I was meeting with a senior executive who said he wanted to learn about franchising best practice. Although he was polite and asked some good questions, I soon realised we were both wasting our time. Despite several very specific suggestions targeted to his company’s situation, this guy had not written anything down.
Taking notes is a pet topic of mine. This is because I have consistently observed the most successful people in a room are usually the ones taking the most notes. Whether it’s staff in a discussion, franchisees in a conference, franchisor executives in a workshop, or clients in a meeting, it’s the people taking notes who are the most engaged and the most likely to take action on what they’ve heard.
The smartest guy in the room
A few years ago I led a two day boot camp with over 100 franchise operations executives from Focus Brands. I was a little apprehensive when I learned the CEO, Russ Umphenour, was going to attend the full program, as CEOs sometimes can overshadow these sessions. However Russ sat quietly at a front table for the entire two days and wrote more notes than any person in the room. A few days later he sent me an enthusiastic note saying how much he had learned. This is a man widely regarded as one the most experienced franchisor executives in the USA.
Whether you use a Spirax pad (my favourite), an iPad or a napkin, taking notes is what differentiates you from being passively entertained to being an active learner. And your notes don’t need to all be in words. Squiggles or “mud maps” can be even more effective in helping you remember concepts or make sense of what someone is saying.
Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard
By the way there is some compelling research by psychologists, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, that writing with a pen or stylus rather than using a keyboard is more effective for learning and remembering concepts. Their 2014 research suggests writing engages the brain more dynamically than typing. So if you are wanting to absorb and learn concepts rather than just make a note of facts, a note pad is probably a better choice.
There is one more reason why smart people take notes. It has more to do with emotional intelligence. When you take notes it communicates respect for the person speaking. This is important in discussions with franchisees, particularly when they are telling you things they feel strongly about. By noting their thoughts and concerns, you are in effect saying “I am paying attention and taking you seriously, and I will probably do something with what you have just told me.”
I opened this article with a story about a guy wanting to learn franchising best practice. I’d suggest a great place to start would be getting yourself into the habit of taking notes.