Take Note

How many times have you asked someone going to a conference to take notes for you? And unless you’re their boss, chances are they come home empty-handed, or with scant summaries typed between a nap and the movie on the flight home.

Sometimes transcripts of the talk are available, but really, who wants to read all of these, or even watch them on YouTube?   Maybe a bit … boring?

So here’s a cool idea.  Let someone else go to the conference and take notes for you.  And not just random snippets dashed out on a laptop, but notes that illustrate an idea and get you excited about it.

Meet Sketchnotes, an interesting concept that’s that’s been around a while, but is now getting a little traction.   These simple digital notebooks capture ideas from the speakers at various conferences with fun illustrations and pithy captions.  OK, it’s not the whole speech.  (Remember, you didn’t want the whole speech!)  And it’s not a detailed summary.  (C’mon, be honest, you don’t want that either.)  But each Sketchnote captures a handful of ideas that the author, at least, found interesting, like this one from Sketchnotes expert Eva-Lotta Lamm.

Is there enough to make a business model?  Maybe, maybe not.  Costs are low, assuming the authors are going to the conference anyway.   But like any business, success takes work.  For Sketchnote Army founder Mike Rohde, it’s a personal passion, and as a pioneer of the concept, he’s gladly taken on the cause of champion and facilitator.  But really, how many people are willing to pay for this kind of content?  Like Mike told me–that remains to be seen.  But clearly there are signs of the visual thinking movement everywhere we look.

But what is really exciting is the potential of morphing the medium into other applications, like website content, advertising, videos, books, marketing, etc.  Like it or not, we’ve become a visual generation with a limited attention span.  Sketchnotes perfectly illustrates this trend.  For instance, Mike worked on the recently released (and best-selling) book Rework, which is all too fitting since one of his early attempts to commercialize Sketchnote summaries was after a 37 Signals conference in 2007.

Why we like this innovation:

They are fun to read.   Kind of like following Tom Fishburne or GraphJam.  Yet you can select Sketchnotes based on conferences of interest, or choose  Sketchnotes from authors with styles you like.  But more important, the medium seems to provide a meaningful new way to learn.  I know my creativity is more likely to be sparked by a few great ideas effectively communicated than the otherwise staid, time-worn alternatives.

Now if they could just send you some of the cool tchotchkes from the conference.

About Bill Aho

Bill Aho is a partner with The SagePoint Group, hands-on consultants that develop innovative products, services and marketing concepts. Bill has worked in marketing, strategic planning, general management and innovation in Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Darden Restaurants and ClearPlay. He has appeared and been quoted in multiple TV, magazines and newspapers, including Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, MSNBC, BBC, PBS and others.
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One Response to Take Note

  1. Brad Mclaws says:

    My concern about these types of note taking systems is that they are great to remind you of what you saw and heard, but they are not very meaningful or insightful to me when I see them cold. I think as a society we underestimate the price that must be paid for gaining insights and wisdom. It takes hard concentration and connecting the thoughts to other ideas and applications. This requires we pay the price of time. I am not sure we can obtain those insights by looking over notes, even notes as cool as these. This reminds me of RSA’s animated speaches. I enjoy seeing the notes taken, and it can help me focus, but I am not sure they would be terribly valuable to me if I hadn’t seen the whole speech.

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