Entrepreneurs are often the most creative people we know. They are great thinkers, idea generators and visionaries. They give birth to the ideas that have spawned the greatest innovations of our time, from the personal computer to driverless cars to personal space travel. We all have the capability to be this creative, but often our creativity is hindered or even stopped cold by the mundane daily routines and responsibilities required of us at work and at home.
Recent studies have shown, however, that doing one simple and easy thing may help our focus and spark our creativity.
Research in neuroscience, psychology and design has recently demonstrated that people who doodle are often better at grasping new concepts and staying focused, using the page and the pen as a means of refining creative ideas.
According to a Lancet Journal study on doodling in 2011, scribbling engages "default networks" in the brain that would ordinarily go dormant without external stimuli to keep it active. In another cognitive study on doodling, individuals who kept their brain active through doodling while listening to lists were able to recall the lists 29% better than participants who did not.
In "The Doodle Revolution", author Sunni Brown points to how some of the most creative people in business, from Apple to Ford to Zappos and Disney, have all aggressively promoted doodling as a means of encouraging greater creativity and productivity.
Who is going to argue with this list of people?
So, here are a few reasons you should consider filling your notebooks, journals and invoices with a few extra artistic scribbles.
- Doodling helps you focus. According to Brown, doodling can help you "anchor a task", keeping you focused during a long meeting or call. Focus on scribbling pictures or designs that reflect what you are hearing or thinking, even if they are funny or have nothing to do with what you are discussing. The task will help keep you from losing your focus and recall the conversations later.
- Doodling helps find solutions to problems. The act of doodling is thought to stimulate areas of the brain that may help you analyze information differently. According to Brown, even if you are drawing on the side of a paper, "you are lighting up different networks in the brain" and "engaging different information." Doing so could spur that "ah-ha" moment when a solution to a problem seems to have slipped away.
- Doodling can help you better deal with challenges. Sometimes, big business challenges can spur significant emotional responses, which can sometimes clutter your thinking and distract you from focusing on the immediate issue at hand. Taking time to sketch and scribble your thoughts and emotions, either in words, pictures or designs, will help you better define the problem and get a handle on how to control it.
When I was a youth in school, I often filled my class notes and homemade, brown-paper-bag book covers with everything from ornate graphic designs to stick figures. I defaced more than my share of voluminous textbooks with pictures in the bottom corner that, when flipped quickly, would make a moving picture.
When I was caught, I was often scolded for doodling by my teachers, which was thought of as a sign that I was not paying attention. I may not have been focused, but I often scribbled as a much better alternative to laying my head on the desk and waking up later in a puddle of my own drool.
I also think there was a direct correlation between the time when I stopped doodling at university and the slow and steady decline of my creativity. These days, I keep a journal for my to-do lists and notes, but there is a fair share of scribbles that fill the edges. Whether it helps with my creativity is unknown--but it certainly helps me stay awake for those long conference calls.
What do you think? Does doodling help you stay focused or stimulate your creativity? Share your thoughts below.