Monday, September 9, 2019

'Doing' Sketchnoting

Rachel Burnham writes: I have been reading (or perhaps it should be looking at) ‘The xLontrax Theory of Sketchnote’ by Mauro Toselli, which is a book about Sketchnotes in the form of Sketchnotes.  xLontrax is Mauro Toselli’s sketchnoting name and you can find him on Twitter @xLontrax.

His book explores what makes an effective Sketchnote and is based upon many years of experience of sketchnoting, plus some research he did into what people are looking for when they look at a Sketchnote. This makes it very interesting reading for anyone wanting to produce Sketchnotes.  His Sketchnotes are lovely to look at and his typography is so graceful – I keep practising some of the fonts he uses.

His emphasis is on producing Sketchnotes to share and what makes an effective Sketchnote to share.  He looks at the various elements of a sketchnote and pulls out what works for people – what attracts initially and what makes them easy to understand.   It is well worth looking at and will help you think about the way you layout and present a Sketchnote. 

The value is in the ‘doing’ of Sketchnoting

Reading this has made me realise that my thinking about Sketchnotes has changed and now differs from Mauro Toselli’s focus. Over the last couple of years of offering workshops in Sketchnoting, I have begun to appreciate the value of Sketchnoting as a process, rather than the production of an end product.   For me Sketchnoting is now mostly about the ‘doing’ of it, rather than the production of a finished Sketchnote.

I now think of Sketchnoting as a ‘gateway’ activity that can serve to introduce people to drawing and also to using visuals to aid their thinking, learning and work.  Sketchnotes can be used not only for note taking, but for planning, reflecting, as a recap tool to aid spaced practice, for thinking things through and communicating informally. My friend and colleague, Liz Longden, has commented that learning to Sketchnote opened up the creative side of her brain. 

I have identified a number of benefits to ‘doing’ Sketchnoting:

1.  Sketchnoting is a great way to get started with drawing for work

As sketchnoting combines the use of simple drawings and graphics with words, it can be a great way of getting started with drawing.   As adults, so many of us feel that we can’t draw and feel embarrassed about sharing our efforts with other people.   Yet as children, the vast majority of us did draw confidently and with enjoyment.   Sketchnoting can be a way to dip your toe in the water and have a go at drawing, without any pretensions to art or illustration, that so often get in the way of people picking up a pencil.   You can begin to Sketchnote effectively with very simplified hand drawn graphics that you can get started with straight away.   And the more you do, the better you get and the more confident you get - applying that ‘growth mindset’.

2.  Sketchnoting slows you down

The use of drawing in Sketchnoting forces you to slow down.  Traditional note-taking using just words is definitely faster, but that doesn’t mean you take it in – sometimes you can make notes and when you look back at them, you are hardly conscious of what you have written, because it has been so automatic.  When you add in drawing, it slows you down.   It forces you take things at a slower pace, whether this is note taking in a presentation, meeting or learning session or when thinking things through for yourself or putting information together to share with colleagues. 

That slowing down in itself can be beneficial – many of the participants in my workshops have commented on how relaxing and de-stressing they find this.  But it also gives you time to think, focus and identify what is important.  

When you are Sketchnoting live in a presentation, meeting or learning session that slowing down is linked to listening deeply and focusing on what is important, so that you only attempt to capture in a Sketchnote key points – the key points for you.   In a similar way, when using Sketchnoting to aid thinking or if planning a project, presentation or piece of writing, slowing down can enable you to think more deeply about that piece of work.  Outlining an image or colouring in a section can give you time to engage at a deeper level with the material.

3.  Sketchnoting promotes observation and listening

This slowing down that drawing and Sketchnoting require are also closely connected to being able to observe and listen carefully.  

Great drawing often begins with observation and similiarly Sketchnoting live begins with listening.  These activities promote attentiveness.  

You need to be able to still yourself and your own voice to see what is before you, to consider the evidence and listen to what is being said, or not said.  Observation and listening are very powerful skills to have and are helpful in a great many circumstances in the workplace, such as when working with customers and colleagues, when problem-solving, or when improving services and processes.

4.  Sketchnoting encourages playfulness

Sketchnoting often involves the use of metaphor and humour.  Colour is often made use of – though some Sketchnoters work very effectively just using black ink. 

This all encourages a playful approach which can enable you to look at things differently and from different perspectives.   It can help you to communicate  a concept, a process or information in a more imaginative way, that connects more effectively and memorably with the intended recipients.   It can help you to see things in a fresh light as well, perhaps enabling you to come up with a different approach or additional ideas that would not have occurred otherwise.  

5.  Sketchnoting develops pattern seeking and creation

Sketchnoting and the use of visuals can help with seeing patterns amongst information and data.  The use of different layouts, colour and tools, such as arrows, to group information and to explore the relationship between items can be very helpful in thinking things through.  Perhaps in outlining a current process, or imagining a new framework or communicating an idea. 

This is an area where you definitely don’t need to be able to draw, other than simple arrows and shapes such as circles, rectangles or triangles to link and group items together.   The use of colour can also help you to see patterns and present material more clearly.
6.  Sketchnoting encourages seeing the whole story

Presenting ideas visually can help you to see things differently.  A recent participant in one of my Sketchnoting workshops was mapping out a process he was very familiar with in a Sketchnote and commented how much easier it was to do it in this format.  He noted how quickly he had spotted things out of place or missed, compared to when he had tried to describe the process in a text only document.

Others have commented on how useful a Sketchnote can be to support describing a process or presenting information to a colleague, because they can see the information as a whole.

So, whilst a finished Sketchnote is a lovely thing, great for capturing notes of a session or summarising some reading or a podcast, being able to produce a finished Sketchnote is only one benefit of Sketchnoting.  I think that the real value of Sketchnoting is in the doing of Sketchnoting and the many ways Sketchnoting contributes to thinking, learning and working.       

Rachel Burnham

9 September 2019

I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Review of 'Curation: The Power of Selection in a World of Excess'

Rachel Burnham writes: I recently read ‘Curation: The Power of Selection in a World of Excess’ by Michael Bhaskar.  Published in 2016, this is an exploration of the very wide way in which ‘curation’ as an approach is being used.  In L&D, many people will be familiar with the concept of curation being applied to how we select, manage and share resources for learning.  You may also have come across the term curation in relation to content marketing, in the context where a marketing strategy makes use of content created by others which is selected and used to promote a particular business – you may even use this yourselves.  And of course, curation, has its origins in the world of museums and art galleries.

Bhaskar looks at curation in many different fields, as a business strategy, in retail, music and many other fields, in governmental regeneration and planning policies and in how we present ourselves as individuals.   He looks at how curation is being used to create value in fields, such as food retail, through specialist food retailers who bring together small niche providers of particular high-quality foods all under a single roof or fascinatingly in the way that a new city is being planned in Abu Dhabi, by curating a cultural district with top museums, art galleries, theatres and music venues. The book is full of examples of curation permeating all sorts of aspects of life – I think he sees curation everywhere – I wasn’t always convinced, though he does a great job of presenting examples to illustrate.

And I found the opening chapters with their emphasis on the abundance of everything for everybody, rather sickening and infuriating – you don’t need to look further than our city centres to see people living without a roof over their head, or open a paper to see the growing demands on foodbanks and that is within the wealthy UK.   But the book did make me think wider about what curation is and how it can be used. 

He describes curation as ‘using acts of selection and arrangement (but also refining, reducing, displaying, simplifying, presenting and explaining) to add value.  I found very helpful some simple diagrams he shares which describe different ways that curating can add value.

Diagram from Pg. 166

He identifies a number of benefits that curation can bring through the way it adds value including:

·         saving time
·         freeing cognitive resources 
·         sparing us anxiety
·         cutting down complexity
·         finding quality 
·         overcoming information overload
·         creating contrast
·         redefining creativity
·         channelling attention
·         providing context
·         beating overproduction. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is that looks at both curation through the use of algorithms and also human curation and so it provides insight into our very current concern about how can humans and technology work together. This is sometimes described as ‘thick and thin’ curation.   Where ‘thin’ curation is the network of cataloguing and filtration mechanisms, recommendations and discovery algorithms found throughout the Internet and 'thick' curation is done by humans 'based on detailed personal choices, often for smaller audiences; it discuses its choices and comments on them, adding extra spin to its decisions' (Pg. 233)  Algorithmic curation can keep costs down and make curation scalable, but it is human curation that makes it personalised and personable. I like this quote from Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at Oxford University 

'Curators are experts - you have to have a say to be a curator.  There is a practical side to curation that means algorithmic curation should be joined by a sense almost of ownership or custodianship.  The ability to intervene, to follow on, to ensure your curation has an impact is key.  It is a pragmatic relationship. ' (Pg 229)

What shines through is that effective curation is a highly skilled process.   Bhaskar says in the context of content curation in marketing 'But the term is often used weirdly.  Websites advise people to 'curate in the morning' or curate their way to success. Curation is seen as a shortcut, a defined thing, not a process.  … Good curation is more difficult and subtle than that.' He sees expert selection as at the start of good curation and quotes from Maria Popova, curator of the highly thought of ‘Brain Pickings’:

'The art of curation isn't about the individual pieces of content, but about how these pieces fit together, what story they tell by being placed next to each other, and what statement the context they create makes about culture and the world at large.  This is, she argues, a process of 'pattern recognition'.  Seeing how things fit together, understanding connections (which multiply in a networked environment), but then also, crucially, creating new ones by recombining them, is a massive part of curation.' (Pg 125) 

I love the sense of patchwork which her words evoke, making something new and fresh from scraps of the old or the familiar.  Another word for this would be ‘bricolage’ which Andrew Jacobs has written about.

Bhaskar argues that there are no shortcuts to becoming trusted as a curator – it is about ‘Authenticity, consistency, excellent selections - it is very hard to fake.' (Pg. 210)

I think curation is a useful skill for us to develop both as individuals to aid us in managing the huge amount of information we now need to navigate daily as professionals and also as a skill for us in L&D to share with others and use in our professional practice.   Bhaskar puts it like this:

'The more we understand how curation coheres with a network of new skills, strategies and capabilities, the better prepared we will be for thriving in the age of excess that is changing forever how we live and work.' (Pg. 165)

Rachel Burnham
7 July 2019

I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Collection of 8 Sketchnotes from CIPD Festival of Work - exhibition, conference & fringe - 2019

Rachel Burnham writes: Last week I visited the first CIPD Festival of Work held at Olympia, London on 12 & 13 June 2019.   The event combines the old L&D Show and HR Software shows and adds a new element covering the Future of Work.  
I had a day of visiting the exhibition and include Sketchnotes from a couple of the free sessions I attended.  On the second day of the conference, I attended a number of formal sessions on a diverse range of topics from reducing digital stress, to how investing in technology can aid productivity, to a series of fast and furious Ignite sessions all on the theme of curation for learning.   I also participated in a fringe event on the first evening of the event, a recording of the GoodPractice Podcast with a panel focusing on the Past, Present and Future of Learning. 
Here are all my Sketchnotes from the event: 

Delivering 'wow' now: digital transformation without capital expenditure by Datagraphic - exhibition 

AI and Learning: the truth behind the trend by Learning Pool - exhibition 

GoodPractice Podcast recording 'The Past, Present and Future of Learning' - fringe 

E2 Wellbeing and Mental Health in a Digital Workplace - conference

F1 Can the new era of technology solve the UK's output puzzle? - conference

G6 The Neuroscience of Learning - designing effective learning for knowledge retention & transfer - conference

H4 From Creation to Curation - Insights from Four Ignites - conference

Closing Keynote with Neil Harbisson the World's First Cyborg Artist - conference

Rachel Burnham
16 June 2019

I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to help people use visuals, to think, work and learn.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.  

Monday, June 10, 2019

FieldTrip Reflections

Rachel Burnham writes: On Tuesday 4th June, it was my pleasure and privilege to be one of the organisers for the first L&D Connect #LnDFieldTrip.   A group of 28 L&Ders, from a mix of organisations, spent the afternoon exploring The Design Museum in London and discussing & reflecting on what it said to us about design for L&D and OD.   It was great to work alongside Niki Hobson, David Hayden and Kevin Avis to make this happen and also to have the support of the wider L&D Connect community for this venture.

Here are some of my reflections on the exhibits that caught my attention – they are a bit random and I think I am still pondering on my observations and the many conversations over the course of the afternoon with other participants.

1. Purpose

One of the first exhibits that caught my eye told the well-known story of the creation of the London Tube Map and equivalent maps for metros in other cities.  

This reminded me that the London Underground map that is so familiar to many of us, is not actually an accurate geographical representation of the tube system in London – however, simplifying the map in this way made it easy to find your way around using the tube system. 

This made me think again of the importance of clarity of purpose when designing.   What we design for one purpose, may not work for another purpose. In simplifying, we may gain in some ways and lose in others. 

2.  Adding on

Sticking with signage, I loved this picture of the old style road sign, that had been added to and adapted with lots of different styles of sign.  It illustrated a display about the introduction of a national standard approach to road signage. 

This picture reminded me of how sometimes we design a programme, project, even an organisational structure and then keep adding to it and adapting it.  ‘Wouldn’t be good to include…’ ‘We could just slip this in here…’ ‘I am sure people would find this useful…’ and before you know it, it is rather a hash of confused messages and contradictory approaches.  Sometimes we need to take stock and simplify. 

3.  A nice idea!

As well as display material, there were lots of examples of different products and items.  I admired a rather stylish chair and loved the story told about it.  

It had been designed by an architect, who also designed furniture.  It was based on the idea that you could sit on it in many different ways – this appealed to me – I am always curling up on chairs and sofas with my feet under me or hanging out over the edge.  The chair was designed to be mass manufactured, but in fact that had not happened in the lifetime of the designer – it didn’t explain why and originally only handmade ones had been produced. 

I am intrigued by this story and I have been imagining all the many different ways why the chair was not mass-produced as envisaged – expense, lack of demand – perhaps it didn’t meet a real need from customers, technical challenges, a crisis of confidence in the product by the manufacturer, resistance to a radical design and so on.   I think you can see the parallels that drew me in.

4.  Rethinking the value of standardisation

One of the displays was a mock-up of a fitted kitchen that you could walk through.  Alongside, were some pictures of kitchens prior to the introduction of the fitted kitchen concept, which drew attention to how often these had surfaces at different levels, sinks that didn’t have places to stack or dry crockery and cupboards that made poor use of space.   It sounds just like the kitchen of my childhood in Chorlton which was tiny and very awkward to cook in.

The display drew attention to the value of standardisation in kitchen design which enabled fitted kitchens to be created, with their much more practical design and their capacity to be personalised.   This is what caught my attention – standardisation not as the opposite of personalisation, which is sometimes how we think of it in L&D, but as the enabler of effectiveness and personalisation. 

We sometimes focus on standardisation as being about sameness, but it is actually about being based on standards or principles or evidence about what works – it is about establishing effective ways of working.   So my kitchen sink lesson was to make me rethink the value of standardisation.

5.  Designing & empowering

Another display that caught my eye was about the design and creation of rough terrain wheelchairs for use in countries where roads and pathways often do not have paved or tarmac surfaces.  
The design focused on meeting these particular needs, but also the need for the wheelchairs to be maintained locally, so itincluded provision for training people to be able to do this. 

It got me thinking about content generation by users and about L&D’s role moving away from providing programmes to empowering users to meet their continuing needs. 

6.  The simplest solution that works

Towards the end of our time at the museum, I got to look at a display right near the start of the exhibit.  All through our time at the museum, members of our party were stood talking about and pointing to various different objects in the display and so I couldn’t get near it until the end of our time. 

The display was an array of well-designed and very familiar objects displayed from floor to ceiling – bikes, jeans, paper bags, marmite, trainers, juicers, phones and many, many more.   Looking at this display brought back so many memories and associations with the various objects.

One of the things that they had in common was a simplicity.  It reminded me that the simplest solution that meets the need is often the best solution.

The paper bag particularly caught my eye.   Paper bags are back in fashion.  At one time a plastic bag might have been considered the latest thing and something that was well-designed to meet the needs of modern shoppers.  But our criteria, for what makes a good design of bag, have changed and now we rate environmental-friendliness as important.   What makes for good design may change, if the context changes.  

7.  Collaboration

The whole exhibition focused on the relationships between three parties: users, makers and designers.  It was quite clear how important each of these was to the creation of effective designs.  Each of these parties have a contribution to make. The best design seem to draw on each. 

It is making me wonder how well designs I am involved with utilise the insights and differing expertise of all the parties and what I might do differently to enable this.

I have taken a lot from this #LnDFieldTrip experience.  It was the combination of the stimulation from the exhibition plus conversations and sharing of varying perspectives and experiences with fellow professionals that made it so effective for me.  

Thank you to everyone who took part and who supported the event.  I think we will see more #LnDFieldTrips in the future.

Rachel Burnham
9 June 2019

I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources.  I make use of Sketchnoting to help people use visuals, to think, work and learn.  I help people to manage for themselves the information they need to stay up-to-date in their professional work.  

Monday, April 1, 2019

Complete Collection of Sketchnotes from CIPD Northern Student Conference 2019

Rachel Burnham writes: On Saturday 30th March, I was part of the volunteer team contributing to the running of this event.   It was wonderful to be welcoming over 200 participants, mostly students, from across the 10 northern branches in CIPD to Liverpool.   Over the course of the day, a range of presentations and sessions took place focusing on career development and sharing knowledge about the future of our HR and L&D profession.  

I created Sketchnotes live during the event for the 5 sessions that I participated in.  I hope you find them a interesting taster for the event and a helpful reminder if you were there.

Rachel Burnham

1 April 2019

Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.