The Art of Inspiration
Why companies are hiring artists to record their brainstorms
“ENTREPRENEURSHIP!” offered one executive.
“Going above and beyond,” mused another.
As they spoke, an artist scribbled furiously on
an 8-foot-wide whiteboard. Soon, a drawing of a
half-eaten apple emerged to represent the company’s core values.
This was part of a recent two-day strategy
session at Grasshopper, a provider of virtual
phone systems that’s based in Needham, Massachusetts. Co-founder David Hauser paid a specialized artist (or, as people in the field prefer to be
known, graphic facilitator) $3,000 to take notes as
Grasshopper’s eight-person executive team formulated the company’s goals. “It really improved
the conversation,” says Hauser. Later, the final
sketch was photographed and printed on note-pads, posters, and the company’s website.
Many companies like Grasshopper are relying on
these cartoonish doodles to help kindle ideas during
meetings. It might seem silly, but these sorts of
visuals are effective in brainstorming, says Martin
Eppler, professor of media and communication
management at University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.
“We’ve found in our experiments that using visuals
during meetings creates more ideas, creates better
ideas, and increases recall,” he says.
Some companies are even hiring graphic facilitators (you can find one at ifvpcommunity.ning.com)
to coach workers on illustrating their own ideas.
Sunni Brown, a graphic facilitator and author of
The Doodle Revolution, often directs “group doodles” in which employees work together—listening
to and then sketching one another’s ideas.
To loosen up reluctant artists, Brown starts by
having people call out objects rapid fire for her to
sketch. “I purposefully make my drawings clumsy,”
she says, “so people see the goal is not to make
great art but to get down something of substance.”
Rachael Brown, a training manager for Zappos,
took a two-day seminar from Sunni Brown in 2011,
as did a few other managers. Now, Zappos employees regularly use the techniques in brainstorming
sessions. “We try to play with the problem graphically,” says Rachael Brown. “It helps spark new
ideas, especially if we’re stuck.” —NANCY AVERETT
BUST OUT THE
Want to sketch
your own ideas?
Here are three
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Stick with easy
a forked road to
indicate choice, an
2. LINK YOUR
Draw a box around
to one idea. Use
arro ws and lines to
3. GET EVERYONE
Let your whole
team take turns
at the whiteboard.
As people doodle,
“their thinking will
Brown. “And that
will open up new
Kelvy Bird, co-founder
of Dpict, a graphic
sketched this as
Lauren Bush Lauren,
CEO of FEED, spoke at
the Inc. Women’s
Summit last year.
88 - INC. - FEBRUAR Y 2014
SCAN THE PAGE TO WATCH SUNNI BROWN DRAW. (See page 14 for details.)