zappos

Your boss wants you to doodle

April 26, 2012 at 11:03 AM ET

Van Gogh would be proud. Companies across the country are trying to inspire employees to find their inner artist, or at least their inner doodler.

It’s doodle mania at companies such as Facebook and Zappos, as employers search for ways to transform complex business issues and concepts into easy-to-digest drawings, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

“Firms are holding training sessions to teach employees the basics of what's known as visual note taking,” the story explained. “Others, like vacation-rental company HomeAway Inc. and retailer Zappos, are hiring graphic recorders, consultants who sketch what is discussed at meetings and conferences, cartoon-style, to keep employees engaged.”

Is this just the latest dotcom gimmick?

The Journal article cites a study that was published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology saying doodlers are able to retain more information than their nondoodling counterparts. But maybe it’s just because doodlers aren’t as busy as their coworkers who don’t have time to doodle.

The idea of bringing the doodle into the workplace has been gaining traction since doodling guru Sunni Brown’s Ted Talk on the benefits of workplace doodling last year. “Doodling has a profound impact on the way that we can process information and the way that we can solve problems,” she said during the speech.

Brown, who's the author of the forthcoming book “The Doodle Revolution," teaches people on how to use doodling in the workplace.

Here’s an excerpt of her speech:

“Under no circumstances should doodling be eradicated from a classroom or a boardroom or even the war room. On the contrary, doodling should be leveraged in precisely those situations where information density is very high and the need for processing that information is very high.”

It’s safe to say the doodling business strategy will probably be relegated to profitable web-based firms that have enough workers and time on their hands to draw up a storm while they're brainstorming. Most employers who have cut their workforces to the bone during the tough economy will be hard-pressed to send their limited staff to workplace easels.

“In my opinion, this has limited use,” said Cassi Fields, an organizational psychologist and owner of business training and assessment company Fields Consulting Group. “At the end of the day, if you have to make a serious presentation and have to have serious output in most situations you’re not going to present a doodle.”

And Fields is concerned about employees potentially doodling inappropriate images or doodling a coworker or manager in an inappropriate way. "This could become the next inappropriate thing on Facebook," she quipped.

Indeed, art is in the eye of the beholder.

That said, it’s never a bad thing to bring more creativity and art into the world, and employers have to be rewarded for thinking outside of the box on this one. But the question is, if a worker ends up cutting off his or her ear, can they collect workers’ comp? 

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