Get curious and contribute

Ever sit in a meeting fidgeting, thinking “what a waste of time”?  (Ever breathe?)  Without a doubt, we can be better at running them. But what about being a better participant — contributing more value, engaging more effectively with colleagues and partners?

The thought occurred to me after I raced out of what I labelled a tedious Product Camp session.  I complained to Pat Scherer who recommended visual note taking a la Sunni Brown.  Her notes from an hour-long Agile session were on a single page, a circular mix of words, lines and drawings. Some very excited figures in a boat were in a scrum, collaborating.

Sunni Brown's doodle for the future of learning.

Sunni Brown’s doodle for the future of learning.

Visualizing information uses a different filter than copying down words. In some ways it’s like a game, but there’s more going on. The brain has to translate that ticker tape of thoughts in multiple ways. The most successful efforts simplify and instruct. They distill complexity for easier consumption. 

My conversation with Pat came on the heels of a discussion about the challenges of getting things done across time zones and borders  One session leader shook his head:  Global team, impossible, he said.    

Here’s a “what if”:  Would it help if the endless teleconferences at all hours of the day and night were punctuated with visual note taking?  I don’t know, how you’d do it, but given the way we do business these days – scattered teams, tight deadlines, multiple roles – regardless of the outcome, it would energize stale protocols. 

The Product Camp session I “fled” was a fascinating experiment. It was led by a group of African entrepreneurs and marketers who wanted to engage their audience across a wide variety of topics, from rolling out a product to the advantages of customer service. The two most active contributors were Indian expats working for American companies. The exchange that was very different from anything else I experienced that day. More focus would have helped, but in a homogeneous forum, it’s taking place was in itself a sign of vitality.  It was a one-hour test bed for understanding.

I’ve always been a big doodler, so I’m going to try visual note taking.  I’ll keep you posted.  Maybe you’ve done this yourself or know someone who has.  Let me know what you think. 

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