t have gotten more left-brain than me, so if it can help me, it can help any businessperson. Business owners can pick questions like ‘What is one thing I can do to improve my bottom line this year?,’ and they are going to get answers that you would never be able to get with a conventional thought process.”
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St. Louis Public Radio station, KWMU, welcomes William Donius to the St. Louis On the Air program on Thursday morning, April 26. Author of New York Times Bestseller THOUGHT REVOLUTION: How To Unlock Your Inner Genius discusses his book with Don Marsh. Donius leads the radio audience through an exercise found in his book that quickly validates the difference between the left and right sides of the brain. Listeners were able to call in with follow up questions in this one hour segment.
From: The St. Louis Beacon (on-line newspaper) By Robert W. Duffy, Associate Editor, Tue, 03.20.12
The first Bill Donius I knew was one that flickered on the television screen all across the region. You may recall having seen him: he played himself in commercials for Pulaski Bank, his family’s business, and the role he played, and his day job as well, was chairman and CEO of the bank. In both roles he exuded self-confidence, approachability and friendliness. He brought new customers to the bank through the successful ad campaign and was effective in bringing innovative ideas to the operation of the bank as well.
About four years ago, however, at the relatively young age of 50, Donius stepped down as chief executive of the bank, and year ago resigned from its board. He had other things to do, some of them of the
“flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying”
He wanted to see the world and to write. Some endeavors hung on from his banking world: For example, he served a two-year term on the Thrift Institutions Advisory Council of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board in Washington and was on the board of America’s Community Bankers, where he chaired the for-profit subsidiary board.
Nowadays, he’s active in the Human Rights Campaign, and was chair of its recent, enormously successful benefit dinner. Among his board memberships are the St. Louis Art Museum, Maryville University, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHS), Forest Park Forever and — hooray for our team — the St. Louis Beacon. He has contributed commentary to us and writes regularly for the Huffington Post as well.
Back when he and I were talking about the possibility of his coming on the Beacon’s board, Donius told me something else was pressing — an endeavor other than finance and philanthropy and journalism.
He was working on a book about the brain, he told me. I admit I was incredulous, akin to my writing a book on string theory. I wondered what someone with Donius’s liberal arts and business credentials could possibly add to the literature of brain science, a field growing richer all the time, thanks to enormous technological advances and elegant clinical investigations. Some healthy helping of chutzpah had to have been involved.
Still, because of his enthusiasm and energy and his evident commitment to producing this book on the subject and out of curiosity, I asked if I might read his pages as they were written. He asked me if I’d provide comments. The deal was simple. I’d be honest and direct with my suggestions; and he’d take them or leave them. No one would get his feelings hurt.
I found myself intrigued with his ideas, which have to do with learning to use the untapped resources of the right side of the brain. I suggested he bring more factual material to the book; I believed that to be persuasive, the book had to serve the reader healthy doses of science, along with anecdotal evidence. He put the science in; one of his first “real” editors told him to take all that stuff out. In the end, the science returned.
But along with that was lots of experimentation and interviewing. His ideas caught the attention of institutions and were tried out it in high schools, colleges and businesses. The results were impressive. And last week, his literary “Thought Revolution” was released.
Donius calls this book a manual for individuals — a how-to guide for folks interested in pushing their intellectual and creative boundaries.
I won’t give away the process, but basically it involves using the non-dominant hand to take dictation and to write answers to questions posed by Donius, or whoever is in charge. A clip of Donius’s appearance on Fox News last week, is instructive, and serves to remove any aspects of the process that might seem scary.
As for my experience, it was revelatory. And once the publishing wheels on his book began to turn, Donius asked me to write a promotional blurb for it. A good chunk of what I wrote there works pretty well here, so what follows is a recycling, with some editing and trimming, of stuff swiped from the blurb.
So many times I’ve thought, “Oh I could never do that because of this. The “that” is no one thing but an entry made on a list first composed in early childhood and one that continues to be written until the present moment. The “this” file is hefty also, although in general “this” has to do with fear of failing or fear of making someone, anyone, angry with me.
When Donius began talking to me about brain function and the employment of exercises involving the non-dominant hand and, along with that work, the engagement of the right brain, I regarded it as well-intentioned, new-age, self-help baloney. Then I gave up, and I struggled with putting my left hand to work.
The results, at first especially, weren’t exactly Palmer cursive-writing method approved. But industry with promise of paying significant, satisfying rewards usually is not pretty to begin with. As my left-hand writing became not only more legible but also more liberated, I began to have the strength and the grit to clear obstacles to a creative enterprise I’d avoided starting, literally, all my adult-life long.
In the blurb, I recommend the book to potential customers, but this is not the place for endorsements. Suffice it to say that for me, the Donius method is something I respect, and for me, it has been helpful, indeed.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, “Thought Revolution” will receive its public launching here, at the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library, 225 N. Euclid Ave., at Lindell Boulevard. Donius will discuss the book and sign copies of it, using, one assumes, whichever hand he chooses.
Donius makes guest appearance on the Charlie Brennan Show on KMOX
As a guest on the Charlie Brennan Show, Bill Donius talks about his new book, “Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius”, with guest hosts John Hancock and Michael Kelley on NewsRadio 1120 KMOX on March 21st. Donius talks about why he wrote a ’how to’ book, the benefits of tapping into the right brain, a well known individual that utilized this approach and suggests practical applications in many areas of life.
Alive Magazine interviewed William Donius, for their September 2011 issue, prior to the release of his New York Times Bestseller THOUGHT REVOLUTION: How To Unlock Your Inner Genius. The editors did a twist on the typical Proust interview by asking Donius to consider each question, provide an answer from the left side followed by an aswer from the right side of the brain, using his methodology.
The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch recognizes the significance of William A. Donius’ Thought Revolution: How To Unlock Your Inner Genius placement on the major bestseller lists within the first week of publication.
Debuting so high within the initial week of sales speaks volumes about the essence of this “How To” book’s ability to clearly explain to laymen the process discovered by neuroscientists for tapping into the creative side of the brain, discovering your intuition and thinking “beyond the box.”
THOUGHT REVOLUTION: How To Unlock Your Inner Genius hits the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Nielsen, Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today bestseller lists, amongst others. Author, William Donius, was interviewed on Fox News network’s FOX & Friends morning show and the Charlie Brennan Show on KMOX NewsRadio 1120.
Thanks for visiting my site. Twelve years ago I never imagined a methodology that proved so helpful to me personally would take my life in a whole new direction, resulting in this website and the publication of my book, Thought Revolution: How to Unlock Your Inner Genius (Changing Lives Press, March 2012). This methodology taught me to be more intentional and mindful about my life and purpose. When you activate the right brain and learn to think differently, there are no limits or boundaries to your subsequent thoughts. I invite you to indulge yourself and meet your right brain. It may be the beginning of a new transformational journey.