On February 17, 2009, in Innovation, by Brett Duncan

This weekend I’ll be playing acoustic guitar at a chapel service for the AdvoCare Success School. Used to, I played all the time and had plenty of gigs. But, as things often go, the last two years has seen my playing frequency reduced significantly for myriad reasons. 

slashAs I’m preparing for this Sunday, I’m noticing just how rusty I am. When you play guitar, it’s imperative that you keep your callouses tough and your fingers nimble. While knowing the chords and music theory behind playing might be like riding a bike, actually pulling it off at a high level requires keeping up with it over time. 

I haven’t been doing that, and it’s showing in my playing. 

I realized yesterday that my main shortcoming is I haven’t been doodling enough. When my chops were up to spec, I always had the guitar out, picking it up at any spare moment, doodling licks and riffs out for no apparent reason. But my hands were on the fretboard, and it kept me in shape. 

Did you know the main riff of Guns n’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine was a product of Slash’s doodling? He originally thought the line was a joke. 

The concept of doodling is one that can’t be overlooked, regardless of what it is we’re doodling on. As marketers and small business owners, we too must keep up our chops. Prevent rustiness. Remain agile and nimble. 

The challenge is keeping a proper attitude toward doodling. Something about being on the job makes us think we can’t doodle. We don’t have time for that. We’ve got to stay on top of the important stuff. 

However, the fact is we are all called to be innovative, and innovative thinking is ten times more likely to be produced via doodling than it is brainstorming in the boardroom. 

Google gets it. That’s why they allow employees to spend up to 20 percent on their own pet projects. It’s that kind of engaged, pioneering innovation, or doodling, that leads to big things for the company. 

Personally, I started blogging out of personal interests. However, what I’ve learned over the past two years via blogging and all that entails has offered huge benefits for my employers and clients. I’m experienced in areas that my job descriptions never would have allowed. Only my own doodling taught me what I needed to know. 

So, how can you doodle? Here are some ideas:

  1. Pick out something that you really want to learn once a month, and dive into it. Maybe it’s Photoshop, or Squidoo, or Google AdWords. The key is picking just one thing, then just going crazy with it for a month. It’s amazing what you’ll learn. 
  2. As Ryan reminds us, be stoic. Spend your time doing rather than planning and thinking and analyzing. So many of us read about interesting stuff, but don’t really know how to make it happen until we get hands-on with it. 
  3. Do some pro-bono work for friends and family in your spare time. Just marketing a different product or service is a great catalyst for getting you out of a rut. 
  4. If you’re really passionate and interested in what you do, don’t hesitate to do it outside of the office (it actually might be a better idea if you don’t, just in case your boss doesn’t appreciate doodling as much as you). Find an hour a night to just explore and doodle. It’ll add up. 

With the marketing blur whizzing past us at breakneck speeds, it’s imperative we find ways to keep up. Keep up your chops, explore new areas and doodle. 

What are ways you keep your marketing and communication chops up to speed? 

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3 Responses to “Doodling”

  1. Nice Post Brett,

    I really think doodling is so vital to finding ideas. I always scribble stuff down from which bright ideas often emerge. Excellent examples too.

    Thanks Steve.

  2. Paceaux says:

    First of all, I like your new design. Very sharp.

    As a musician, every piece of music I’ve written started as a doodle. It was a daily, or weekly assignment to myself to come up with something new. A lot of really cool songs came as a result.

    For work related stuff, it’s the same thing. On a weekly basis, my assignment is, “design a desktop background in Illustrator” or “try a CSS animation”. Yesterday it was, “embed a new font”. If I don’t try something new, I don’t know something new.

    The best ideas rarely come about in one complete thought. They usually start with some little “doodle” that gets built upon over time.

  3. Brett says:

    Paceaux – thanks for the props. It’s getting there.

    Yeah, doodling is where it’s at. I love that you force a new lesson on yourself; most people are waiting for permission to learn something. Stupid!

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