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Drop the Zoom and Pick Up the Pencil


James McCobb, partner, global technology lead, Digital discusses finding a spark for creative thought by simply picking up a pencil

Drop the Zoom and Pick Up the Pencil

How many times have you found yourself saying Zoom is great but… 

It's hard to create, to brainstorm, to come up with collective original thinking.  

Which got me to thinking, is it Zoom or teams that’s the issue or is it how we present and discuss ideas on them – more frequently than not, ideas are typed into PowerPoint or a collaboration tool. Maybe it’s the typing that’s the issue? 

So, what is it about a typed idea that makes it such a poor spark for creative thought? What makes it rigid, resistant to evolution and change? Somehow typed ideas don’t invite comments or feedback, the author feels protective and reluctant to change them. It’s not just Zoom. Many online collaboration tools are flawed in the same way because they just don’t invite the same open conversation and creativity.  

That’s why I’m championing ‘Pencil Thinking’. What is pencil thinking? Quite simply putting pencil to paper, whether that’s a notepad or a whiteboard there's something about a thought expressed in pencil or even wipeable marker, that almost encourages others to build on it. Coming from a technology lead you may find this surprising but picking up a pencil changes the way in which you think and the way you share ideas with others. It encourages collaboration, is free-flowing, malleable, invites question, influence, and evolution.  

By putting pencil to paper and bringing collective thinking back to the physical office we encourage collaboration and creativity. Perhaps that’s why there has been a plethora of note-taking apps and 'paper' tablets such a reMarkable which replace your notebooks and printed documents with a tablet that feels like paper. These tools support the theory that putting pencil to paper has indubitable benefits. Handwriting activates the brain and boosts creativity. So, how does this translate to business? The key to any successful project is collaboration, bringing the best minds you have at all levels and from all disciplines together to solve a problem and create something unique. Whether you’re launching a new multi-language website, or transforming an entire digital ecosystem, great collaboration is what connects everything.  

Top tips for collaborating:

  • Create a collaborative space where everyone can put pencil to paper, or marker to whiteboard, whether you’re a UX designer, technologist or digital strategist. 
  • Forget hierarchy as ideas, and great insight can come from anywhere.  Our team brings a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives from creative industries, finance, politics, and technology. 

  • Don’t present, instead free flow encourage people at all levels to give you their thoughts 

  • If it doesn’t work then rub it out or draw over it – its only pencil after all 

So, after 24 months of collaborating virtually, I’m encouraging my team to take a different approach and pick up a pencil or wipeable marker. Start writing, rub it out, write again. There is no right or wrong answer, just let the pencil flow.  

James McCobb, partner, global technology lead, Digital.

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Brunswick Creative Campaigns and Content, Mon, 21 Feb 2022 16:33:59 GMT