It’s true: sketching caricatures of your co-workers during meetings is bad business etiquette. You already know that. But did you know that drawing is actually a great way to get your ideas down on paper-and across to others?
Just think about the brainstorming/planning meetings you attend. Reflect on how much time is wasted whenever you have to stop and try to verbally express exactly what you think and feel so that everyone will grasp your ideas. Remember how frustrated you feel when no amount of talking enables them to understand you or your vision?
“Discussions frequently jump around, moving from one topic to the next and then back again to the first,” says Milly Sonneman, founder of HandsOn Graphics (www.handson graphics.com), a graphic communications firm in Mill Valley, California. This lack of linear thinking makes it especially easy to lose your mental place. But depicting your thoughts visually allows you to keep track of questions and concerns as they arise during the flow of conversation.
Illustrating “opens up space around ideas, supports making connections and recognizing emerging themes,” says Sonneman. Because it’s more unstructured than writing, it’s easier “to work rapidly and keep pace with a gusher of ideas.”
Remember, these drawings are designed to be constructive aids to your participation in brainstorming sessions. The following tips can help you get started:
- Ignore your inner critic. Since the goal isn’t to draw masterpiece-quality work, there’s no need to beat yourself up for lack of “true” artistic skill. Instead, concentrate on translating your ideas into a graphic context-stick figures and all. Make a conscious decision to get rid of any self-deprecating thoughts that may hinder you during this process.
- Think visually. Listen for the pictures that are often created by groups of words. For example, consider the sentence, “Agreeing to this deal would result in our department getting the short end of the stick.”
- It could easily be depicted graphically. Realize that there’s more than one way to draw something. That’s because there’s more than one way to say just about anything. When you get stumped with the sketching part, simply retrace your verbal steps and figure out another way to say what’s in your head.
To help get your creative brainstorming juices flowing, read:
Beyond Words: A Guide to Drawing Out Ideas by Milly R. Sonneman (Ten Speed Press, $14.95)
Reinventing Communication: A Guide to Using Visual Language for Planning, Problem Solving, and Reengineering by Larry Raymond (American Society for Quality, $30)