It may be common knowledge that the human brain is made up of two hemispheres but what may not be known is just how much the two sides work in concert. Each half has a rather distinct set of operations. And collectively, the sum of the two halves is greater than the two individual parts.
In general, the left hemisphere is dominant in processing what you hear and addresses your speech. It also handles any logic or math computations you're trying to sort out. It's the more analytical side.
The right hemisphere helps you comprehend what you're looking at and gives you your sense of space. It also helps with face recognition and processing music. It does perform some math, but only rough estimations and comparisons because it's the more abstract side.
People often describe themselves as "right-brained" or "left-brained," suggesting one side's characteristics are more dominate than the other. The left-brainers are more the number crunchers and the right-brainers are the more artistic folks. For example, maybe you're a chip off the ol' Einstein block; you excel in statistics and have the skill-set to develop new logarithms that model complex variable problems. Or maybe you are an illustrating wizard where you can bust out a portrait in a matter of minutes—like the late Bob Ross, who could transform any blank canvas into an exquisite landscape painting right before your eyes.
Being the non brain-expert that I am, and possibly the only one in history to draw these two humans together in comparison, my guess is Einstein and Bob Ross used different parts of their brains to process the majority of their information. The Einstein relation is more left-centric while the Bob Ross relation is more right-centric. The two examples are different in terms of right and left but I would argue they both have an important common thread. Both individuals exerted and demonstrated remarkable creativity.
Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, or relationships, and generate something new. Creativity is often attributed to artistic works, but the term can really be applied to anything original.
In downtown Chicago, there is a large, open space called Millennium Park that is adjacent to the waterfront and numerous gardens. Within Millennium Park is a giant, 110-ton elliptical sculpture called Cloud Gate. Measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high, this creative marvel is made of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s beautiful skyline and the clouds above. Reminiscent of a mirrored funhouse, the "gate" portion refers to a 12-foot-high concave chamber beneath the sculpture, where visitors can see their image reflected back at them from countless perspectives.
The sculpture is one of the largest of its kind in the world. And it is just awesome to see. Created by Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate was the winner of a design competition that was held in the late 1990s when Millennium Park was first conceptualized.
And speaking of design competitions, here are a few other world-famous creative public works that come to mind:
• The Washington Monument in Washington DC •
Robert Mills won the 1836 design competition that was sponsored by the Washington National Monument Society, which was established in 1833. Talk of a tribute to George Washington was first pitched in 1783 by the Continental Congress but was scrapped by Washington himself who humbly did not want public funds going toward such a thing.
• The Eiffel Tower in Paris •
Alendre-Gustave Eiffel won the 1886 design competition that was sponsored by the French government in preparation for the Great Exposition of 1889 (World's Fair). More than 100 creative proposals were submitted.
• The Gateway Arch in St. Louis •
Eero Saarinen won the 1948 design competition that was sponsored by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association. Around 170 creative proposals were submitted.
Thinking back to when I had the privilege of seeing each of these structures first hand, I remember being amazed by not only their creativity but in awe of how someone could cook up such bold and unique ideas. In each case, the creators pushed the boundaries of the norm and challenged traditional thought, which I think is so cool. It takes courage and it takes confidence because inevitably there will be resistance and push-back from others locked in conformity.
Creativity forces you to think outside of the box. You must allow yourself to imagine freely. And if you dream up something that may seem impossible, keep exploring options. Make the impossible dream possible. "Come on dual-hemisphere-creative brain, don't let me down!"
But we also need to remember that creativity does not need to be an earth shattering trait. Take a trip down memory lane to preschool when you did finger painting. What you created was something simple, something original, and something that expressed your three-year-old self. Your creation was not selected as the next world-famous public work, but it did make it front and center on mom's refrigerator.
We need creativity in our lives and we need the opportunity to express ourselves. We need a release. And we need the ability to come up with clever solutions to whatever we find troubling. For us at BILLY Footwear, it was changing how shoes can be put on and taken off. By just adding a zipper along the side and around the toe of each of our shoes, we have broken traditional footwear rules. Our design concept is simple, as is the act of zipping on our shoes. The shoes are functional and fashionable. And if our shoes were a brain, we have both hemispheres covered—analytical (the functional) and abstract (the fashionable).
We may not be a Kapoor, Mills, Eiffel or SarrInen, or even an Einstein or Ross, but I'd like to think we still have our share of creative juices flowing in our superior temporal gyri.
And in case you were wondering what a "superior temporal gyrus" is, it's Scrabble-speak for the place in your brain where aha! moments occur.
(Pictured above is my wife and me in front of Cloud Gate in Chicago, Illinois)