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Get out of your comfort zone and off your computer: Draw your big idea instead!

One of the great perks of our role at Biggerplate is that we get to meet so many interesting people from around the world who channel their brilliance into writing fantastic books that they kindly share with us!

Last week we received a book all the way from the USA, written by our friend Nora Herting and her business partner Heather Willems, who together lead the fabulous team at ImageThink. Nora delivered a great workshop session at our Biggerplate Unplugged conference in New York earlier this year, where she encouraged our conference delegates to get on their feet, and draw on the walls... thanks Nora...!

Nora and Heather have put their heads (and pens) together to create a wonderful new book titled "Draw Your Big Idea", which is launching soon and available to pre-order here: view on Amazon

The book encourages us all to embrace the "increasingly visual age" in which we find ourselves, and harness the power of visual thinking to stimulate creative ideas, and gain increasing clarity. The book will prompt you to put down your phone, switch off the laptop, and pick up your pen and paper to start drawing your ideas! For many of us, this is a real opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to do something that you will probably feel inherently embarrassed about... your drawing ability. Or at least, I know that's how I feel about! I expect "I can't draw" is the stock response that Nora and Heather would have heard a thousand times in their work!

But... I've never been one to shy away from things I can't do... often with mixed results. So, I've been carrying the book around with me over the last week, taking advantage of any quiet moments to put my "artistic" skills to the test, using some of the exercises proposed in the book and doodling away in my notepad. Confession... I could not bring myself to write/draw in the book itself (as the authors suggest). It's just too neat and nice to look at... I really didn't want to ruin it with my mad scribbles!


Particularly interesting exercises for me were to think about what I was juggling, and what would happen if I didn't do it all (image above from the book). As I drew out my own version of this on a piece of A3 paper, it's not necessarily that I learned lots of new things, but rather I started to grasp the scale of the challenge. I also found myself drawing lines, squiggles and doodles that have no particular meaning, but which for me seemed to help the clarity!

There are loads of great exercises like this, and some fantastic overlap with the mind mapping world. For example, this exercise below encourages you to map out your network. I took the time to do this, and immediately thought of a number of people that I needed to contact about some upcoming projects. It's easy to assume that we have everything in control because it's in our computers/email somewhere, but actually, this illustrates to me that we need to test our brain every now and then without the electronics to see what it comes up with. It seems to do a pretty good job when engaged through visual approaches like this!


I find hand writing things quite therapeutic. In fact, I write a lot. If you visit the Biggerplate office in Oxford (which you are welcome to do) you will see a vast array of Liam notebooks, most of which are about half full and full of whatever was bouncing around my brain at the time. Unfortunately I have awful hand-writing. As in, people can't actually read it. For example, when I gave a member of my family a birthday card recently, they thought it was sweet that I had my 6 year old nephew write the message. He didn't... it was me.

I also like drawing. Other members of the Biggerplate team will tell you that I have a habit of drawing amazingly useless squiggles and "diagrams" during workshops and meetings which (I think) enhance and explain what I'm saying. In reality, I don't think they help other people at all. Especially when combined with my writing. But, here's the thing... both the terribly hand written notes, and the mad drawing scribbles help clarify MY thinking hugely.

It is much the same as mind mapping. Some maps are not necessarily for the consumption of others, and therefore have a particular style/madness that works really well for you as the creator, but which would probably not work at all for anyone else. The same is true with drawing our ideas. Yes, I have terrible writing, and yes, I cannot draw. But it's ok, because the clarity I get from the process is significant. This is why more of us should take the time to step away from the screen, and engage parts of our brain that are maybe not getting the chance to shine!

While there may be talented people out there like Nora and Heather (and Derrick from their team who did the amazing visual recording at BPUN16) the key message I take from this book is that the rest of us should still be giving this a go on a regular basis, because we will all (most likely) get some benefit regardless. Whether or not it's a good idea for me to keep inflicting my "helpful" diagrams on my team is still up for debate, but maybe with help from Nora and Heather, I can improve that too...!

Draw Your Big Idea is available to purchase here on Amazon

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Liam is the founder of, and tries (with varying success) to write about key projects and progress at Biggerplate, as well as the wider world of mind mapping and our place within it.
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