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Sketching and thinking

Now I'm not an illustrator, far from it, and I'm not smart enough to be a business strategist, but one of the things I'm passionate about these days is the rapid visualization of business ideas for services. It's the bit where drawing and thinking meet where some magic can really happens.

It's remarkable how often business strategy, which aim is to direct action leads to confusion or big abstract statements. As soon as you start sketching though you move away from abstraction and turn it into a tangible thing that everyone can see, understand and hopefully become excited about. As you sketch you begin to explore the scope, boundaries and direction of the idea/service. I suppose it's based on all the same principles that underpin the design thinking movement.

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For the last few years, sketching has become my main working tool and I pretty much sketch everyday. I sketch for lots of different reasons; to express or prototype an idea, to record what I'm hearing, to tell a service story or to document, but probably the main reason I sketch is to help to me think.

It's probably true that most of the things I sketch I could do in a digital drawing tool, OmniGraffle or InDesign, but early on in the design process sketching for me has a number of significant advantages:

  • It's quick -It can make concepts and ideas tangible very quickly.
  • It's iterative -It's easy to throw away, wipe-out and start again and since you haven't invested much time in creating the sketch you don't get overall attached to it.
  • It's collaboration -Its provides an easy and informal way to co-create with stakeholders and users. Sketching together is a very powerful exercise.
  • It's on display -Instead of being hidden in a file on a computer, sketches can be placed on-display for all to see and discuss.
  • It sets expectations -The fact that it's a sketch and is a bit rough and unpolished means that people tend to give more open feedback and are more open to possibilities.
  • It gets you away from your desk -It's takes you away from all the distractions on your computer and let's you focus on the problem your trying to solve.

I've read a few blogs recently that have tried to encourage people to sketch more and not to be intimated by the pen. Like these writers, I've too heard many people say "I can't draw". However sketching, like most things, is a learnt skill and you need to invest time in it in order to get better and for your confidence to grow.

Try and look for opportunities to sketch on a daily basis, recently for example I've started sketchnoting in meeting and workshops and it really helps to improve your sketching speed and accuracy. I'd encourage anyone to pick up a pen and give it a go.

To be honest, once mastered the actual sketching is the easy part it's working out what to sketch that's where the real challenge lies.

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Posted in Community Post Date 03/01/2017


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