Why you should sketch out your idea?

The il­lu­sion of agree­ment. How many times has this hap­pened to you? You have a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple on your team about build­ing some­thing. You ar­rive at an agree­ment about that vi­sion. Then they go off to build that thing. A few weeks later, they come back to un­veil what you agreed on—ex­cept it looks ab­so­lutely noth­ing like you had dis­cussed.

Your first im­pulse might be to think they weren’t lis­ten­ing. But chances are, that’s not the case. Most likely, they heard you loud and clear, but they were see­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. It’s a symp­tom of a prob­lem I’ve come to call the il­lu­sion of agree­ment.

Here’s the prob­lem: You have some­thing in your head. I have some­thing in my head. Both of us think it’s the same thing be­cause we’re agree­ing out loud, but in­side—in our own minds—we’re see­ing dif­fer­ent scenes. I can see only mine, and you can see only yours. This isn’t a pub­lic stage— it’s ev­ery­one’s per­sonal back­stage. It’s like we’re each in our own dress­ing rooms look­ing in the mir­ror and think­ing we’re see­ing what some­one else is see­ing as well. So sketch your idea out.

Let’s explore these three benefits of sketching in more detail.

1. A variety of ideas
Sketching is great for rapid idea generation. A pencil or a marker and a piece of paper invite loose exploration. Remember to keep on generating ideas—you’ll want to push past that first bunch of surface ideas to get the deeper concepts out of your head.

The key to generating many ideas is to withhold judgment of them as good or bad until your sketching session is complete. First capture the ideas, letting them flow without worrying if they’re any good. Wait until you’re finished to judge and filter.

2. Explore the alternatives
Sketching offers you the freedom to explore alternative ideas. Early in a project it’s important to see a variety of different ideas so you can choose the best option. Sketching works well for this, as you can explore those varied ideas quickly.

When you’re sketching, your mind is free to play and explore other directions that surface. Sketches help filter out “rabbit hole” ideas—concepts that are impossible to produce or impractical to deliver on. Drawing out ideas works as an early detection system—revealing potential issues before significant time is invested.

This is the time to ask “what if?” and explore the answers that pop into your head. Questions like “What if we could…” or “What if we were limited by…” can help break through the structures your mind forms around problems.

3. Foster better discussions
Sketches have an amazing ability to foster discussions about ideas. With colleagues and especially clients, I’ve found sketches give everyone involved the permission to consider, talk about, and challenge the ideas they represent. After all, it’s just a sketch.

Because sketches are unfinished and loose, they invite commentary. There is a latitude inherent in a sketch that seems to magically open the door for others to offer ideas—often thoughts you couldn’t come up with from your singular perspective.

When you look at some­thing real, ev­ery­thing gets much clearer very quickly. You can free­think, you can brain­storm, you can make de­ci­sions. When you fi­nally shat­ter that il­lu­sion of agree­ment, you can ar­rive at an ac­tual agree­ment.

Check out my related post: How to do better at a job interview?

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