Steven Forth is a Co-Founder of TeamFit. See his Skill Profile.

 

People trained in engineering and design tend to be good at working with their pencils and sketching solutions.

Sketching. If you have it you take it for granted, if you don’t have it, you are barely aware it is a skill. But it is, and an important one in a world where we need to learn and communicate new ideas, explore options, and find connections.

Take our quick survey on critical skills. (Three minutes)

Sketching does show up in our Skill Graph, but in a part that is currently sparsely populated. It is categorized as a Design skill, I might argue that it is actually Foundational, a visual form of writing (skills that are part of the Skill Graph are called out in bold italics in these Critical Skills blog posts). Associated skills in the Skill Graph are all categorized as design skills.

  • Drafting
  • Design
  • Drawing

Some of the most important art work of all time has come in the form of sketches. One of the best examples is Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci sketched to explore ideas and many of his most famous inventions, art works and ideas began as sketches.

Everything from new machines,

to anatomy …

to deep patterns in nature, like the flow of water and waves.

Students in design disciplines are also taught to sketch and many architects like Le Corbusier

or Frank Gehry routinely create sketches that inspire others in their own work.

Our design team sketch as part of their work as well. Here are some sketches from our director of product design Gregory Ronczewski.

And some more from N-Q Chang who leads design for Ibbaka made as she was working on the integration of service design with pricing (you can see the final versions here).

Even our engineers sketch (this is by Aleks Arsovski who is working on our Competency Modelling Environment).

However, our CTO Lee Iverson tells us that he prefers to sketch in code. This makes me think of the close connection between sketching and note taking and the way many good notes combine words with small drawings and lines showing the connections.

Pulling together diverse conversations on sketching, while reflecting on my own practice, (reflection also being a critical skill), I came up with the following preliminary model for the skill of sketching.

Any of us can learn to sketch. Keep a notebook and make doodles. Something as simple as drawing a line from one note to another is enough to get started. Get up and work on a whiteboard, preferably with other people, so that you can co-create sketches. There is even an old game where you do this called exquisite corpse (it was invented by the Surrealists back in the 1920s and people still play it today). All of us can learn to sketch, and it is one of those skills, like play, that pays unexpected dividends.