What I’ve learnt from not being able to use my right hand

Shula Rich with a broken arm

I fell off a ladder and found new worlds.

In this article, Shula looks at ‘What I’ve learnt from not being able to use my right hand’. I learned so much from falling off a ladder and breaking my right wrist.  

  • About being left-handed
  • About being differently abled
  • About the best packaging for Natural Beauty Brain’s new products
  • About ambidextrous organisations:

BEING LEFT HANDED

I have never questioned before why I lead with my right – so much so it was even aching a bit. My accountant colleague Paul, first session of Krav Maga was told – ‘you’ve got two hands – use them’ https://www.southcoastkravmaga.uk. In all the science I’ve read on it they say most humans would agree on right-hand dominance. I hate generalisations, but it’s quoted everywhere, and even I can’t dispute it. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20141215-why-are-most-of-us-right-handed

We don’t know why that is:

“In the 160 years in which “handedness” has been studied, we have learned quite a lot, but we still cannot precisely describe what causes humans preferentially to use one hand over the other, or why human populations are biased toward right-hand use rather than left-hand use. ” M.K. Holder – scientist in the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior Indiana University. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-are-more-people-right.

In a cast I can’t use my right hand but I’m surprised how easy it is to develop the left. Reading further, there are warnings about how being ambidextrous, or left handed only, might affect me (reminds me of the old warnings about masturbation). Michael Corballis, Professor – cognitive neuroscience and psychology at the University of Auckland:

 “Another study, which my colleagues and I conducted, revealed that ambidextrous children and adults both performed worse than left- or right-handers on a range of skills, especially in math, memory retrieval and logical reasoning.” Can training to become ambidextrous improve brain function? In SA Mind 24, 1, 72 (March 2013).

I’m not saying these conclusions are wrong – they’ve published peer review research but how happy can natural left handers or ambidextrous people be when in an inconsiderate even oppressive right handed world? Also one which associates the left with evil, or bad luck. In this superb article by Savannah Cox  “how left handedness came to be seen as evil.” The author goes back to biblical times and traces the myths about left handedness right to the present. Midway she shows the painting –  “The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man” by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder. 

painting of the story of Adam and Eve

“Note that in this painting, as in others like it, Eve always appears on Adam’s left.”

My argument for doing more with the left is this – increased choice. Increased flexibility. Sense of triumph. Good effect on me. Veni Vidi Vici as Caesar famously said in my School Latin book. “I came I saw I conquered”, nothing I’ve found so far recognises that each time I learn something I couldn’t do before, even to eat with a fork in my left hand, it’s a win and a feel-good booster. I’ve got two hands and I’m using them both.

BEING DIFFERENTLY ABLED

The word disabled is used too often. I saw a short man on TV. He said “I’m not disabled. The world disables me” 

I remember this wearing my cast. A cast is only a very slight restriction and caused me so many problems. To make a cup of tea, I had to tear open a paper cover to a tea bag in a hotel. It won’t tear with one hand. Hand and teeth it should, but not if the cut doesn’t go all the way through the paper packet. To open a bottle of Beeootiful Kaffir took me two days as the seal was so tight. Every couple of hours I went for it again pressing the bottle on surfaces – holding it down with my right elbow and twisting the top with a towel on my left hand. Milk bottles are sealed with consideration. The blue red and green tops are do-able. The seal is in two parts. Instead of an impossible two part plastic top there is an unscrew-able top cap and beneath that a pullable foil seal. Thoughtful caring and possible.


THE BEST PACKAGING FOR NATURAL BEAUTY BRAINS
I’ve also realised in designing our Natural Beauty Brains products that they must not be inaccessible to the differently abled. What is inaccessible? An aerosol pump that the left hand may not be strong enough to direct? A glass dropper that only goes half way into the contents ? A bottle too large to grip in one hand? A tube that needs holding down with the left elbow to get anything out of it? I hated this cheating packaging.

Did I find anything that worked? Yes – in Bulk Source in Brighton https://www.thesourcebulkfoods.co.uk a pourer that fits several bottle sizes. It narrows the flow to either very small or medium and transforms a bottle into a comfortable and re-usable dispenser. I found a safely lined metal can with a top which pulls up to become a pourer.

We will search and use only inclusive packaging design. Packaging that can be economical in dispensing smaller quantities rather than whooshing out and sustainable in that it’s re-usable.

Our products can be ambidextrous. Also so can we at NBB.


AMBIDEXTERITY IN ORGANISATION THEORY

Fascinatingly – if that is a word – ambidexterity is prized in organisation theory. NBB is itself ambidextrous. “In management theory, this is defined as the ability of an organization to both explore and exploit—to compete in mature technologies and markets where efficiency, control, and incremental improvement are prized and to also compete in new technologies and markets where flexibility, autonomy, and experimentation are needed.”


I fell off a ladder and like Narnia some new worlds opened up.

“All shall be done – but it maybe harder than you think”

But always fun – always learning – always caring – always working.

book cover of the Chronicles of Narnia
  1. O’Reilly, C. A., & Tushman, M. L. (2013). Organizational ambidexterity: Past, present, and future. Academy of Management Perspectives, 27(4), 324–338

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