Things change. Then, some things change back

I was cleaning out a drawer the other day and found a fountain pen. I know some people never stopped using them (Tom Hood), but most of us moved on to a ball point, then a Palm Pilot stylus, then touchscreen mobile devices. Progress is good!

Or is it?

A shift happened when we moved from writing instruments to fingertips. Most of us can type (or thumb it) faster than we can write, but is it speed at the sacrifice of really retaining, understanding, or even learning?

I’ve been following Michael Hyatt for years and he often talks about improving a leader’s productivity. Recently, he shared insights into why a pen and paper are better, for a variety of reasons, including “handwriting lights up our minds.” Michael points to research that says, “Handwriting engages different parts of our brain, forces us to more fully process the messages we capture, creates more and better memory cues for later recall, and gives us an edge in understanding and remembering concepts.”

At the Business Learning Institute, we agree and take it a step further.

With CEO Tom Hood and instructor Gretchen Pisano, the BLI developed the strategic thinking system i2A: Insights to Action, which incorporates writing as a fundamental. The i2A framework considers what we see (Sight), what it means (Insight), what we can Create, who we need to Communicate with, and how we can Inspire action. Throughout the process, thinking is captured in an individual’s own handwriting or synthesized by a group using Sharpies and sticky notes. Those handwritten notes – key concepts, events, trends, and ideas – are linked to the wisdom of the group who create the plan. They own it and recall how it developed in a way that makes it much easier to communicate and inspire other key stakeholders.

So in this case, old school rules. But don’t let that fool you. In every other way, the experience all of our BLI thought leaders deliver, and the way we leverage technology to deliver plans and learning, is exceptional.

Just don’t forget to bring some paper … and maybe even a fountain pen.


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