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Doodle Ye Nay – Doodle Ye Yea!

October 1, 2011

You might not see it now, but as a teenager I was terribly gawky and terribly geeky. And as if that in itself wasn’t enough, I was also your regular Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. However, one of my rare Jimmy Dean streaks was to fervently doodle. I’d doodle while on the phone; I’d doodle while taking minutes at our Friday night Youth Club and I’d doodle in classes.

I’d even go so far as to quickly round up my tests, so I could doodle on the sides and bottom of my answer page(s). The look on my teachers’ faces as I handed in my test paper was worth it. Every single time.

Visualisation of one day

Doodle Ye Yea!
Doodle Ye Yea!

In December 2009, during our QUALC Conference, I met Tim Casswell. He was asked by the project co-ordinator Rolf Reinhardt, to chair the event and also do a live visualisation –Tim calls the latter creating ‘Visual Minutes’.

The broad strokes and confident sketching actually took me back to my years in Art School. And I sincerely enjoyed watching Tim’s artwork evolve as the day and the various discussions progressed.

What grabbed me most though, was how quickly Tim’s mind worked. With utmost precision and perfect timing, he knew exactly what to draw and where to draw it.

At the end of the day, there was an impressive graphic panel, which mapped every single key point of our conference.

Learning by doodles

Visual explorations are increasingly recognised as serious communication practices and above all serious learning tools. Proof of this are the well-received animated versions of the renowned RSA Lectures; the ever popular infographics and of course mind-mapping.

Whereas doodling —another form of visual exploration— is still treated like the poor third cousin once removed. When you doodle, it’s perceived as being disengaged, bone-headedly childish or —in worst case scenarios— as doing nothing (aka being a total waste of the boss’ time and money).

Fortunately there are some like Sunni Brown, who counter this perception. Brown, the front person of The Doodle Revolution, teaches adults how to drop their inhibitions and effectively use visual language in the workplace.

In her under six minutes TED Talk, she discloses the importance of doodling. According to Brown, we focus so much on verbosity; we’re practically blinded to the values of the doodle. Whereas, fact is when we’re exposed to vast information, doodling:

  1. acts pre-emptively to zoning out and instead keeps us zeroed in on the topic.
  2. helps us to retain a good 29% more of the information.
  3. clarifies problems and stimulates our creative problem solving skills.
  4. enables us to connect the dots and thus instigates deep information-processing.

That’s not all. “There are 4 ways that learners absorb information”, Brown states. “They are visual; auditory; reading and writing; and kinesthetic.” In order for a learner to adequately incorporate (new) knowledge, he has to engage with at least 2 of these 4 modalities. Or, the learner couples one of the learning modalities with a personal emotional experience.

Guess what, doodling engages all 4 modalities simultaneously with a possible emotional experience. A pretty solid visual learning process for an activity “equated with doing nothing.”

Visual by nature

By nature we are all visual creatures. Nonetheless, as adults we tend to snub the art of doodling. Our educational and business systems are partly to blame for this. In the past, they’ve taught us to go about our daily lives, suppressing our ‘childlike’ doodling urges.

Yet in the present era of information overload and media richness, we can’t afford walking around like verbiage zombies. We need to reconnect with our artistic core and relearn our innate visual language; if we want to be able digest any of it.

The ball’s in your court. You now know how doodling works. So, what’s stopping you?

(Source image used: Hans Albert Lewis – Wikimedia)

Related post(s) to read:

Play, Learn, Evolve
Think big: Think impact

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