Creating a modern Penaissance: The art of writing things down
In our new era of telecommuting and virtual conferencing, the old problems of office collaboration haven’t disappeared—they’ve just found new ways to manifest themselves. Team directors and office leaders may find that the sudden switch to working from home strains communications and creativity, making the right collaborative approach more critical than ever. So how can we use this situation to equip our teams to do better?
Right question. Write is the answer.
This new version of an old problem can be solved with a modern vision of an ancient tool—the trustworthy writing utensil and a rebirth of the art of jotting everything down. A Penaissance, if you will. Not only does physical writing have visually stimulating benefits for a parent/architect who might be distracted by a rambunctious toddler, it fosters collaboration and creative work as well.
Here’s why you should be the pen patron for your team of artists.
- To ready the mind. Any good artwork begins with a vision, and writing helps get your mind in a prime state to create. It’s beneficial for cognitive skills because it demands attention, focus, forethought and reflection.1 Plus, and we’ve mentioned this before, the act of writing things down increases memory retention by more than 23% and encourages complex thinking patterns. These factors help you come up with bigger, bolder ideas—and recall them even if you don’t have them in front of you. But perhaps most important of all, writing helps you engage in your own thought process. Think about it. Once you get something down on paper (or napkins, glass, etc.), it’s out there in the world. It’s no longer just a thought floating in your head, but a tangible idea. You can stop thinking of it and start thinking about And so can your team. Use this to follow your inspiration. Let your mind dive into aspects of the idea, or even move away from it altogether. If you get stuck, the idea is written down so you can come back to it later when you have a different frame of mind—or more people on the call.
- To gather your tools. Sculptors need to organize their tools before they start chiseling into stone. Lists inherently create this order because we’ve been trained since childhood to adhere to them, from pool rules to test instructions. Leverage this automatic response to get better results during your next meeting. To start, write your agenda down in front of your team, giving them a chance to digest the itinerary and rev their creative engines. Then jot down every idea—good and bad—that arises. Return to each idea for deeper analysis and watch the creative magic unfold. You’ll find the jolt of creativity comes from written structure, which strikes because the mind is freed for thinking instead of remembering—that’s what the list is for.1 Your team will also be able to analyze, critique and transform written ideas more effectively. When you’re ready to turn your ideation into action, try numbering your concepts from best to worst, or highest priority to least, and then assign tasks.
- To create a masterpiece. Finally, inspiring art tells a story—and so does a good brand. To inspire its thesis-writing seniors, Harvard created a brilliant handout on the benefits of writing things down that can help anyone shape and tell their own story, businesses included. The big takeaway is that while linear logic helps us convey our ideas in a story that audiences can follow from points A to B, that’s not necessarily how we think. Instead, we tap into our associative logic for ideation, which almost dreamily connects random thoughts and ideas, leading to the kind of “aha!” moments that keep businesses in business. Like taking notes during an informal brainstorm at the coffee shop with your coworker, writing our associative thought process down helps us go back later and connect the dots to create a better story. This helps brands craft clearer, larger and more effective connective narratives—especially when there’s an entire team of artists virtually sculpting in from their homes.
From great turmoil comes great creation
Like the actual Renaissance changed the world, what you discover today may help you carry more effective ways of working back to the office, reshaping your company’s work culture forever. To merge the Penaissance movement back into office life, hone your craft as any artist would—so that when you’re physically standing at the board in front of the team, your message remains as clear as glass. For example:2
- Write mostly in black or blue markers, using other colors only for emphasis
- Don’t write below the middle of your chest or you risk crooked penmanship
- Letters should be around the size of one or two fists in height, and never in cursive
- Use the fingertips of your non-writing hand on the glassboard to stabilize your writing
It’s important to seize this preview of the future remote workforce as the opportunity it is—a chance to experiment with new virtual leadership styles and get ahead of companies that think everything will somehow snap back to normal.
To learn about tools that can help you as you explore, get in touch today.
1Smith, M Cecil. “The Benefits of Writing.” Northern Illinois University, www.niu.edu/language-literacy/_pdf/the-benefits-of-writing.pdf.
2Wiley. Writing on Whiteboard, 20 Feb. 2009, https://www.chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=57972.0;wap2l.