Meeting on the Right Side of the Brain

We've been preaching it for years, but I guess it is now news:

Creative work environments improve creative thinking!

Congrats to Leslie Marquard and Catalyst Ranch on leading the piece. Thanks for bringing "right-brained thinking" to a "left-brained" world. (Actually, working in creative environments and using multiple learning modalities inspires whole-brain thinking.)
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Steve Kagan for The New York Times
By ELAINE GLUSAC | Published: April 30, 2008

WHEN Leslie Marquard, an executive coach, holds strategy sessions for consulting firms or university administrators, she ushers her buttoned-up clientele into rooms full of Pogo sticks, ethnic art, hammocks, vintage furniture and a pillow “harem.”

“They are surprised and also endeared by it,” said Ms. Marquard, a co-founder of Marble Leadership Partners in Chicago. The “it” she referred to is Catalyst Ranch, an independent alternative meeting space in a former sausage factory near the Loop in Chicago. “They’ll say, ‘That table looks just like one I grew up with.’ It subconsciously releases the mind.”

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Monkey Mind: Fast Kids, Slow Brain Growth & ADHD

PHOTO: Sita Magnuson

My friend David Owens, a brilliant professor, product innovator and currently CEO for Griffin Technology Inc., calls it "monkey mind". So do the practitioners of Buddhism (see Taming the Monkey Mind by Cheng Wei-an). The Monkey Mind Manual aptly describes the metaphor and dedicates an entire blog to the subject:
Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term that vividly describes the way our minds stay busy, keeping us away from inner peace and true happiness. I think it is the antithesis of mindfulness. At times I convince myself that my monkey is more agitated and on worse behavior than many: it usually jumps to conclusions, has wild swings of mood, and growls too frequently. Really, though, I'm not alone. Our monkeys are all prone to such behavior.
Monkey Mind is, of course, endemic to human beings of all chemical make-ups. However, it is a serious challenge to kids who brim with the energy and distraction of ADHD--not to mention their parents, teachers, siblings and police officers! Of course, some of us who like the way we operate wear the label as a badge of honor. (Sort of like John Belushi's character, in Animal House who wears a food-stained sweatshirt that simply reads: COLLEGE.)

Those of us with diagnosed (medically or culturally) as living with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Hyperkinetic Disorder as officially known in the UK, are generally considered to be dealing with a developmental disorder, largely neurological in nature, affecting about 5% of the world's population. Researcher have mapped the disorder to other affects on the brain's development.

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Children and teenagers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have developmental delays of up to three years in some regions of the brain, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

"The sequence in which different parts of the brain matured in the kids with ADHD was exactly the same as in healthy kids. It's just that everything was delayed by a couple of years," said Dr. Philip Shaw National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health.

Shaw said the delays are most pronounced in regions of the brain that are important for controlling thought, attention and planning.

ADHD is a condition suffered by about 2 million U.S. children that often becomes apparent in preschool and early school years. Children with ADHD have a tougher time controlling their behavior and paying attention.

The finding was based on imaging studies involving 223 children and teens with ADHD and 223 without the disorder.

The Metacognitive Anti-Complaint Campaign

Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister recognized that word choice determines thought choice, which determines emotions and actions.designed a solution in the form of a simple purple bracelet, which he offered to his congregation with a challenge: go 21 days without complaining.

Each time one of them complained, they had to switch the bracelet to their other wrist and start again from day 0. It was simple but effective metacognitive awareness training.

Here are a few of the changes I noticed then and am noticing again now:

1) My lazier thinking evolved from counterproductive commiserating to reflexive systems thinking. Each description of a problem forced me to ask and answer: What policy can I create to avoid this in the future?

2) I was able to turn off negative events—because the tentative solution had be offered—instead of giving them indefinite mental shelf-life (and “open loop” in GTD parlance), resulting in better sleep and more pleasant conversations with both friends and business partners.

3) People want to be around action-oriented problem solvers. Training yourself to offer solutions on-the-spot attracts people and resources.

Orangutans Play Video Games

From via Associated Press:

Four-year-old Bernas isn't the computer wizard his mom is, but he's learning. Just the other day he used his lips and feet to play a game on the touch-screen monitor as his mom, Madu, swung from vines and climbed trees. The two Sumatran orangutans at Zoo Atlanta are playing computer games while researchers study the cognitive skills of the orange and brown primates.

The best part? Zoo visitors get to watch their every move.

The orangutans use a touch screen built into a tree-like structure that blend in with their zoo habitat. Visitors watch from a video monitor in front of the exhibit.

The computer games, which volunteers from IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) spent nearly 500 hours developing, test the animals' memory, reasoning and learning, spitting out sheets of data for researchers at the zoo and Kyle Frantz's team at Atlanta's Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a partner in the project.