Two Woman

David Huffman, B.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Right Hand Blink

A friend of mine told me once that she has never seen anybody be so productive as I am when I’m sitting in a Tim Hortons! So why am I creative at Tim Hortons and not when I sit in my office. It has to do with accessing the right hand side of my brain.

When I’m locked up in my office, which is very much a structured environment, my brain defaults to the left hand side; the step-by-step, logical, engineering side. It thinks in words. When we want to be creative we need to use the right hemisphere of our brain which thinks in pictures. To do that we need to be in unstructured surroundings that forces your brain to be creative, thinking outside of the box.

To me, it’s the ultimate creativitis! You have to force yourself to think differently. Just like proofreading an article you’ve written by reading it backwards. Yes, I know, read it backwards.

When I used to create and design websites for a business, I would interview the client in unfamiliar, usually quiet surroundings and use a tape recorder. No paper. That way I forced the client to think using the creative part of their brain, the right hemisphere. If you sit at a computer and type out your ideas, what happens is that you actually displace your visual memory. Your thinking is bumped from the right to the left hemisphere. It could best be described as ‘writer’s block.’

When I want to develop a new idea, the creative process starts at a Tim’s, or the library, in the woods, even skiing, or sitting on a beach or even with a bottle of wine. Just taking in the surroundings and jotting down the ideas as they flash up into my brain making cryptic notes with a pad and pen. Do not attempt to write out the detailed text of your idea, just jot down the ideas, maybe even sketch your idea in a drawing. A tape recorder works here too, but using a laptop tends to make us structured again.

This process works for EVERYTHING. The idea is to brainstorm. There are no right or wrong answers. All the ideas are valid. This holds especially true when you are brainstorming in a group. After the brainstorming session, then you can start to evaluate the merit of each of the ideas.

Once the ideas are down on paper, all you do is storyboard the ideas. To understand storyboarding, visualize using a single page of paper for each idea. For a website each page of paper represents each link on your website. Start out just putting the name of the link or the main thought on each page. Fill in the details later. Just like creating a synopsis for a book. Each page would represent a chapter of the book.

Once you have mind-mapped whatever it is you are trying to create, most of the ‘details’ you need to fill in the pieces of paper can be taken from the Internet but written in your own words for your own needs. I’m not suggesting any plagiarization here. All you need is your laptop and Google. Remember too much information blocks the creativity. This process is actually very simple and quite easy. It just takes a little practice.

So now you know where the ‘Right Hand’ comes from, the creativity.

Bye-the-bye, you can train yourself to switch from the left hand side of your brain to the right hand side. Really, you can! You learn it, you train yourself. If you are left brained and want to learn to draw which is a function of the right side, it is difficult. But you can train yourself, . . . by drawing pictures then they are being held upside down!

“Blink, The Power to Thinking, Without Thinking” is a book written by Malcolm Gladwell. He states, “Blink is concerned with the very smallest components of our everyday lives – the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise whenever we meet a new person or confront a complex situation or have to make a decision under conditions of stress.”

To illustrate that, think of a teacher you had at school. Do you remember how long did took to decide if your teacher was a good teacher or not. One class? Two classes? One semester? One study showed that when students were shown a two second videotape of the teacher, they had no difficulty coming up with a rating of the teacher’s effectiveness. That is what we mean by an instantaneous impressions and conclusions. The researchers then compared those snap judgements with the evaluations that students did after a full semester. The results were virtually the same.

Most people will be familiar with ‘The Pepsi Taste Challenge.’ But what most people don’t know was that it was a flop. The Challenge really didn’t show that Pepsi was the better tasting cola. In the taste test people did pick Pepsi because of the instantaneous way that it affected their taste buds. What they found out was that if you gave a case of Pepsi for the testers to take home, the results of the taste test got reversed. In this case, the instantaneous reactions of these who took the test was betrayed. There are reasons for that but to find the answer you’ll have to read the book. It did cost Coke a bundle of money and hurt their market share but it had nothing to do with Pepsi. Coke designed a New Coke that had a taste very similar to Pepsi. Coke lovers hated it. They had to bring back the original coke calling it Classic Coke.

Blink also indicated that if you want to get to know someone, as a potential spouse or new employee, the best way to learn more about someone is by spending a half-hour looking around in their home when they’re not there. You really don’t think about what you are looking at or for but your brain connects all the dots and forms a conclusion in your unconscious. Surprised! You will learn more about a person that way than by spending time once or twice a week for a year, to have lunch, dinner or go to a movie. Amazing!

The first task of Blink is to convince the reader of a simple fact: “decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.” But we have been conditioned since birth to think a certain way. Snap judgements and rapid cognition take place behind a locked door. They occur enormously quick: they rely on thin slices of experience. But they are also unconscious. To learn to use them effectively, you have to learn to unlock the door.

Our unconscious is a powerful force. Remember when Obi-Wan Kenobi said “Luke, use the force.” He was reminding Luke to trust his instincts, his training, the thin slices of experience that were locked up inside him. That is a perfect example why snap judgements and first impressions can be trained by education and control.

Now it’s time to combine the “Right Hand,” the creativity, with the “Blink,” those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise out of our unconscious.

Let’s put it to the test with this simple puzzle.

Setting: You are in a room that has two long ropes hung from the ceiling. The room is filled with all kinds of different tools, objects, and furniture. The ropes are far enough apart that if you held the end of one rope, you couldn’t get close enough to grab hold of the other rope.

Problem: How many different ways can you come up with for tying the ends of those two ropes together?

Hint: There are four possible solutions. Most people can figure out three pretty easily. Don’t think about the problem. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in the room. Just look around the room and see what’s there. Your brain will figure this out. The answer will come to you. You can think of the answers a lot faster than you could possibly write them all down. You may find it helpful to draw some small sketches.

Time yourself. It should take you no more than twenty seconds to solve it. The trick is to be able to write down the answers without losing the thoughts. Ever wake up vividly remembering a dream you just had and then trying to remember it five minutes later. You probably don’t have a clue! When we try to move the picture from the right hand side of our brain into words in the left hand side to be able to write it down we loose it.

Once you have figured out the answers, write them down. Please send me a description about how the process worked for you and the solutions to the problem.

So this blog is about unlocking the door. Training your unconscious in creative ways. Personally I want to write about energy conservation, the environment, politics, transportation, agriculture, what’s happening to our cities, especially in the economic climate that exists today in this economic downturn. It won’t end there. I want to write about how it’s all impacting us as human beings, our children and where it’s all going. Who knows, maybe we can change the direction we’re going.

Carl Sanburg said, “A mind once stretched can never return to its original capacity.”


Renewable, Green and Healthy . . . for a Sustainable Tomorrow!
© 2016, Right Hand Blink


  1. 1. Monkey-hold on to the rope and swing yourself to the other one. 2. Tie an object to one rope and swing it toward you. 3. Extend your reach with an object, like a stick. 4. Ask your friend to hand you the end of the other rope. Write me for solution 5 and 6.

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