Posted by: rolfsky | December 19, 2007

Right Brain Thinking: on being a pattern hound

After presenting at Adobe’s internal conference, one audience member came up to me and said that my presentation was very “left-brained”, very conceptual. She explained that some of the people might not have gotten it because they were very “right-brained” so they were looking for steps and lists of what to do next. I did a little research on the subject and figured out that she’d confused the two halves of the brain.

What she’d meant to say was that my presentation was very right brained, very conceptual and the left-brained (the logical list-makers) might need a few more examples to tie it to their daily work. Right-brainers (which apparently I am, or have traits of) tend to see problems holistically while left-brainers focus more linearly and assemble the pieces sequentially. Left brain thinkers tend to start with no “theory” in mind and build a rule from the data, while right brain thinkers believe they know the answer when they begin and fit the data into the model they’ve created.

Left-brainers want answers, while right-brainers are more happy with the theory to apply in their own problems.

No one way of thinking is the “correct” way, and obviously we need both styles because mother nature has seen fit to balance our species in this way. So if I’m delivering the right-brain think-first-and-ask-questions-later type of story, how can I best leverage myself? If I think this way, where can I achieve the greatest good?

At various speaking events, I frequently get asked, “so, are you going to write a book?

While of course this fuels the ego, it also makes me pause and wonder if the ideas in my head are worth setting to paper. Peers in my field are writing books, and apparently I’m interesting enough to warrant an opening keynote of the Youth Marketing Mega Event, but could I sustain a few hundred pages of coherent thought?

While I have many ideas about humans, the future, technology and interaction, I don’t see it all pointing in one direction. Perhaps the best summary would be, “but have you thought about it this way?”

And maybe that is wherein my value lies. Surely I am matched on the other side of the brain universe with an equally eloquent and popular left-brain thinker, hell bent on documenting, analyzing and then coming up with the “rule”. So what greater good can I do than share new ways of looking at the world, new patterns and models for interpreting what we see all around us?

Perhaps this, is the value of being a Pattern Hound.

(So, would you buy a book with 7 new ways of looking at the world?)



  1. Rolf,

    who says a book needs to lead to a conclusion that is understandable for a left brainer? If anything, you show us that human nature isn’t a fixed substance heading in one direction. It’s constantly evolving, learning, adapting, making the same mistakes again, flowing, expanding, collapsing. Being a pattern hound makes you see a bigger picture lots of people can’t. There is a whole lot of value in that, it certainly has opend up my eyes to the world around me. I vote for a book!

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