Why Doodling Can Be Good for Business

I am a chronic doodler. I’ve been chided my entire life for doodling, from grade school to college and at various jobs.Bestdoodle

There has always been a long line of critics of doodlers. Parents, teachers and bosses admonish us to put our pens down and pay attention. I have often been the recipient of the disapproving eye-roll whenever I begin to draw in meetings with non-doodlers (yet ironically they are the ones constantly checking their smart phones throughout a meeting).

At one agency where I was on the management team, I doodled away in board meetings and on weekly conference calls. Most of my colleagues (especially our CEO) showed signs of annoyance whenever I doodled through weighty discussions. It was obvious to me that most were thinking that I was bored or uninterested, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was actually the times when I couldn’t doodle in a meeting (say a new client meeting or presentation), where I had more trouble concentrating and became bored.

It turns out, I’m not alone. There are many doodlers out there who get the same grief as I do from co-workers and bosses. But guess what? There is actual research that vindicates us and confirms what we’ve already known – that doodling doesn’t mean we are unfocused, but rather the opposite: doodling can actually aid in concentration.

According to a study published by psychologist Jackie Andrade that appeared in Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2009, basic doodling can actually help one focus better and it aides in preventing daydreaming which actually takes one more off task and out of focus. Results of the study showed that individuals doodling through a meeting retained information 29% better than their non-doodling counterparts (view the study at http://bit.ly/R4X5lh).

Even former U.S. Presidents were avid doodlers. Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy were known to doodle during meetings according to an article from The Atlantic http://bit.ly/OpWESj. Leonardo di Vinci was an avid doodler as is Bill Gates.

So, to all of you bosses out there, please give your doodling employees a break, or better yet, join in. And to all of my doodling peers: Keep calm and doodle on! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself – oh and by the way, apparently Tony Blair is a doodler too).

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Are all the Social Media tools available to us now making us more efficient and less stressed, or the opposite?

 Can we achieve a decent work-life balance in today’s world?

Last week, Business Week published an article featuring a number of high profile executives who do not use email (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-16/mlb-s-bud-selig-proudly-joins-the-executive-no-email-crowd ).  Yes, you read that correctly.  They do not use email.  Now I can understand if they don’t use social media tools such as Twitter or Facebook – but email?

These old-school communicators include among others: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig; secretary of the Department for Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; and billionaire landowner Brad Kelley.  They are all successful in their own right.  And they have achieved that success with only the use of “old-fashioned” means of communication and most likely, a healthier set of boundaries when it comes to work spilling over into their lives.

Now granted, most of the individuals named in the article are in in their late 60s or 70s.  However, Napolitano is only 55, certainly an age where she could have adapted well to using email.  She claims checking email sucks up too much time (We all know how true that is, especially when you’re helplessly on an email thread that won’t stop).  While she may be right, it’s certainly not practical or feasible for “the rest of us” to scrap email altogether as a means of communication.

This got me to thinking:  all of these modern means of communicating at our fingertips – especially the burst of social media tools available – were invented to help us do so more efficiently and more quickly both personally and professionally.  Yet, in the end, are they doing the opposite and just bogging us down to create more stress, work and interruptions, and to sabotage any chance we have of a healthy work-life balance?

As Napolitano and Selig did, is there a time when the current generations can begin to say “no” to any or all of our modern channels of communication, or have we forever passed that threshold?

Before cell phones (yes, there was a day), I used to love driving in my car because it was the only place where no one could get a hold of me.  There was something to be said for that peaceful and uninterrupted respite where one could focus on the day’s matters at hand with more clarity and without interruption.

Most Millennials have never had that experience and I’m actually not sure they truly ever want to be ‘off-line’ from the world.  In fact, it seems as if it’s quite the opposite that is true – they feel naked without their smartphone and access of being connected to the outside world.  Their angst is certainly palpable when they are in meetings or other places where they cannot check their text messages, Tweets and emails.

I’ve occasionally had that feeling myself and to be honest, I don’t’ like it.  Sometimes I have to literally take a step back and realize that my world and work will actually be just fine without monitoring my emails and social channels every 15 minutes.  So why do I feel guilty when I’m offline?

I get it, in the fields of public relations and marketing, we need to be connected to our devices and to our clients and their customers as well as the media and outside world.  And, we have to test every new social media communications tool in order to best counsel our clients.  The challenge is there is a new tool emerging every day and it’s not only social media managers that need to understand and test these tools. It’s PR folks too. As a PR practitioner, stress is a normal part of the job; it’s just that this modern era of social media seems to be creating more stress and not taking as much away.

I just want to know if anyone else is struggling with when to draw the line at being continuously accessible and connected (and I mean beyond being reachable when a client might have a real emergency situation that needs immediate damage control).

Do you feel guilty or stressed when you’re not emailing, tweeting or trolling on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Pinterest?

How do you manage to detach from work mode to personal mode?

Any tips or insights are much appreciated!

Tips for Preparing Your Organization for a Crisis

Typically, when we think of companies that absolutely should have crisis plans in place, those such as pharmaceutical, airline and oil companies come to mind, since even the slightest misstep could lead to massive loss of lives.  It’s a given that big corporations invoke the help of stellar public relations teams  to help management map out various crisis scenarios and plan appropriate processes, procedures and communication to address those potential situations.  Crisis 3

However, small and mid-sized companies need solid crisis plans too.  After all, it’s  not usually the original crisis that typically brings down a brand, but rather how that company responds to that crisis that determines if the company’s or brand’s reputation is irreparably damaged or not.  And, with social media playing a larger role in the communicative landscape today, companies need to be more prepared than ever.

Many executives at small and medium-sized businesses think they don’t need a crisis plan; they believe that they are nimble enough to handle a mishap and will be able to get their arms around the situation as it comes.  What they don’t realize is that in the chaos of crisis, being prepared is the best and only way to really help take control (as much as you can) of the situation and to not make it worse.  Most recently, the Carnival Cruise Triumph crisis comes to mind.  Not only was the loss of power, rationing of food and the passengers’ exposure to raw sewage a crisis, it was compounded by Carnival’s lack of transparency and immediate response to its passengers and the public.  The company is still in damage control mode from that mess.

And, if you think that your company doesn’t need a plan because it isn’t public-facing, you are mistaken. Unfortunately, natural disasters or disgruntled employees waging violence can descend at any time upon your workplace, as can fire damage or even personal scandals.  What many business leaders don’t realize is that it behooves any company to have a solid plan in place.

Here are few steps to take in helping ensure that your organization is prepared for a crisis:

Prepare in advance
The onset of a situation is no time to determine your plan of action.  Knowing your business as well as you do, begin to address all of various the types of scenarios that would create a crisis for your company (from on-site accidents to natural disasters).  Knowing those potential situations in advance can help your team better determine the appropriate response and focus on the next steps to help manage the crisis.

Organize a crisis response team
Choose individuals who will comprise of your crisis management team.  This can include the CEO, communications and public relations managers, legal counsel, HR, and other appropriate officers of the company.   The team will decide who is responsible for what roles in a crisis situation, especially in determining who the spokesperson will be and how the team will communicate with each other.  Everyone should know his or her role so that he or she may act accordingly in a seamless and responsive manner.

Let employees know the crisis policy basics
With social media being so pivotal in spreading news these days, especially within the epicenter of a crisis, you need to make sure all employees know what they can and cannot do in a possible scenario.  Of course they don’t necessarily need to know all the response details of the team, but certainly the crucial ones such as no tweeting or posting about it.  Many times, the media will call an employee and try to find out what they can from them.  You can avoid more confusion and headaches if you let employees know in advance that they are never to speak with the media as well as to whom on staff they must notify if they are approached.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Make sure the crisis response team does some actual test runs of the plan so that roles are clear and communication is quick and nimble.  Just as you might have on-site fire drills, you need to ensure that your crisis team has practiced scenarios so that if they do happen to occur, everyone is well-prepared.  I have a friend who interned at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo one summer.  He was excited about the time he got to play the escaped animal (a polar bear in this case) in an emergency practice drill.   He had a certain amount of time (minutes) to hide anywhere in the entire zoo until emergency personnel became aware and could find him.  Of course, he was no match for the well-rehearsed response team and was found within minutes cowering in the shrubs near the waterfowl exhibit.   Luckily, they didn’t shoot him with the tranquilizer gun!

In summary, while taking these steps can be challenging since they takes time away from your business at hand, they are truly essential in helping to ensure that your brand navigates as successfully as possible through a crisis situation.  For more information on crisis management, please email me directly at slvaselaney@slvpr.com.