Great Meetings

Doodle your way to better meetings

No, no, not that kind of Doodle: we know you’re already using Doodle to radically simplify meeting scheduling. We’re talking about old-school doodling.

Did you ever get in trouble at school for doodling on your notebook during class? Well, times have certainly changed. Nike CEO Mark Parker is famous for doodling during meetings. Research increasingly shows that doodling, rather than being a waste of time, actually helps us to organise our thoughts, synthesise complex webs of information, and enhances productivity. So, is it time to break out the coloured pens and start scribbling through your next meeting? Let us walk you through it, in the Doodle guide to…well, doodling!

The Benefits of Doodling

In a 2009 study, two groups were asked to listen to a long voice message left on an answering machine. One group sat still and listened. The other group were asked to perform a simple doodling exercise while they listened. Afterwards, they were tested on how well they could recall the information relayed in the message. The group who doodled while they listened performed much better, recalling 29% more information than the other group. According to research, doodling actually enhances our ability to process and retain information. The theory goes that paying continuous attention to something for too long actually overstrains our focus and causes it to falter. Doodling provides just enough distraction to relax our brains, enabling them to stay sharper for longer. No wonder Sunni Brown, author of ‘The Doodle Revolution’, calls doodling ‘a thinking tool’.

In addition to improving focus, doodling helps us process information on multiple levels. Imagine you’re in a meeting, and you’re listening to what’s being said. You’re definitely still processing information, but on a purely auditory level. While doodling, you’re also deploying visual and kinaesthetic learning styles: that means you’re processing the information in three different ways, allowing you to come to a more sophisticated and rounded understanding of the key concepts.

So, What’s the Catch?

Well, the research suggests that even mindless doodling can stimulate focus. But, to really turn your doodling into a workplace tool, it can be helpful to try and develop a simple visual language, ensuring that your doodles are visually connected to the information you’re trying to process. At the same time, it’s important to remember that your doodles should be relatively simple. Don’t get distracted with Mona-Lisa-level drawings; if you get too absorbed in your doodling, you’ll stop processing any other information! Finally, if you’re working on something visual, doodling can actually be counterproductive. So, save the doodles for situations where you’re taking in auditory information.

Incorporate Doodling into Your Next Meeting

Convinced of the benefits of doodling, yet? Then it’s time to make like Mark Parker and incorporate doodling into your meeting practice. Here’s how:

Choose an appropriate meeting: like we said, doodling doesn’t enhance the way we process visual information, so if you’re relying on visuals, like powerpoints, to get your point across, save the doodling session for another day. A brainstorming meeting, on the other hand, is the perfect opportunity to see how scribbling can enhance engagement levels.

Encourage doodling: make lots of doodling materials available. Have paper, pens, and pencils on tables, or position whiteboards around the room. And if you’re chairing the meeting, lead by example! Some people still think that doodling during a meeting sends a message that they’re not concentrating fully. Whip out your notebook and start doodling away, to set other meeting participants at ease.

Try doodling in groups: ask small groups of meeting participants to doodle their way through the meeting on a large, shared piece of paper. It’s a fun way to break the ice and get everyone into the habit of doodling. You could even incorporate strategic doodling exercises throughout the meeting, like asking each group to visually represent an aspect of workflow, or try a ‘doodling-only brainstorm’: soon, they’ll really all be on the same page!

 

By Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin

 

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