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Why sketchnoting is a great learning tool

As part of Learning at Work Week, DWP Digital's Hayley Goldthorpe explains why developing the skill of sketchnoting has helped her and other colleagues share knowledge and understanding.

I’m Hayley Goldthorpe, I’m a lead business analyst in DWP Digital’s Leeds Hub.

I think it’s really important that people continue to build on their skills and knowledge at work, and one of the things that I’ve been really passionate about learning over the last couple of years is sketchnoting.

Haley Goldthorpe, DWP Business Analyst
Hayley Goldthorpe, DWP Business Analyst

What is sketchnoting?

Sketchnoting is a way to document ideas in a very simple way, and it helps me remember some of the key things that I’ve learnt, whether I’ve been reading or book or if I’ve attended training, or the outputs from a meeting.

One of Hayley's sketchnotes
One of Hayley's sketchnotes

I did art and graphics at school, and in a previous job a graphic facilitator came in to draw out the organisation’s vision and strategy. I thought it was amazing and thought ‘How can I introduce this into my work?’

So I did a bit of research online and I’ve also done an online course so I’ve got a foundation on how to apply that technique.

It helps make complex things simple

I tend to do a lot of sketchnoting while I’m in meetings, trying to document what the key outputs are, if there’s anyone I need to get in contact with afterwards, themes, any actions that are coming out of the meeting, follow up points.

It’s something that triggers, or connects with your brain – instead of seeing plain black and white text, with a sketchnote the brain sees the colours or the images and it helps us understand things better. It helps make complex things quite simple.

Hayley at a sketch noting lunch and learn in DWP Digital
Hayley at a sketch noting lunch and learn in DWP Digital

I’ve run a number of lunch and learns on sketchnoting and it’s been great because I’ve been able to see the value of it – most people come in to the room thinking they can’t draw but at the sessions they are brave enough to stand at a whiteboard, have a go and draw that first line.

Afterwards people go back to their service and do an infographic or a sketchnote based on the problem that they’re facing as a team and that’s really helped them to understand and share what they’re trying to solve collectively.

Test it out with people you trust

When I’m trying to explain something to someone I find that I’m itching to pick up a pen and go to a whiteboard or go to a piece of paper. I just find it’s a natural way for me to explain things to people much easier and to get that shared understanding.

Hayley draws a sketch note at a business analysis event
Hayley draws a sketch note at a recent business analysis event

I’m still learning but I’m pleased that I’m still developing a skill that I’ve had for quite a long time and I’m using it and sharing it with the people that I work with.

So if you’re looking at sketchnoting or another skill or any other skill you want to use, start by testing it out in a safe environment with people that you trust - that will give you the confidence to go on to use that skill in your work.

Watch a short video of Hayley talking about how sketchnoting helps her learn as a business analyst.

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  1. Comment by Marie Cheung posted on

    Sketch noting is a great tool to use! Great to see more of this from you Hayley!

  2. Comment by Greg posted on

    very good blog. A great idea on how to retain ideas and put them into practice.

  3. Comment by David Morris posted on

    Please would you do a talk on this at work for us?

  4. Comment by Patrick posted on

    Nice one Hayley, great blog & video. Very interesting as always, and I'm inspired now to do more with sketchnotes 🙂

  5. Comment by Sam Hancock posted on

    Really interesting Hayley.

  6. Comment by Kevin O'Neill posted on

    Excellent blog post Hayley - I've done an online course too, and your blog is a good reminder to get on with it !

  7. Comment by Richard Baines posted on

    Very cool! My drawing skills are, well, I don't think I really have any yet (!) but I'm still going to give this a go in one of our next team meetings.

    • Replies to Richard Baines>

      Comment by Hayley Goldthorpe posted on

      That’s great to hear ! Just go for it!

    • Replies to Richard Baines>

      Comment by Hayley Goldthorpe posted on

      That’s great to hear ! Just go for it!

  8. Comment by Tony Morris posted on

    This looks really interesting - a new way to communicate ideas! Do you know of anyone in the North West of England who might be interested in holding a workshop on sketchnoting?

    • Replies to Tony Morris>

      Comment by Hayley Goldthorpe posted on

      Hi Tony, me and another colleague run a session on use of infographics and sketchnotes maybe it could be something we could explore running in the North West, reach out to me on Twitter if it’s something you would like to discuss further

  9. Comment by Mick Turnbull posted on

    Interesting, having recently left DWP, moved to Lloyds (right next door to DWP Digital in St Peters Square Manchester), we are embarking on a journey to communicate using sketches, I have tried a number of apps for the IPad Pro, but not found the perfect one just yet, do you have any suggestions?

    • Replies to Mick Turnbull>

      Comment by Hayley Goldthorpe posted on

      Hi Mick, I have tended to stick with paper / card and a range of Pens, but definitely something I would like to explore in the future, I have played around with a few Apps but not found anything yet that I’d recommend to anyone, keep me posted if you find anything!

  10. Comment by kethrine johns posted on

  11. Comment by Andrew Jenkins posted on

    That's interesting. I know this as rich pictures, part of soft systems methodology from 25 years ago.

  12. Comment by Phil Gillibrand posted on

    Hayley, great blog. What was the online course you did? Can you put in a link.