Yesterday while making a doodle mandala (above) I had a flashback to all of those lengthy board meetings where I used to sit doodling through endless discussions about program parameters, policy adjustments, partnership agreements, and balance sheets.
Back in those board meeting days, I felt a little silly doodling – like I was an oddball at that table full of highly intelligent people with my pages full of childish scribbles – and yet I was management so I was expected to be present and the doodling helped keep me awake and semi-engaged.
It’s not that I wasn’t good at my job or that I didn’t fit at the table – I was and I did. I was really good at communicating about hunger and I knew how to lead people in doing the work of fundraising and educating. What I wasn’t very good at though, was feigning interest in programs, policies, and financial columns.
And so I doodled. At the very least, my right brain thanked me for keeping it happy.
Yesterday while I doodled and remembered those board meetings, I had a sudden epiphany. “What if THIS is the important stuff? What if the doodling – the stuff we all tend to dismiss as silly and trivial while the more important work is being done – is actually just as valuable as the programs and policies?”
Maybe we’ll get further if we throw doodling, art, play, and silliness into our conversations about policies and programs.
Maybe the world really needs coloured markers and vision boards as much as it needs perfectly balanced financial columns.
Maybe we’ll get better at solving the world’s big problems if we bring artists and dancers to the table along with the economists.
Maybe I would have served the board of directors as much (or even more) by teaching them to play and doodle than I was able to serve them with my carefully written reports and proposals on fundraising and social marketing.
Maybe the corporate world needs as many play sessions as there are board meetings.
Maybe the experts and decision-makers at every organization need to pair up with children and play games and have story time in between work sessions.
And that, my friends, is why I no longer sit at those board meetings. At first I thought it was because I wanted to make a living as a consultant, peddling those same skills that convinced that board of directors I was competent and worth what they were paying me.
But the truth is, I’m not there anymore because I chose doodling over policy discussions, creativity over branding, play over work, art over strategic plans, stories over annual reports. Not that those other things aren’t necessary – I just knew I could serve the world better if I followed my true passions and taught people how to make mandalas or tell stories instead of managing another strategic planning session.
Now, if I were to be hired as a consultant by a board of directors like the one I once worked with, I would hand them coloured markers, make them sit in a circle, and tell them to play, create, and imagine themselves into new stories. I wouldn’t sit through endless discussions about the way things have always been done – I would pass a talking piece around the circle and insist that they tell me their real stories. I wouldn’t make an action plan, I’d get down on the floor and paint a growing tree.
I don’t wonder anymore – I KNOW that doodling is important stuff.