Myra Fernandes, Jeffrey Wammes, and and Melissa Meade have published an article titled “The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory” in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The scholars write,
“The colloquialism ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ has reverberated through the decades, yet there is very little basic cognitive research assessing the merit of drawing as a mnemonic strategy. In our recent research, we explored whether drawing to-be-learned information enhanced memory and found it to be a reliable, replicable means of boosting performance.”
How do the scholars explain this powerful effect on our ability to remember concepts? They argue that you have to elaborate on the meaning of a concept in order to create a visual representation of it. Mroeover, you use your motor skills to craft the drawing, and you use visual processing abilities to examine the picture and determine whether it has accurately depicted what you intended to represent. Together, engaging these different mechanisms of our brains helps us remember the concept more effectively than if we simply tried to write out notes or visualize the concept.
The research clearly has implications for education. I hope to draw on these lessons as I work with students moving forward. However, the research also has lessons for how leaders work with their teams to craft and implement strategy. Sketching out strategies and goals may be a good way to both develop a plan as a team and for people to remember key elements of it. Asking people to synthesize and summarize what they have discussed for an action plan at the end of the meeting can be helpful, but perhaps sketching it out on the whiteboard might be a better way to move forward from a meeting to the implementation process.