Munster businesses doodling their way to a deeper form of learning

GRAPHIC harvester Naomi Fein has been enjoying huge success of late, giving Munster’s leading companies storyboard accounts of seminars, workshops and other events to take home and share with their colleagues.

Munster businesses doodling their way to a deeper form of learning

With her partners in Cork-based Think Visual, Naomi and her graphic design partners Eleanor Reilly and Michal Vital also help companies deliver more effective presentations themselves.

Their platforms range from Powerpoint to Wacom doodle pads, depending on individual needs.

The notion of ‘graphic harvesting’ may seem relatively new, but visual learning seems to have taken off as a means to develop ‘crowd intelligence’ among an increasingly intercultural, multi-lingual workforce.

Think Visual’s client list tells its own story: KPMG, EMC, Trend Micro, Qualcom, Amdocs, Stryker, IDA, Silicon Republic, Smarter Egg and SOS Venture Capital, plus numerous law firms and pharmaceutical companies.

Think Visual also works with startups at the Rubicon Centre’s New Frontiers programme, helping them to clarify their thoughts in advance of making a pitch to a venture capitalist.

“When you return from a conference or workshop, it can be hard to remember all the data you’ve learned,” said Naomi Fein, an Israeli-born graphic designer. “When you come back to the office, you’re straight back into your work. What do remember after a week has passed? After a month? Probably even less.

“We provide visual harvesting of the highlights of a meeting or an event. We give you packaged insights that have three characteristics — they are easier to remember; they are actionable; and they are easier to share.”

Having moved to Derry in 2005, Naomi began hosting literacy workshops on behalf of the Traveller Visibility Group (TVG) in 2008. Learning provided a bridge into traditional education for many people with low literacy skills.

The ideas that Naomi Fein now uses for graphic harvesting in the corporate world were at least partly informed by her experience with TVG. She says that each picture is worth far more than a thousand words; and her clients often take away a book of pictures.

And there is science to support the benefits of visual learning. A study by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found in 2009 that focused doodlers retain around 29% more information than people who listen without scribbling notes, a figure often cited by US-based “info doodle” guru Sunni Brown.

The Munster business community has certainly seen the benefits of doodling. One company enlisted Think Visual to ensure that a planned change of premises went smoothly for the staff involved.

“We met with 100 people and asked them to complete the sentence: ‘I will be happy in the new place as long as ...’,” said Naomi. “We gave them large felt markers, and instructed them to use big lettering and told them to add visual symbols.

“We then took a photo of each of them standing, and we put that into a two-minute video. Some people wanted a window; others wanted an environment in which they could be more productive. We gave the company what we call ‘crowd intelligence’ on what people wanted. The company got a clear picture of what people had in their mind, which was really useful in helping them make their decisions when it came to making their move.

“The first thing we do is meet the customer and find out what they want to achieve. Then we decide on what format to use, and design the output. Sometimes, if I’m doing a Powerpoint presentation I find it makes me think about myself and not about ‘you’.

“Mind you, I have just worked with a legal firm in Dublin, and we created this Powerpoint which was exactly what they wanted. We’ve also done a one-hour video for another customer. It really does depend on what’s needed.”

Technology plays a large part in the services offered by Think Visual, but it doesn’t dominate the core concept of building a visual understanding of the client’s ideas through doodling.

Typical outputs include infographics, posters, leaflets, booklets, videos, animations, websites and presentations. For all that, however, the best way to grasp this unique use of images is to visit the website, or to view the YouTube video below.

“When I doodle, I retain about 90% of what’s said. If I listen passively, I probably retain about 30%. That’s why I have to scribble,” said Naomi. “Even now for instance, as we’re chatting, I can actually remember an awful lot of what I learned at the 2013 Tech Leaders Summit in Cork. I probably remember as much as anybody else who was in the room, though this was their area of expertise.”

Technology and doodling both come easily to Naomi and her partners, but these skills can be taught. Think Visual also offers training on topics like visual recording, infographics, stop animation and prezi (cloud-based presentation software).

“People are surprised by their own ability to draw, and the speed at which they can learn to doodle,” said Naomi. “Doodling is a really holistic approach to learning and retaining information. Doodlers are a bit like journalists for the corporate world. They really are the best learners.”


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