What your paper choice says about your innovation mode

I’ve worked in all sorts of innovation environments. In my consulting career I found myself in wet labs, factories, and product development groups where people had lab books, white coats, and safety goggles as they roamed the halls. As a business person, I find myself in conference rooms and operational centers. In the world of design I work in studios and workshops. And in the world of identifying new technologies and partners, I find myself in co-working spaces and accelerators.

I’ve noticed that when I sit down in any of these environments, I am reminded of my context by the paper I see in front of me. With a few exceptions, I typically see the culture of my context expressed by:

Science & Engineering: Grid paper

Commercial & Financial: Ruled paper

Creative: Blank paper (or dot-grid)

Entrepreneurial: Whatever paper happens to be on hand

I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule to emerge from this observation, but I do take it as a sign of what the primary culture of innovation might be in the context where I find myself.

So, I encourage you to do this one small thing to shake up your thinking: take a look at what you write, draw, or doodle on (and if you are 100% electronic, I encourage you to experience the tactile experience of analog notes.) Now go find another type of paper and use it for a little while to see what sort of ideas come to mind. If you are used to lines, the freedom of a blank sheet may be intriguing. If you are used to a blank sheet, perhaps a grid will spur some new thinking. If you are familiar with the spatial directionality of a grid, then the linear nature of ruled paper may offer a new perspective.

If you want to go even further, check out the page ruling from “The Hard Work Notebook”:

Image and product are from: https://www.etsy.com/listing/212150339/hard-work-notebook-made-from-stone-with

(First published on http://www.sutherlandlabs.com/blog/)