The “Art” Of Leadership

“Words and numbers are fine, but only drawing can simultaneously reveal both the functional characteristics of an idea and its emotional content.”  -Tim Brown Change by Design

As a child, and even as an adult…I found that it was much easier for me to pay attention and stay focused during meetings and lectures when I would doodle.  Not to say that I did not take copious notes, as well.  But those notes were often littered with doodles of shapes, pictures, and other images.

And unfortunately, I was often accused of not paying attention for this penchant for doodling.  

The only thing that often kept me from being chastised…was that on more occasions than not, I could repeat back everything that was covered or said in the lecture or meeting.

And even to this day…I like to have tools available to draw when sharing or discussing ideas.  I find it much easier to incorporate drawing, in tandem with talking points, when sharing or promoting an idea, or even a vision.

Whenever I get really involved in sharing an idea…I immediately find myself grabbing for a pen and paper, a marker and a whiteboard.

Which for me, was a pleasant surprise to run across a section on “Visual Thinking” in CEO and President of Ideo Tim Brown’s book, Change by Design.

In this section, even in considering his own leadership, Tim Brown discusses…”When I use drawing to express an idea, I get different results than if I try to express it with words, and I usually get to them more quickly.

And he doesn’t stop there, he expands upon the necessity of drawing beyond his own leadership to the work at Ideo and designers…”Design professionals spend years learning how to draw.  Drawing practice is not so much in order to illustrate ideas, which can now be done with cheap software.  Instead, designers learn to draw so that they can express their ideas.

In this very short section on “Visual Thinking“, Tim Brown makes a very important point for us to consider as leaders, educators and even as parents.

All children draw.  Somewhere in the course of becoming logical, verbally oriented adults, they unlearn this elemental skill.

Very often, our well-intentioned efforts to get children (and even adults) to stay on task, to stay focused…can be of a real disservice.  When we determine to understand before dissuading those around us from processes…we have the ability to promote and support more than hinder and bind growth.

To not inhibit and determine those skills as a negative that can serve as a positive later in their career and work life…

As Tim Brown spotlights in Change by Design, there have been great thinkers who “devoted much of their creative energy to mind maps, two-by-two matrices, and other visual frameworks that help explore and describe ideas in valuable ways“…even highlighting Leonardo da Vinci as an “accomplished design thinker,” who “used his drawing skills to build on the ideas of others.”

And so, here is to the doodlers…and in the words of Leonard da Vinci…

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”  -Leonardo da Vinci


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