Some business tasks are just better suited for paper. No matter what kinds of technological leaps may occur, there will always be a place in the enterprise for the pen and pad, as well as specialized hard copy forms. The question is: Which situations and tasks call for paper, and why?
Let's dive into some circumstances in which paper is clearly the best bet, and explain the true power of this timeless medium.
Sure, BIM solutions and Photoshop are powerhouse programs for designers, but when it comes to sketching out preliminary ideas for a website, product or workflow, there's no beating the creative flexibility that paper offers.
Artists, architects and even front-end web developers will all agree that paper is the best bet, especially in the early and intermediate stages of a project. Even when software eventually comes into the picture, there's value to be had with hard copy archives.
"There's a degree of craftsmanship with pen and paper that doesn't really exist in the digital realm," stated Matthew Hughes, contributor to Make Use Of.
It's far easier to flip open a notepad and jot down important information than it is to fire up a smartphone application and type out the details. In fast-paced business scenarios, especially in sales and networking, it's nearly impossible to outpace the versatility and speed of a notepad.
Hughes, in his piece for Make Use Of, recalled a story in which he and a colleague needed to take down the same email address. While Hughes fumbled with his smartphone password and flipped through his contact list, his associate had already jotted down the address into his book.
"Guess which one took longer? Yep. You guessed it. Not paper," wrote Hughes. "Sometimes the technological solution isn't the quickest or most elegant solution. Crazy, right?"
The best business ideas happen off the cuff, and in a brainstorming session, things move quickly. Not only does paper offer a quicker and more natural way to throw around new concepts and creations, it's also better for focusing a group on task, keeping the distractions of the web out of the picture.
Asvertising, marketing or PR agency staff members will surely say that paper is their preferred format for taking down notes during a brainstorm. It's simple, fast and helps the group gain momentum in the creative process, distraction-free.
Of course, a notepad is perfect for putting that winning idea down on paper during a commute or hopping out of the shower.
Everybody has attended a presentation that either moves too quickly or seems to drag on for ages. Regardless of the pace, most people walk out of these meetings without a clear idea of the takeaway points. Paper can come to the rescue if presentation leaders take a few minutes to print a cheat sheet.
Paper is also essential for remembering the information taken down in notes, and according to Hughes, this is backed by science.
"There's a reason why we remember hand-written notes," he explained. "It requires focus. There's mountains of peer-reviewed evidence which conclusively shows that hand-writing notes ensures greater memory retention."
From the C-suite down to the staff member front lines, everybody in the enterprise begins the day with a set of tasks to accomplish. How each individual approaches time and task management, on the other hand, is a different story.
As business school attendee Leslie Moser wrote in an article for The Muse, a pen-and-paper to-do list has proven time and again to be the most effective format, and there's no denying that a hectic grad school schedule is comparable to the workload of the average enterprise employee.
"Not only does it help me be really efficient during my busy business school days, prioritize my tasks, and work even when I don't have cell data, but there is literally nothing more satisfying than crossing a completed task off of an actual list," wrote Moser.
Although electronic signatures do exist, there's no denying that a classic cursive sign-off is standard operating procedure in the business world. Executives young and old can appreciate the tactile satisfaction of signing documents that point the business in an exciting new direction.