Review: Doodle Revolution

Doodle Revolution
Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like drawing on white boards. As an introvert, I often delay making comments during meetings. Sometimes I doodle in my note taking (which I’ve started to do more on paper, moving AWAY from Evernote, or OneNote or other online phone-based or laptop-based tools; more on this another day). This book has emboldened me to take my not-ready-for-prime-time doodles and put them up in public (or at least on white boards in committee meetings).

What I do like about meetings is hearing viewpoints, especially those well-thought-out points. I like noodling on them, considering alternatives, categorizing parallel conversations, and problem-solving in my head as the meeting progresses. I’m not one to jump in with both feet and steer things, as I like watching things evolve.

Sometimes meetings have a good leader, or a good participant, who will actively steer the conversation toward a concrete and productive resolution, and I am happy to keep quiet, and if it is a team-member, I give them kudos for a well-run and productive meeting.

Sometimes, we get together and the wheels start wobbling, and threaten to come off the bus. People are arguing, stating points of view repeatedly, or adding new topics when existing discussions aren’t even clear yet, and soon we have 4 or 5 buckets of discussion and we’re talking past each other. I used to hate these meetings, which sometimes ended up with “seems like we need another meeting to resolve this.” In recent years I’ve learned that I can step in, and make a summary statement, when I feel like most of the viewpoints have at least been initially aired. Then my favorite part begins.

“So, it seems like we have 4 buckets to discuss. First, the timeline for this change, second, that not all participants are in agreement, third that the software isn’t really ready to handle 2 special conditions, and fourth that the proposed mobile version just does not work at present. Are there any other buckets I have not considered so far?” This usually shuts everyone up, while they consider that SOMEONE has been listening and not just yammering. I enjoy this. Then I play air-traffic control: “OK, so lets start with bucket 1 and defer the others for a moment. Can we agree that the timeline should have a kickoff on March 12? That part seems straightforward. OK?” And then parse the discussion down into buckets and walk through them one at a time. This works reasonably well.

Well, having read this DOODLE book, I find that we can kick this up a level. I do enjoy a good doodle when brainstorming at home, but this book is empowering, and breaks down doodling into component ideas. Practice shapes! Here are some ideas for organizing frameworks with convenient sketch-equivalents! How to draw a simple expressive face! how to draw a human and not be (too) embarrassed about it! How to represent lots of ideas visually! How to group and link ideas so that everyone can follow (or add their own ideas)!

So, now, I’ve taken to standing up during the middle of meetings and heading to the white board while others talk. I don’t LIVE-SKETCH like I’ve seen YouTube videos do of important discussions, but I can sure draw and crudely illustrate my buckets. I’ve found that people start gesturing at the board during the rest of the meeting, that some get up and make additional helpful marks, and we can come up with better ideas with a shared vision. Only a few weeks into this change, and I can say it has made my work life better. Maybe even helped the organization.

CMIO’s take:

  1. Learn to Doodle. Use it. Enjoy it. Join the revolution. Clarity needs all the friends it can get. For in-person meetings, there’s nothing better to cut through the noise.
  2. I’m interested in hearing from colleagues: how can we effectively doodle during online Skype or Zoom or other web-based meetings? I’ve not found a good answer to this question. Perhaps: set up a blank powerpoint slide, share your screen, and sketch (poorly with mouse)?

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Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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