Zen Doodling with Doug Shaw – A moment in the life of the GameShift community

Lots of people are saying that this virtual world is hard. That it’s relentless, and that there’s no space for the informal connection of chats around the water cooler.

We certainly know this experience – having moved our entire practice online (mostly onto Zoom and Teams). Being creative together is a large part of our purpose – the point of GameShift is to see the world differently to allow newness to emerge for ourselves and for others. So we’ve had to explore fast how to make the most of virtual spaces as places of collaboration and artful exploring.

We thought we’d share one of our practices – courtesy of our colleague, Partner and Artist in Residence Doug Shaw.

In September, Doug used one of our regular GameShift Hangout sessions to invite our community into his practice of Zen doodling. It took an hour or so. Here’s a bit about what it is and how people found the experience.

Over to those involved.

Dough Shaw

Doug Shaw, Artist and organisation consultant

“Zen doodling is a simple, effective form of creative practice. It often feels quite meditative, and a bit ‘enso-ish’ – empty the mind to let creativity emerge. On this occasion we followed a simple geometric exploration, and the process itself Is very adaptive. Part way through our session, one of the group (Philippa) asked if we could introduce colouring. We hadn’t planned it, but we just did it and it ‘worked’.

We also played with an idea which I call ‘Mondrian’s Marvellous Mood Machine’. This involves mark making within and around a framework. This hand drawn container provides a chance to see how many ways we can use simple tools. It’s a crucible for exploring, for being curious together.

Thinking differently through creative practice is a great way of meeting differently in a virtual space. We do it with the cameras and mics on. The sounds of pens and paper and gentle “to and fro” of conversation is part of the work. It’s another kind of human meeting.

We go gently. It’s accessible – we are drawing for the bin, not aiming for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Joining in together in participative art helps us think, feel and do things differently – let’s play and explore that together. As a bonus, along the way we get to confound some limiting beliefs”


Voices of the team

“The simplicity of the process was its brilliance.  As someone who would never ever describe myself as artistically capable, what emerged surprised me in its variety, its creativeness and the energy that it gave me.  Each of the patterns that I drew brought to mind thoughts and experiences that I hadn’t considered for years.”

Philippa Hardman



“This process slowed us down to a common speed as we focused on this enchanting task, which was a lovely balance of complex and simple. We talked sporadically and listened to each other as we drew. It was great to take a simple tool – a pencil – and explore in depth what it can allow us to create in this gentle and generative space, and throughout, the exercises brought up some wonderful insights into the way we work – the value of knowing how much is good enough, and the value of leaving out as well as adding.”

Mark Harmer



“Doug simply gave us an introduction and a basic rule to create the Zen drawing. It started off well, and then led to me experimenting with different techniques and ways of doing. During the session I was completely relaxed and developed a deep focus. I can see how this type of practice could benefit my day to day activities in the office and at home. As a group, we worked independently but in the same space together. Drawing for the bin also took the pressure off massively as I do not see myself as good at art, but over a few minutes I was able to see it all coming together.”

Richard Nichols





“I found this a really relaxing way to chill out with colleagues and be creative in an easy way. Lovely to have spontaneous conversations as a group, moments of quite concentration and moments of warm sharing, allowing us to get to know each other a bit more.”

Martine Simmonds




“Through work alongside others, catching glimpses of them out of the corner of an eye, or hearing their pens, pencils or paper move, I found a sense of community and different connection from a normal zoom was possible & we got to know each other in new ways.”

James Barlow


So what?

It seems to me that this is a simple practice that brings a lot of value to the virtual team world of organisations. Through shared creation, through a different pace and form of online conversation, new things, new connections, new possibilities can happen. It brings a live human possibility to what can sometimes be a machine bounded place and space.

If you’d like a conversation about it, click here and we will put Doug in touch.