What is Whole Brain® Thinking?

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The Whole Brain® Model
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Analytical Thinking | Blue (A) Quadrant

  • Logical
  • Analytical
  • Fact based
  • Quantitative
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Practical Thinking | Green (B) Quadrant

  • Organized
  • Sequential
  • Planned
  • Detailed
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Relational Thinking | Red (C) Quadrant

  • Interpersonal
  • Feeling-based
  • Kinesthetic
  • Emotional
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Experimental Thinking | Yellow (D) Quadrant

  • Holistic
  • Intuitive
  • Integrating
  • Synthesising

An Introduction to Whole Brain® Thinking

Have you ever asked yourself: “How can people be so clever and so dumb at the same time?” We have all met people who are very bright and capable in a given area or skill, but seem totally incapable of something much simpler. The “absent-minded genius” is a good example. Scientific theory is no problem for this Thinker but socializing at a party is. In business, you often find a strategic “big picture” specialist who never seems to notice details. How does this happen? Research on the brain has led to an understanding that each of us has a preferred way and mode of thinking that affects the way we take in and process information. The awareness of one’s own thinking preferences and the thinking preferences of others, combined with the ability to act outside of one’s preferred thinking preferences is known as “Whole Brain® Thinking.”

The model was developed by Ned Herrmann, while head of Management Development at General Electric. Herrmann was a physicist by training, so he was intrigued by how the brain could help explain the clever/dumb issue described above. Using brain research developed by others and his own studies, Herrmann discovered that there were four patterns that emerged in terms of how the brain perceives and processes information. The Whole Brain® Model emerged as a validated metaphor for describing the four different preference modes.

Whole Brain® Thinking is a methodology designed to help thinkers, teams and organizations better benefit from all of the thinking available to them. It acknowledges that while different tasks require different mental processes, and different people prefer different kinds of thinking, organizations will get better results when they can strategically leverage the full spectrum of thinking available.

Each person (yes, you!) has thinking preferences, some strong, others intermediate. Those preferences develop into dominances, and without the awareness of those preferences, you may fall victim to blind spots when it comes to other people’s ways of thinking. But Whole Brain® Thinking reminds us that everyone has access to all four ways of thinking. Applying Whole Brain® Thinking means being able to fully leverage one’s own preferences, stretch to other quadrants when necessary, and adapt to and take advantage of the preferences of those around you to improve performance and results.

It is the basis for the highly validated Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®)the assessment at the heart of the Herrmann Whole Brain® Thinking System.

Want to gain a deeper understanding of Whole Brain® Thinking? Get your copy of The Whole Brain® Business Book 2nd Edition today!

Origins of the Whole Brain® Thinking System and HBDI® Assessment

In 1976, while researching the brain as the source of creativity, Ned Herrmann learned of the pioneering brain research of Roger Sperry, Paul MacLean, Joseph Bogen and Michael Gazzanaga. From their work it is clear that the brain has four distinct and specialized structures.

Inspired by this research, Herrmann worked with EEG scans and, later, paper-and-pencil questionnaires to identify four distinct types of thinking, each roughly corresponding to one of the brain structures. The result of this research is the Herrmann Whole Brain® Thinking System.

In August 1979, after many tests, in-depth research and mountains of data, Herrmann had developed a valid self-assessment that enables individuals to understand their own thinking style preferences—the HBDI® (Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument®).

Herrmann’s books, The Creative Brain and The Whole Brain® Business Book, provide additional background on his research and the process he took to develop the HBDI® and Whole Brain® Thinking System.

Learn how Whole Brain® Thinking can help maximize strength in human capital.