Roger W. Sperry

In 1981, psychobiologist Roger Sperry earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his "split-brain" studies which defined specific functions for each brain hemisphere.

Organizational consultant Marlane Miller presented the exciting new field of neuroscience to a client about the new ideas describing the "left brain" and the "right brain" and how they offered very different abilities in how we think.

The initial discussion of BrainStyles began in 1982 with the same CEO of a startup high-tech plastics company. With a mere $5mm in sales, ongoing losses, failing equipment, and 24% interest rates, the business was up against enormous odds. Worse, the stressed management team was struggling and conflicted. In this environment, the CEO began observing his executives in high-pressure meetings, he asked why the “smartest” guy on the team was slowest with his expertise. Why did the “tough guy” on the team shed tears two days after firing someone in thirty minutes?

Initial discussions produced a breakthrough hypothesis: It had to be brain access that created timing of their actions. People would do what was natural first because their brain mandated that they do so. They took more time to use parts of the brain that were not as easily accessed. Natural strengths, the source of what someone could be counted on to deliver, had to be a result of rapid brain access.

A model followed which diagrammed four basic timing exchanges between the left and right brain. Redefining what each member brought to the team, respect for differences grew. Meetings were held differently—visually—with teamwork expanding down into the organization. The failing business repositioned key employees with this new model. Market leadership was achieved and maintained in all product areas in less than five years.

Miller began teaching her clients at PepsiCo, P&G, and Frito Lay the principles applied by the successful entrepreneur. She began the research to substantiate the conceptual breakthroughs with teams who went on to reduce timelines and uncover new leadership, matching natural gifts, or what was to be termed a “brainstyle,” with job requirements.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Scientific American would publish some of the first colored images (PET scans) of the brain at work that substantiated how a brainstyle uses distinct parts of the brain when trying to reach new or unfamiliar decisions as opposed to what was learned, or stored in memory.

Research Findings: BrainStyle™ Predicts Culture

In 1989, Miller engaged H. Thomas Hurt, Ph.D., Professor of Communications Studies of the University of North Texas to administer a pilot instrument to assess four "decision-styles" modeled on BrainStyles theory. Dr. Hurt successfully tested 180 subjects in private companies along with another 70 students with 90% of those tested recognizing themselves with the definitions provided (face validity). Moreover, there were some indications that specific brainstyles tended to cluster in certain areas of business organizations. In fact, according to Hurt's study, the higher the organizational role and salary, the more frequently the executive scored as a particular brainstyle. That brainstyle was later found to make up the largest percentage of The BrainStyle Inventory© database.

These initial findings pointed to observations in several client organizations: a company's brainstyle leadership defines the corporate culture as well as the overall market strengths of the company. The founder, team leader, or hiring manager will hire people in the same brainstyle who can “speak the same language”. When unaware of this bias, productivity suffers—later quantified by the Center for Creative Leadership’s analysis of global staff meetings in 1997. The finding: Different brainstyle teams produced higher quality results.

Validating a Self-Test: The BrainStyle Inventory©

In 1990, Miller contracted Professor Lawrence Peters, Ph.D., of the Neeley Business School at Texas Christian University (TCU), for his specialty in designing and testing management instruments. Dr. Peters helped Miller develop a self-test to determine a person's brainstyle. Over the period of a year, Marlane Miller and Dr. Peters designed and tested an initial set of 36 questions with a sample of several hundred people. Dr. Peters performed statistical analysis on the responses, whittling down the original set of questions to 24. By the publication of an initial book BrainStyles: Be Who You Really Are, ©1992, the instrument demonstrated a 90% face validity, which means that 9 out of 10 people who used it were content with the match between the identified brainstyle description of their own self-described strengths.

Follow-up interviews with a sample of respondents from Miller’s growing database of an initial 1300 showed two things:

1)The BrainStyle Inventory© accurately predicted the strengths of the individual

or, perhaps more important,

2) initial disagreement between their brainstyle score and their self-described strengths could be attributed to performing in a role at home or a job that they were trying to adapt to, or worse, a job which didn't fit the person's natural gifts. Stress was the result. Respondents had an "instant learning experience" that helped them re-focus on their natural strengths.

Using The BrainStyle Inventory in conjunction with the book assisted people in finding clarity, relieving stress, and for one woman entrepreneur, "giving up trying to be like my competitors. I've become happy making others happy. I literally feel younger and I have more contracts for my business than I've ever had!”

In 1992, Miller engaged Linda Hoopes, Ph.D., director of research for a consulting firm in Atlanta, Ga., and adjunct professor with Georgia Tech University. She conducted a battery of 25 psychological tests with 225 people. Included in these tests was The BrainStyle Inventory. The data, when analyzed, were "extraordinary" in Professor Peters' professional opinion. "The large number of significant findings not only supported the validity of the new measure of BrainStyles, but the theory underlying that new measure as well." As he asserted in a Technical Paper written to substantiate the three-year project of designing and validating the Inventory, “such support is not only rare in measurement literature, but rare as well in support of any theory in psychology."

With the publication of BrainStyles™: Change Your Life Without Changing Who You AreSM (Simon & Schuster, ©1997)  Miller cited five years of her original research in genetics and brain science to substantiate the initial premises in detail. The original book was translated to five languages and continued spreading to three more, to be taught on four continents.

The BrainStyle Inventory© was tested in Spanish translation by Eduardo Flores, PhD and validated by Antonio Rios, PhD at four of 82 campuses of ITESM with a 94% face validity. ITESM is the largest private educational institution in Mexico, Central and Latin America.