An experiment with doodling

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10235How can you enhance your ability to retain important information? One of the insights from our recent Masterclass on Innovation was that focusing less, rather than more, may be the answer – and good old fashioned ‘doodling’ (that is, scribbling without purpose) is one way to go about it.

I’m always happy to experiment with new ideas that our Research Team finds when exploring an upcoming Future of Work theme. It’s fun to put theory into practice and I also learn a lot about myself and my working preferences in the process. So, this week, I’ve been doodling… and here’s what I’ve found.

Like many organisations, we here at Hot Spots work in an open plan office, so concentration can sometimes be tricky. For example, when I am on a call, taking notes and thinking about questions while office life goes on in the background is difficult. Of course practice makes perfect, but towards the end of a call my brain just gets tired and the background noise distracts me.

According to our research, however, doodling can help me capture and retain the information I’m hearing and can even help my brain resist distraction.img_20170419_113302.jpg

So, in addition to the usual notes on key points, next steps, and deadlines that I normally take during a call, this week I sketched a mish-mash of words, lines, and figures (see photo left).

The result? I remembered more of the details, and when I looked at the different parts of the doodle, I was able to recall the conversation more vividly. Even more interesting is that I can still remember it, weeks later. My brain was unconsciously and unintentionally more engaged.

The most difficult aspect for me was getting the balance right. Focusing on what I hear rather than what I draw. The line between active listening and unconscious scribbling is a thin a one, but you will know when you get it right. Drawing while actively listening is what helps you remember 29% more of the conversation, according to neuroscience.[1] Dr Srini Pillay, one of the speakers at our Innovative Organisation Masterclass, spoke about how doodling occupies our brain just enough to stop it from daydreaming, improving our focus at the same time. [2]

As it turns out, doodling has some serious cognitive benefits and can be more effective than conventional note-taking. I must say it felt strange at first: I was going against the idea that taking notes is the only sign of focus and concentration. However, when you see someone pointlessly scribbling in a meeting, they might just be on to something.

I’d love to hear other people’s views and experiences on this. Are you convinced of the benefits of doodling, or is it just a distraction? Add comments below

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-power-of-the-doodle-improve-your-focus-and-memory-1406675744

[2] Innovative Organisation Masterclass. (2016). Future of Work Research Consortium.

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