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Working smarter?

Today I have vowed to give up my tablet for note taking for 16 weeks (stifles sob).  This is all in the cause of attempting to be a better note taker, sorry, knowledge gatherer, meeting planner, analyst and generally just make the hours that I spend in meetings more effective.

So, today myself and a number of colleagues from the LDC and Library spent a day with the rather charismatic and persuasive  Jonathan Kemp (a City alumnus) learning how to record meetings using a tool called SmartWisdom.  SmartWisdom is designed to improve your skills in meetings so that you can analyse, record and process the information you are given much more effectively (up to 20% more effectively even).  By using this method you are more likely to see gaps in the information you are recording, recall knowledge much more effectively – not just after the meeting but weeks later – and ask more probing questions as well as improve your comprehension. There could be some good applications for student support and research activity. There has already been some published research on use of technique successfully with dyslexic students. It looks a bit weird and involves lots of curved lines radiating out from concentric circles with words written over the top of them (a bit like a mind map but it is not a mind map as it is more complex).  And a special pen – v important ;)

This may all seem like a bit of hype, but the premise is that the way most of us take notes was learnt at school and is not really applicable to the way we are expected to record, process and use information and knowledge in our daily work.  As an avid note taker and a fast typist I do find frequently that I am desperately trying to record notes on presentations etc whilst at the same time my mind is going off on tangents and I always think of the good questions when I get out of the room and re-read my notes later.  Or I just look at my notes in a meeting and feel like my head will pop.  Hence being interested in this technique as something different.  I agree that I was never really taught to take notes and I certainly haven’t been given any specific skills other than those I may or may not have developed in how to record and recall information from meetings. Over the last few weeks I have been very cognisant of  behaviour at conferences and other meetings/events where I am attempting to process a lot of information fast and intelligently. And I have realised that my brain hurts and I am not doing this very well.  This was particularly apparent when attempting to give a verbal summary of an external event I went too as well as write up my copious notes as a report, nevermind trying to read them for good, probing questions in the meeting itself! Or I have an idea, arrange a meeting then get to the meeting weeks later only to wonder on earth my brilliant idea was. Oh dear. I need help!

The technique is paper-based initially and mindful of my role as a leader, I have agreed to revert to paper (sob, sniff) whilst I get to grips with the curvy lines and coloured annotations so that I can model the way and support the ten of us going through this.  In the practice sessions today I found it very hard, but it was good to get out of my learning comfort zone and try something new. And I could see the benefits. I’m sure the ten of us were all a bit sceptical (sorry Jonathan) but we are all up for giving it a go. So, deep breath, here goes.

If any of you are lucky enough (!) to encounter me in a meeting with a rather fat, A4 notebook (knowledge book) and a lovely 4 coloured biro pen, frowning at a page of curves and capital letters, please ask me what I am doing. I will tell you I am using an advanced information gathering, analysis and knowledge recall technique.  And if I say that enough I will believe it and then I will be able to do it. I should also be better prepared for meetings too which can only be a good thing – so no more winging it. Watch this space to find out how we all get on…..

2 People have left comments on this post

» Mike said: { Oct 18, 2010 - 11:10:30 }

The published research can be found here:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00906.x (access required for full article)

» Martin Oliver said: { Oct 19, 2010 - 03:10:05 }

[laughs] I admire your self-sacrifice. Very noble.

Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that (unless it’s something like an interview panel) if it’s important I’ll write it down in 2-3 words in my week-to-view diary, and if it’s not I’ll just try and remember it. I’m know that one or two things slip through the net, but honestly, it’s not that much. Plus it saves me from jotting down a ton of stuff I will never, ever bother to look at again, which is what I used to do, and which I think caused problems in a “wood for the trees” kind of way.

It’s really very liberating. I find very few meetings are really worth “knowledge gathering” in such excruciating detail.

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