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Part I: Whiteboards and Doodling in the Workplace

Humans have always communicated through drawing; it’s one of the most primitive, yet effective ways to communicate across the board. Interestingly enough, most companies have lost sight of this fact and their form of communication has moved to a more black and white, pen and paper system. More recently, even, with everything going towards web- and computer-based systems, we’ve come close to eliminating the need for pens entirely. So how do employees unleash their creativity on a keyboard? They don’t.

Many companies are recognizing that we may have taken our smartphone, social media and internet obsessions just a few steps too far, and we’ve nearly eliminated the use of the old-fashioned pen and paper. For this reason, many companies are taking a step back and encouraging their employees to pick up a pen…or better yet, a marker or crayon! That’s right, many companies are encouraging the use of visual note-taking and brainstorming to help not only convey your concepts to colleagues more effectively, but to unleash their pent-up creativity.

Many large companies are jumping on the doodling idea. Companies like Zappos and HomeAway Inc., have reported that they’re hiring “graphic recorders,” which are consultants who sketch the ideas being discussed in meetings and conferences, to help give employees a visual and keep them engaged in the conversation.

HomeAway, a Texas vacation-rental company, hired the “graphic recorder” to help guide meetings with visual sketches and shorthand. The VP of human resources said that the aim was to “capture ideas using images” and that the meetings were much more fun and beneficial than being surrounded by spreadsheets and emails all day. The graphic recorders trained employees at HomeAway to use doodling more for communication, and their glass marker board still hangs at the company’s headquarters, as a fun reminder of how powerful visual communication can be.

Studies have actually shown that doodlers retain more information than nondoodlers. One psychology professor at the University of Plymouth in England explains that the logic is that doodling takes just enough cognitive energy to prevent employees from daydreaming or drifting off. Not only does doodling keep employees focused, many proponents of the idea say that doodling helps simplify communication, fuel collaboration and generate new ideas. Doodling is also extremely beneficial for companies with global colleagues, since images can help break down culture barriers and communication issues.

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