Draw More Pictures

Drawing, you’ve been doing it since preschool. It’s so simple, yet so many struggle to use it as a business tool. Every single day very successful people struggle to communicate their ideas, brainstorm and compare thoughts with friends and colleagues. I’ve found that sketching and drawing will close gaps between people so quickly and so effectively that it’s shocking people resist it so often. I’ve used drawing in my day to day work for some time now, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago when I spent a weekend at a Lean UX bootcamp that this practice really crystallized with me.

Sketch of Customer Service Dashboard

Confidence and laziness. These are the two reasons people resist to pick up a pen, pencil or whiteboard marker.

Confidence, people simply don’t think they can draw. “I’m not an artist” or “I can’t draw” or “I failed art in high school.” These are poor excuses. Frankly, I’ve seen those who are the worst at drawing often get the most benefit from sketching or drawing for the sake of communicating or brainstorming ideas in a business setting. The pictures don’t have to be pretty. In fact a few lines and dots will do, these marks communicate a million times better than written words and a trillion times better than spoken word. Jason Fried of 37Signals has a great post on how they start product development, ignoring the details, and it all starts with sketching with a Sharpie. A low-fidelity way to get an idea on paper and quickly move forward.

On to laziness. People love to sit. Walk into a typical room of people meeting, they’re typically sitting, barely swiveling in their chairs. Around the room people are virtually glued to their chairs. But you can change this behavior. Get a whiteboard or tape a piece of paper to the wall, then stand up and start sketching. It rapidly becomes contagious, others will hop up as they start discussing and deliberating ideas… they may even pick up a drawing utensil!

I’ve done most of my sketching work with startups over the last few years, and it’s a highly effective way to get people aligned and moving forward quickly, something very important for cash and time-strapped organizations. But this art isn’t just relegated to the startup. I’m sure many Fortune 500 companies couple benefit from sketching, from the junior ranks through the CEO (especially the CEO).

You can truly sketch anything, here are a few ideas:

  • User interface (UI) for software
  • Technical specifications
  • Website design
  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Store layout
  • Restaurant menu
  • Mobile application
  • T-shirt design
  • Customer journey map
  • Sales process
  • Manufacturing process

Now for your homework. Next time you’re in a meeting simply pick up a pen or pencil, grab a piece of paper and start sketching, drawing and creating. Do you work with a distributed team? I highly suggest Balsamiq Mockups to help rapidly sketch and collaborate. It’s not just for wireframes, you can sketch pretty much anything using this super-simple, drag-and-drop software. Show your work to others in the room. You’ll be amazed at the reaction you receive, it will change the dynamic in meeting rooms and the outcome of your projects. Stick with it, as it will likely take a few sessions to get others on board, remember people lack confidence and are have been trained to be lazy, but that can change quickly.

Happy drawing.