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6/12/2015
03:06 PM
David Wagner
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Adult Coloring Boosts Productivity

If you want your IT team to get things done, break out a pack of crayons and some coloring books at work.

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The next time your IT team is stuck for a creative solution to a problem, I suggest you break out the crayons and start coloring. Better yet, I suggest you integrate coloring into your disaster planning, network architecture, and anything else for which you need a map or chart.

Don't feel childish. Coloring has been proven to boost creativity and memory, improve our engagement at work, and lower stress. Read this, and you'll run out to buy a Crayola Big Box with the sharpener in the back for your whole team.

Your brain likes color. It helps it sort information and stay engaged. In fact, I'm going to give you a little blast of color right now to help you retain the rest of this article.

You know this about color instinctively as a business person. You don't create black-and-white ads if you can afford color. Your corporate logo probably isn't gray. Studies show brand recognition improves by 80% when color is added. Imagine the Coca-Cola logo without the red background. People will read an ad 42% more often if it is color. This is a normal part of business. Why aren't you putting it into practice in other places?

Simply adding color to text allows for 35% faster reading in autistic children. Adding color to text enhances memory in Alzheimer's patients. Students engage more of their brain when reading a text in color.

Think of it like doodling, another habit often maligned in the business world. Doodling has been proven to keep people's attention, to keep them more engaged, and to help connect memories from a lecture or meeting. People who doodle, even with abstract lines and patterns, recall more than people who don't. Coloring is doodling on steroids, because color turns on our brain.

[ And this true of some of the short attention span we have on the Internet, too. Read Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine. ]

Instinctually, it is clear many of us feel this. In April, the top two bestselling books on Amazon were coloring books for adults. (Both are still in the top 20.) Five of the ten best-selling books in England recently were adult coloring books. If you have kids, you know that coloring with them is a secret pleasure. I dare you to say it isn't.

In 1982, noted anthropology professor Adrienne Zilhman put out a college-level textbook-as-coloring-book called The Human Evolution Coloring Book. That book, still in print, spawned many copycats in other fields. Working with color is a proven way to learn. It has decades of scientific backing.

You've almost certainly seen this anatomy book in college bookstores. It's a best-seller and a common part of early anatomy education:

(Image: Pearson via Amazon)

(Image: Pearson via Amazon)

Yet, I know if your CEO came into your department and saw your whole team coloring, he'd have questions and potentially a pink slip for you. It is a shame really. So here's the deal: If you can't get away with pulling out the coloring books, I want you to pull out the colored markers and hand-draw, in color, your data center, your network, your org charts -- anything. Color-code them. Fill in the boxes with colors that have meaning to you.

It will help your brain encode the information. You will learn it faster and retain it better. You'll be more creative, so you'll see flaws in the design. You'll loosen up and have a little fun. The stress release will be good for your health and for your team. Reducing stress even cuts down on sick days, so your team will be more productive. Color. It's good for you. It's good for your company.

Here's the thing: The sales of adult coloring books, the number of doodlers in meetings, the people secretly enjoying coloring their kids' restaurant place mats all show we're all into this instinctively. Why are we resisting at work in the name of looking business-like? Here's a starting picture for you to try. Go nuts.

What do you think? Have I convinced you to try it? Will you break out the crayons at your next meeting? What would be the response in your company if you tried it? Let me know in the comments section below.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2015 | 5:18:30 AM
Re: Coloring your business
nomi, that's what I thought. :) The office can become some sort of break from home activities, which I imagine can be a little too much some times. -Susan
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2015 | 10:54:24 AM
Re: Coloring your business
nomi, I am not sure that going to the office with your kids to play with coloring books would work quite well. Using colors in the office to have a more colorful environment to boost productivity, good mood, etc, is one thing, but go to the office to play with your kids is different. -Susan
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/15/2015 | 12:33:17 PM
Re: Lots of ways to boost creativity
@whoopty- I think the key is not to avoid work but integrating creativity and exercise into work so that work isn't work either. But it requires changing the idea of what work looks like in the workplace.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/14/2015 | 4:17:46 AM
Re: Coloring your business
nomi, was that a business environment? -Susan
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
6/13/2015 | 3:46:20 AM
Coloring your business
Dave, 

Startups use a lot more color in everything than other companies. When I visit startup offices one of the most notorious thing is the presence of color everywhere, in decoration, on message boards full of colorful post-its, different color coffee cups, big color cushions in the resting area, etc. 

I believe it's an old concept to think that business has to always be black and white. 

-Susan
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2015 | 5:27:52 PM
coloring
I was a doodler in school. From what I see, I drew a lot better than my kids do; they don't doodle in the same way. Practice improves even when done casually. Anyway, now that I feel tethered to a keyboard while working, I find I don't really doodle much.  
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