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Improving your brainstorming sessions

The quickest way to improve brainstorming sessions is to put away anything with a keyboard.

Why? research in neurobiology demonstrates that using our hands to write and draw transforms experience. Manipulating a writing instrument activates multiple neural pathways: visual, spatial, sensory, and motor including both sides of our brain as we process graphical and factual data with multiple senses. Drawing on a flip chart or paper with colored markers to draw images alongside the text activates additional neural pathways. Employing a writing instrument, creates attention and focus as we form letters and pictures, looking at where the instrument touches the paper. Even the hand we’re not writing with is active in keeping the paper aligned.

[With a typewriter …] the word no longer passes through the hand as it writes and acts authentically but through the mechanized pressure of the hand. The typewriter snatches script from the essential realm of the hand – and this means the hand is removed from the essential realm. The word becomes something ‘typed.’ … Mechanized writing deprives the hand of dignity in the realm of the written word and degrades the word into a mere means for the traffic of communication. Besides, mechanized writing offers the advantage of covering up one’s handwriting and therewith one’s character. – Martin Heidegger

Writing with pen, pencil, or marker is an embodied experience that increases learning and generative thought processes. What impacts of this research can you imagine for writers? Educators? Trainers? Strategists? Designers?

For inspiring ideas on going analog in brainstorming, check out Duarte’s photos and blog post about advanced stickynoting.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tommy #

    Yet another timely entry. I was recently trying to reconcile the fact that I often have participants in multiple geographic locations with the desire for handwritten brainstorming. The easy way has been typewritten docs on a shared screen (WebEx or something similar). This is OK I guess, but I’d like the best of both worlds. I’ll let you know what I end up finding, and welcome any suggestions from the community.

    June 9, 2011
    • friesengroup #

      Thank you for the feedback. We’ve been using a conferencing product from from Acrobat , which has a white board feature that allows users to draw interactively. While it isn’t a keyboard-free solution, it does allow for creative drawing and working with charts and diagrams. Hopefully others will share ideas too.

      June 9, 2011

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