We usually think of doodling on your legal pad during a long presentation as a way to stay sane. But it may be even more beneficial than that.
An April 24 Wall Street Journal article pointed out that several high-tech companies like Facebook are responding to a growing body of evidence that suggests that doodling — sketching ideas out graphically, even if crudely — can simplify communication, fuel collaboration, and help generate new ideas.
Not only that, it turns out that keeping your hands busy during a presentation (like a speech, a conference call, or *hint, hint* a training seminar) actually helps people retain information. Per the WSJ:
"A 2009 study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodlers retained more than nondoodlers when remembering information that had been presented in a boring context, such as a meeting or conference call. The logic, according to Jackie Andrade, a psychology professor at the University of Plymouth in England, is that doodling takes up just enough cognitive energy to prevent the mind from daydreaming."
Now several companies have begun covering entire walls and tables in whiteboards, writeable glass, or chalkboard paint, in an effort to encourage this kind of visual collaboration. Some companies have even gone so far as to hire "graphic recorders" to boil entire presentations down into cartoon form for employees. Besides helping workers more easily retain big chunks of information, the method encourages employees to turn their attention away from their computers and smartphones — something many companies struggle with during meetings.
For training designers, it's worth considering whether they're taking advantage of all that doodling has to offer. For instance, have you ever tried explaining a complicated task through a simple line-drawing? (The Journal piece describes a health-care provider explaining how its insurance branch operates through a big cartoon drawing.) Also, do your training programs encourage workers to sketch out their notes manually, or just to passively receive information?
Image used under Creative Commons by INPIVIC.