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Where pen and paper knock digital for six

By Lee Hopkins

In discussion with two non-blogging colleagues today (yes, Virginia, there are people who don’t blog!), it became a point of agreement that whilst the advent of computers has certainly been invaluable in many aspects of business and life, there are a few things where they have over-promised and under-delivered:

  1. Delivering the 3-day working week, wherein computers would save us so much time that our weeks would be comprised mostly of leisure time (this view was popular in the mid 1970s);

  2. Being all-powerful and all-conquering knowledge-management tools, wherein knowledge, ideas, insight and introspection could be digitally stored and transmitted, saving the planet’s tree resources from the (now redundant) paper requirements (the ‘paper-less office’ was a key component of this).

Of course, none of this has happened.

John and Janet -- the finest example of computerless communication known to manWalk into any manager’s office today and their desk, unless they are exceptionally tidy* is an organised chaos. The paper-less office is no closer to them than the news that they’ve won this week’s lottery and they can now quit work and retire on their own tropical island.

So too with organisation. Yes, digital organisation has a place — I love my OneNote and MindManager (and Catriona showed me some fabbo MindManager tricks today that just blew me away, which reminds me that I need to thank her again for suggesting I purchase it; “thanks, Catriona!”). I love how Outlook can sync with my mobile phone, turning it into a pda.

I love blogging and podcasting, the joining into conversation with folks on the other side of the earth. I’m a sucker for the latest software upgrades on Office, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, inter alia. No digital slouch, I.

But there must be a reason, apart from very clever niche marketing, for the Lazarus-like re-emergence of Moleskines as the litidigerati toy of choice. There must be a reason, apart from Doug’s a jolly good fellow, for why D*I*Y Planner is so popular.

I believe that it’s because not only is there something sensual and visceral about the relationship between pen/pencil, paper and hand, but also that ‘writing things down’ (as distinct from ‘typing things up’) [huh??] is sometimes quicker, easier and more permanent.

I keep a lot of my project information written down in purpose-built comb-bound documents that I compile using D*I*Y Planner sheets; a discussion with a colleague today led me to design another sheet, for tracking the ins-outs-and-whereabouts of documents as they make their way around an endless round of stakeholder signoffs and design studio mock-ups; another colleague swears by the power of the paper memo with attached signature sheet, so that it can be instantly seen who has read/signed and who hasn’t.

All three examples offer several benefits:

Perhaps in this age of ‘chips with everything’ there is the place, along with the printed employee newsletter, for the humble printed memo, the humble printed sign-off sheet, and the humble printed tracker.

*If the disorganised desk is the sign of a disorganised mind, then what’s an empty desk the sign of?


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Reports I have written:

Measuring the impact and ROI of social media
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making social media work for your business
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: the new business communication landscape
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing

How to use social media to engage employees
Contributing author to How to use social media to engage employees - for Melcrum Publishing

Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing

 

 

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