Both Sides of the Brain Are Creative

What is now proved was once only imagined -William Blake

Many people have a picture in their mind of the creative person as someone who is either very artistic or has a flair for the exotic, are way-out or eccentric. That’s mostly the case for right brain thinkers. No wonder many people see themselves as uncreative. So what does the brain, and more specifically brain preferences, have to do with creativity?

The two very distinct divisions of the brain, called the hemispheres, have intrigued scientists for centuries. So why does the brain have two halves? Many have tried to answer this question over the years, but the real breakthrough came in the 1960’s when Philip Vogel and Joseph Bogen (and others) performed their breakthrough split-brain surgery on a few epileptic patients. They cut through the corpus callosum (a layer of nerves) between the hemispheres to help curb the massive seizures. The follow-up research revealed that the left (controlling the right side of the body) is dominant for language and speech and for analytical and logical thought, while the right (controlling the left side of the body) excels at visualizing, holistic and unstructured tasks. Over the next decades the other big question (or rather questions) were researched and answered: do people have brain preferences? Do we favour either the left or the right brain in our thinking and doing? The answer to the first question was a unanimous YES! We do have brain preferences, but the second question revealed surprising results: these preferences are not divided strictly into the left or right brain, but into four quadrants of the brain (and now, as our research have shown, into 8 dimensions).

The NBI Instrument

The NBI® (The Neethling Brain Instrument that creates brain profiles which measure brain preferences across the different quadrants and dimensions of the brain) gives insight into unique brain preferences and the important role these preferences play in our everyday life. They influence how we communicate, teach and learn, manage and lead, sell, parent, play sport, and how we act in our relationships. But do these preferences indicate anything about our creative abilities? Are right brainers really more creative than those with left brain preferences? Before we can answer these questions, you should probably know more about what brain profiles reveal.

The good news is: whatever your brain profile reveals, there is no good or bad profile. The profile shows your thinking preferences, but there are no right or wrong choices. Even where you show a lack of preference for a certain quadrant, you don’t necessarily have a limited competence for those processes, because you may very well have learnt the skills. After reading the following explanations, you may get a good insight into what your brain profile might be. On the other hand, completing the scientifically designed profile may be a better idea at this point. To do so, go to

1. The eight dimensions of the brain              

Depending on the shape of your profile, some of the following descriptions may be true of you.

L1   If you prefer the processes of the upper left quadrant of the brain (L1), you could either be a realist or an analyst.

Realists prefer:

  • clarity of thinking; concrete information;
  • to focus on a specific goal or outcome;
  • no distractions;
  • achievable and clearly defined goals;
  • no clutter and confusion;
  • to weigh pros and cons;
  • understanding all possible consequences.
Analysts prefer to:

  • get to the essence of things;
  • dig deeper to achieve results;
  • be involved in financial and investment matters;
  • connect a figure or measurement to things;
  • have certainty;
  • calculate, probe, research and examine conditions.

L2        Maybe you recognize yourself in this person. If you prefer the thinking processes associated with the lower left quadrant (L2) of the brain, you could either be a preserver or an organizer.

Preservers prefer:

  • circumstances where traditions and well-proven methods and practices are respected;
  • rules and regulations in place;
  • to work in a methodical and cautious manner;
  • a neat and secure environment;
  • working with skilled, loyal and trustworthy people


Organisers prefer to:

  • plan, organise, arrange things;
  • follow an orderly, detailed, systematic approach;
  • implement and to put things into action;
  • work according to a schedule or a “to do” list;
  • administer and oversee tasks;
  • priorities such as perseverance, effectiveness and usefulness.

R2    The person who prefers the thinking processes most commonly associated with the lower right quadrant of the brain (R2), could either be a socializer or an empathizer.

Socialisers prefer to:

  • work with others in groups;
  • spend free time in the company of others;
  • be surrounded by people and be part of gatherings and crowds;
  • bring people together at work or when entertaining;
  • share information;
  • reach consensus and to encourage others to participate in sharing ideas;
  • be outgoing/ energetic when in the company of others.
Empathisers prefer to:

  • assist, help and reach out to others;
  • serve others with a caring, sensitive and unobtrusive attitude;
  • depend on their intuition;
  • encourage others to achieve;
  • be positive, hopeful, caring environment;
  • enjoy the companionship of a few friends and family (or animals!);
  • place the needs of others above their own.

R1         This thinker prefers the processes of the top right quadrant of the brain (R1) and if these are your preferences, you could either be a strategist or an imagineer.

Strategists prefer to:

  • connect past and future;
  • see the vision, to make forecasts and predictions;
  • challenge existing approaches and to ask “why” questions
  • be in challenging unfamiliar territory and try new experiences;
  • consider a variety of possibilities;
  • not to shy away from risk when they are involved in designing future trends.
Imagineers prefer to:

  • think in pictures;
  • use metaphors and images to describe experiences;
  • draw pictures, doodle and scribble when listening to someone;
  • play around with impossible ideas;
  • daydream, fantasize and think beyond the ordinary;
  • be reflective and meditative;
  • often be unsystematic and to do things “their way”;
  • nurture “strange” ideas.

Of course, you can have a combination of the preferences of the dimensions and you may have strong preferences in both the left and the right hemispheres of the brain.

2. Creativity and the whole brain

 While reading through the explanations of the eight dimensions of the brain, you may have come to the conclusion that those who have strong R1 preferences must be the creative thinkers. After all, they have preferences for taking risks, change and exploration. First of all, artistic creativity is more likely to occur in the right brain because of the spatial skills found here. Because some right-brainers (especially R1 thinkers) prefer to be more risk-taking, open to change and unstructured in their ways of doing, they are often more open to the challenges of the creative process.

Having said that, it is also true that each dimension of the brain contains the possibility for creative processing and breakthroughs. If you associate creativity with the flamboyant, artistic and “devil-may-care” attitude of some R1’s, you may see yourself as uncreative. We can assure you, that this is only because you are not always aware of your creativity as you deal with everyday challenges. Maybe you have found a way of:

  • Budgeting better every month and setting targets (L1 analyst = creativity)
  • Changing a system or process; finding a better route to work (L2 organiser = creativity)
  • Improving a relationship by trying new approaches, motivating people (R2 socialiser = creativity)
  • Juggling many different tasks at once (R1 imagineer = creativity).

To add to our list of definitions, creativity is ‘looking at the world with fresh eyes’ and those eyes can look out from any of the eight dimensions. Because of your unique brain preferences, your creative abilities may manifest themselves uniquely too. Let’s demonstrate this:

Creative endeavours associated with the different quadrant of the brain, include:

L1 realist/analyst CREATIVITY: Technical breakthroughs/ design; ways to save money/ budget; scientific discoveries; finding new components, elements, ingredients through analysis

L2 preserver/organiser CREATIVITY: Designing and implementing new systems/ processes; reorganising for effectiveness; solving problems in a practical way; creating new patterns, recipes, “how to’”; administrative breakthroughs; new safety procedures

R2 socialiser/empathiser CREATIVITY: Creating warm, friendly environments; solving relationship problems intuitively; creating stories, interesting ways to share information; creating ways to work together/ in teams; coming up with romantic ideas; creating ways to communicate, interact, express feelings; creating ways to assist, help and care for others

R1 strategist/imagineer CREATIVITY: Designing future visions; strategising; experimenting with new things; instigating change; designing new environments; artistic creations

We hope you are convinced that creativity lives on both sides of the brain. But are you as creative as you can be, whether you are more right or more left brained? Are there ways to develop creative skills? What are creative skills? We’ll answer these questions in the next blog post.


  • Right-brainers may appear more creative, but no matter what your brain preferences are – you can be creative!
  • Your Eight Dimensions Profile indicate your brain preferences – what you have passion for – but not necessarily your skills
  • Skills can be developed in all the dimensions of the brain – also creative skills.

For more information about our next Creativity Conference in Africa, or to attend, (a MUST if you want to improve your creative thinking skills), click here.