Does art sharpen adults’ critical thinking skills?

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith would likely respond “yes.”

In their New York Times-bestselling social marketing book, Trust Agents, Chris Brogan writes that fine-art training changes the way that you see.  He references theories from another book, Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which says looking at things from a right-brain perspective—much in the way that artists look at paintings—can help you see life’s situations more deeply and in different light.

In other words, focusing on the fine details of a situation (down to the brushstrokes) and seeing it from different angles leads to creative problem-solving solutions rather than tunnel vision.

Chris Brogan essentially writes about integrating left-brain and right-brain thinking to come up with a richer perspective.  According to his blog, he uses MindNode mindmapping software for his project lists to “break out his thoughts in a non-linear way.”  He has also blogged about his redrawingexperience in 2010, a process he underwent to rethink his business objectives and reconsider how to maximize his time in order to provide more value to his readers.  He needed to determine how to manage roughly 600 e-mails per day; post to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr; make phone calls; and respond to comments on his blog—which took 15 hours a day, according to him.  He also needed to set aside time for writing and creating for clients.  He started the process by listing his priorities and grouped them into five categories or “buckets.”  If something came up that wasn’t in one these five filters, he delegated it.  Earlier this year, he went into “redrawing mode” again, further tightening his focus and eliminating distractions.

Whatever the scale of one’s projects, it makes sense to take a step back, reevaluate what is working and not working, map goals, refocus and repeat the process as needed.  I’m doing some redrawing and mind mapping (with a pencil and paper, but MindNode offers an app for this) for some work projects and this blog.  I find that combining the two exercises sharpens both my critical and creative thinking.

Meanwhile, I’m curious: what processes help bring you clarity on projects and foster your “out of the box” thinking?


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