The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia is an 88-story engineering masterpiece that’s affectionately known as Kuala Lumpur’s crown jewel. Each tower climbs 452 metres into the sky like a bridge to another world in the clouds, a magnificent display of laminated glass and stainless steel resting safely on 120 metre foundations burrowed deep below the streets of this vibrant city.
While the technical skills of the twin tower’s engineers is truly remarkable, it is the creativity and inspiration of former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and others that take our breath away as we gaze in admiration at Kuala Lumpur’s crown jewel.
Dr Mahathir wanted the towers to resemble an eight-pointed star to represent unity, harmony, stability, and rationality in the Islamic cultures. This presented design challenges for lead architect César Pelli, who overcame these by embracing his creative genius to help bring Dr Mahathir’s vision for Malaysia to life. 1
The creative brilliance and technical expertise of the Petronas Twin Towers brings us to an interesting question on brain function. Were the engineers mostly left-brained logical people, and were the creatives like Mr Pelli largely right-brained people?
This question explores the long held belief that creativity happens in the right side of our brain and logic in the left side. Is this true?
According to Professor Indre Viskontas, who holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience,this belief has been “overused and misinterpreted by many people” and our brain hemispheres work together much more than we originally thought.
Neuroscience reveals that while some brain function is isolated within a hemisphere... “the left brain is necessary for creativity” and ‘information is zipping across the hemispheres during the vast majority of tasks that we ask our brains to accomplish.”2
Let’s take this fascinating brain discussion even further by taking a closer look at a recently published study on Engineering undergraduates in Malaysia. Based on the study’s findings, which is also supported by neuroplasticity, engineering undergraduates can be trained or educated to be more creative when comes to deriving various relevant design of products or solutions. 3
However, the authors found that multiple studies in the past decade have established that educational institutions worldwide, including in Malaysia, are not doing enough to support the development of creativity for engineering students.
This latest study concluded the current generation of engineering students should be equipped with more than the technical knowledge that is taught in any engineering school. Educators must also prepare engineering students with practical skills such as creativity to ensure Malaysia can stay afloat, remain relevant and competitive in the ever-changing global arena.
The Petronas Twin Towers exemplifies what can be accomplished when we generate new ideas, act with the tenacity to bring the best ones to life and have the wisdom to motivate other people and support them. Innovation is one of the four key competencies of the i4 Neuroleader Model. The success of innovation is heavily dependent on the creativity generated by our imagination.
And it’s not only Malaysian engineering undergraduates who will benefit from learning more about their brain and how to optimise it if they want to perform more effectively at work and in life. We believe that the i4 Neuroleader Model competencies and pillars can help everybody deal more creatively with the challenges of a VUCA world.
PETRONAS Twin Towers Visit Operations, 2020
Brain Myths Exploded, Lessons from Neuroscience, Professor Indre Viskontas, 2017
Chua, Y. L., Balakrishnan, B., Chai, V. C., & Koh, Y. Y. (2020). Assessing the validity and reliability of creative thinking skills module in a pilot study on engineering undergraduate in Malaysia. Asian Journal of Assessment in Teaching and Learning, 10(1), 77-85
Garry Mills serves as the President for Asia at the About my Brain Institute, developing brain-friendly leaders, teams and cultures through transformational experiences, digital tools and practical leadership training. His diverse career across the public and private sectors includes leading complex and sensitive operations in Australia and overseas. He has led large teams and achieved critical training outcomes for large organisations.
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