The importance of doodling…
Doodling has for a long time been seen by many as an activity that tended to signify boredom. In the main, those doodling were therefore seen as being disengaged, uninterested and merely using doodling to help pass the time. However, in more recent times, doodling has experienced somewhat of a renaissance, with it being a behaviour that everyone should be encouraged to do.
Now, given we’re a team of creatives, we’re big fans of doodling and practice it regularly. But doodling is not the sole preserve of the creative industry. Everyone should be doing it in business. So doodle away in those business meetings, and be sure not to frown upon others who are getting their doodle on, too.
If you are a bit of a doodle sceptic, then it’s best we identify some of the key reasons why you should be doodling, and so also why doodling has grown in prominence.
Why you should doodle
Thankfully, it is now becoming more widely recognised that doodling helps to improve the following 5 important human behaviours:
1. Cognitive performance
Doodling allows you to use different parts of your brain. Without wanting to get too geeky, doodling connects different neurological pathways with otherwise disassociated pathways in your brain, which opens up greater insights.
An indication of just how important this art form is comes from a study published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, which found that doodling can improve people’s ability to remember information by nearly 30%.
The legendary Graphic Designer Milton Glaser arguably best describes doodling’s ability to improve your focus by saying how:
When you draw an object, the mind becomes deeply, intensely attentive, and it’s that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something, to become fully conscious of it.
The short of it is that doodling can help to increase your attention span, by improving your levels of focus.
4. Helps you cope with stress
Similar to improving focus, doodling also helps you to better cope with the sheer amount of information you are trying to process when in certain situations. Doodling allows you to slow things down, and to operate with more mindfulness – living in the moment.
5. Problem solving
We all tend to have established habits and ways of approaching problem solving. These mature ways of thinking are not good for encouraging new insight. But when we undertake doodling it shifts our way of thinking and so also helps us to look at a problem from a different angle – this is when new insights surface.
How you can use doodling in the workplace
Unfortunately, it’s fair to say that most businesses are weak in visual language and thinking (Unless of course they operate in a creative field). And so workplace learning and the solving of business problems, is done very much by using traditional methods. Chiefly by providing information and knowledge through reading/writing and auditory delivery – therefore overall it’s a linguistic approach. This is strange given that it is commonly accepted that more of us are visual thinkers than are not – an understanding reflected in the consumer world given by all of the visual messaging we see.
However, the amazing thing about doodling is that it engages both visual and linguistic learning simultaneously, whilst also providing the possibility of gaining an emotional experience – an additional factor crucial for learning.
Presentations are a particularly great time to be doodling. We should all now realise that trying to take word for word notes while listening to someone talk, just isn’t that effective. The speaker’s words compete with your written information, leading to poor retention and ultimately understanding. Instead of trying to make detailed notes, make doodles, with keywords. The doodles can act as better anchors to help retrieve the information, and as we said earlier, doodling will help you to better focus and stay in the moment during the presentation.
What you might have seen is dedicated doodlers at events (like below). These are people that combine doodles with keys words to visualise a presentation, event or story. These are great as they can capture so much information, and make it easier to consume and retain.
Doodling is also good to use during brainstorming sessions. This is another activity that has become a bit habitual. In that, writing and talking tend to be the common things we use when brainstorming. To generate new ideas and insights when undertaking a brainstorm, you need to try and get away from doing the same habit forming behaviour. To do this it can be as simple as thinking in a different medium – a visual one. Which of course, doodling can help you with.
The one other thing, which again was covered in the ‘why you should doodle’ section, is problem solving. One great way to use doodling to help with problem solving is when creating a process map. Simply doodle out a problem, and the steps you need to go through to solve it. Again, by using doodling, in the form of a process map, it is a great way to help view a problem from a different angle.
Doodling best practice
The biggest thing to point out here, is that doodling is not an art class. Unfortunately, for some of you, this means there are no marks for the artistic quality of your doodles. This means that you also do not need to be good at drawing to partake in doodling and therefore to be good at doodling either.
In conjunction with the previous point, it’s important to remember, doodling works best when it is done spontaneously. You therefore can’t be worrying about how to construct the particular thing that you are sketching out – it’s not an art class remember. This is because doodling is helping you to see something that you haven’t seen before, so you have to avoid concentrating on trying to replicate something that you have – seen before.
As amazing as doodling is, it doesn’t work for all situations. For example, and as already mentioned, doodling is tapping into your visual thinking and learning. So if the task at hand is of a visual nature too, you will experience complications – due to the fact that the same cognitive pathways are being used, and much like busy pathways in the real world, traffic jams are likely to occur.
As we touched upon in the previous section, you can let a dedicated person work on the ‘info doodles’. For you as the learner, ideally doodling shouldn’t involve heavy note taking – you are after all doodling to try and liberate your mind from traditional linguistic thinking. However, involving a few key words with your doodles can be very effective. Visual note-taking is powerful.
Hopefully we’ve made it clear as to why doodling should no longer be seen as a bad or even childlike thing to be doing, but instead as the amazing learning and productivity loophole that it is!
Ultimately, for doodling to be widely adopted in the workplace, leadership and management will need to fully embrace doodling in order for it to become a part of the workplace culture.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get doodling at work – if you’re not already. So, next time you are sat in an information heavy presentation, or you’ve got a tricky problem that needs solving, get doodling – you might be surprised by how fruitful you find the experience.
And if you do require any help with the bigger, richer ‘info doodles’, then please feel free to get in touch – we are a team of serial doodlers after all!
Until next time…
Oh and this short five-minute video from one of the pioneers of the doodle revolution, is well worth a watch.