Archive for June, 2010


08 Jun

It’s a fast paced world we live and work in nowadays.  We are constantly berated by information and data points that warrant our interest and demand our attention.  Two recent reports by NPR and the New York Times looked at the issue of endless access to technology and the impact it has on our brains according to recent research.

Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows is the subject of the NPR story, began to take a hard look at his own inability to concentrate when he realized that the more online time he spent, the more difficulty he had in reading a long article or sitting for a good long while with a book.  The work that started as an article in the Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, has now become The Shallows, where Carr investigates what the internet is doing to our brains.

“…Carr argues that even if people get better at hopping from page to page [on the internet], they will still be losing their abilities to employ a ‘slower, more contemplative mode of thought.’ He says research shows that as people get better at multitasking, they ‘become less creative in their thinking.’”

It is just this ‘slower mode of thought’ where the most creative thinking occurs.

In the New York Times, Matt Richtel’s article, Your Brain On Computers: Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price, follows the Campbell family as they try to keep up with everything technology has to offer without losing themselves in the process.

Both articles speak to what’s great about technology as well as what can be problematic.  In this day and age, someone with the right set up of wireless internet access and personal computer options can work just about anywhere.  No longer are we chained to our desks and telephones during business hours in order to get work done.  In fact, there are no more business hours.  Every hour is business hour.  And that’s the rub.  While technology enables us the freedom to use our time how we may want to, many people find it hard to turn off the computer and smart phones for fear of missing something.  In this heightened state of waiting, we are actually missing the chance for our brains to slip back into a more relaxed state where new ideas can be sown and come to fruition.

Obviously we here at Drawing Down the Vision love a good dose of technology.  Here I sit at my studio computer writing this blog post.  Our access to ever evolving technology and communication options is how our message will ultimately reach the masses.  But we know that in order to center in what will become the next piece of compelling art work or lucrative business idea, we need to unplug and get our pens to paper in our sketchbooks.  By balancing what the modern world has to offer with what creativity needs to flourish, we can ensure that technology will be a tool that we use in our work versus something that changes the way our brains work.

So slow down a little, turn your gadgets off for a few hours.  And draw…

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Stress. And Creativity.

04 Jun

Let’s talk a moment about stress.  We all have it in our lives.  The endless to-do lists, the demands of job, family, bills.  You know the drill.  For most of us, stress is a familiar part of everyday life.  A day without it is, well, vacation.  Stress and creativity have a tricky relationship.  It takes a fair amount of comfort to foster creative ideas.  I don’t necessarily mean feet-up, chocolate-nearby sort of comfort, but rather a lack of stress.  The best ideas come when we are least stressed; when taking a shower or driving for example.  And yet the pressure to perform is a constant.

An interesting report on NPR the other day spoke to this phenomenon.   Dan Ariely, author of “The Upside of Irrationality” says:

“… when it comes to creativity and problem solving and thinking and memory and concentration, it turns out you can’t will yourself to a higher level of performance. … instead, the high bonus actually got people to be very stressed.”

In his behavioral experiments, the higher the reward stakes (i.e. performance bonus), the less performance he got from his participants.  This caught my attention and I began to think how it could apply to the work we do at Drawing Down the Vision.

Businesses who want the most creative work from their employees, entrepreneurs seeking to see their ideas come to fruition, anyone who wants to get the most from their creative thinking, all are under a fair amount of stress to get things done.  But concentrating on this stress will only make it more acute.  Instead, relaxing a bit will let the ideas come in through the back door…via your sketchbook.

By tracking your thoughts in your sketchbook and putting ideas down on paper, you can simply and cheaply activate the creative thinking that is harboring your next big idea.  Drawing Down the Vision can get your team working together and drumming up new and innovative ways to solve problems to grow your business.

Give drawing a try.  It’s a whole lot less stressful than the traditional approach and you might get some amazing new ideas out of it!

Related reading: The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People
Related video: Dan Pink, The surprising truth about what really motivates us

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Creator of Twitter: ‘Drawing out your ideas’ is the key to success.

03 Jun

The Creator of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, shared his top 3 keys to success at the 99% Conference. Jack advocates we ‘draw an idea out, recognize the situation around us, and immediately share it with people.’

First, ‘draw out your ideas.’

Drawing is all about ‘getting it out of your head and seeing it from a completely different perspective.‘*

Here is the original sketch by Jack for Twitter, circa 2000. It wasn’t practical at the time so he kept it aside in his nest of ideas.

Twitter Founder, Jack Dorsey, advocates 'drawing out your ideas.' Here is the original sketch for Twitter, circa 2000. He recognized the right situation in 2005. It became perfect in 2009.

Second, ‘recognize the situation is right.’

In 2000, Twitter would have failed.

However, in 2005, text messaging got big in the US. Jack was reminded of an original idea he had back in 2000, what came to be Twitter.

By having a historical record of ideas, an idea nest, you can reapply your ideas when the situation is right.
Third, ‘be open enough to iterate quickly.’

Your idea has to be more than idea, it has to be a solution to someone’s problem. Try to come up with a basic solution, and keep changing it until it’s just right. Learn fast and cheap on paper with sketches, in discussion with others, and in use with prototypes.
Finally, ‘act as an editor.’

Know when to stop, and start doing. To succeed, we must go from ‘idea, to drawing, to prototype, to commitment.’

Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter, Original Sketches of Square

Here is Jack's original sketch for his new company, Square, a tool to help everyone accept credit card transactions everywhere.

Thanks to @sido for his post and tweet.

* We call this different perspective the Diversity of Thought.

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Making the most of your sketchpads.

02 Jun

I don’t use digital notetaking tools. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve noticed that some of the most innovative techies in Silicon Valley do the same, whether with day-planner calendars, memo pads, or just simple notecards with a binder clip.“  – Tim Ferriss, How to take notes like an alpha geek (author of 4 Hour Work Week)

Examples of Adam's Sketchpad covers for 'Pay attention to what you pay attention to'

As readers here know… I’m an advocate of pocket sketching, a source of success for many. I use my pocket sketchpad for sporadic notes, collecting random thoughts & experiences, thinking through a problem, life-reviews, and more.

Today, I have a variety of sketchpads. They’re filled to the brim, sometimes wrapping around the back cover with content when I didn’t have a blank one handy. I can revisit them whenever I’d like, however, I often have difficulty finding certain notes from months back…

Tim Ferriss’ quote above inspired me to create the following simple organization system to help maximize the value of thoughts that arise in a sketchpad, to find what you need, when you need it.

Track the date and context for entries.

When did I draw this? Tracking the date allows you to play anthropologist when you’re going back through your journal. To see how thoughts overlapped, and how they related to emails, events on your calendar, or loose notes you’ve taken outside your sketchpad. (Old habits die hard.)

Where did I draw this? By summarizing the location or experience that created the entry… you’ll be better able to take yourself back to the moment you created the entry. Just the act of drawing aids memory by 29%.

Create a graphic summary on the cover. (See image above.)

I have so many notebooks… which one was it? The graphic takes me back to the times when I was carrying that specific sketchpad. I can remember creating the cover or seeing it each time I was drawing an entry. This allows me to more quickly flip through a pile of sketchpads and find the right entry.

You can create this summary with a new sketchpad, or once it is complete. Whatever suits you or the work you’re doing. Creating it early serves as a focus, a guide for what content you’ll strive to include. Creating it later allows you to summarize your work. In a recent post after creating a late summary, I wrote about how I realized I was very unfocused.

Create a list of recurring topics, not a table of contents.

A table of contents works for something you’ve edited… something you had the opportunity to organize into neat categories. Pocket sketching doesn’t work that way. Track a list of recurring topics instead of a table of contents. (This was inspired by Basecamp, a fantastic project collaboration tool Amy and I use to work on Drawing Down the Vision.)

As a topic comes up, add it to the inside front cover of your sketchpad. (It’s more difficult to lose than the inside first page.) As it comes up again in the future, just note the date which it was entered. (If you backfill old pages with newer notes, use the date on which you started the page to maintain chronology.) Slowly, you’ll build a list of topics and dates on which you wrote about them, to track the evolution of a thread over time.

Cream rises to the top.

Even if you create the best system… and you still can’t find what you’re looking for… don’t fret. Maybe you don’t need it.The cream always rises to the top. You’ll repeat a thought that is valuable to you.Throughout my time sketching, I’ve learned to respect every entry as a potential new starting point or tangent in my career. By reviewing enough sketchpads, you see that important ideas come to you before you even know they were important. (See a previous entry on how Dan Wallace generated valuable business ideas.)

Go try it out… let us know how it works for you!

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Testimonial: Stephanie Andrews, Freelance Writer

01 Jun

The Drawing Down the Vision workshop was well worth my time. Since the course I’ve implemented very practical habits that have given me a clearer vision of what I want out of my life.

Amy & Adam made the training session a very inviting, non-judging atmosphere. Clear and straightforward, their hands-on, demonstration-oriented, style of teaching helped me to grasp the concepts quickly. During the class, you begin using what they are teaching. By the end of the class, the participant is fully equipped with the tools and know-how.

This course gave me the confidence to draw. Realizing that I don’t have to be a flawless drawer, or even a good drawer, gave me a lot of freedom. I was intimidated by drawing/sketching, but now I look at it and approach it differently. As a bonus, the more I draw, the better my drawings look!

As a writer, I now have another tool at my disposal to clearly get my point across. Drawing gives me another way to organize my thoughts and helps me to manage my time. Drawing out my goals gives me the clear picture that I need to stay on track. Almost daily I pull out my sketchbook and draw out a few thoughts. Going back to look at them snaps me right back into the moment and I can easily pick up where I left off.

- Stephanie Andrews, Freelance Writer (Cincinnati Gardener):

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