Visual thinking is an approach that uses art to develop critical thinking, communication and visual literacy skills. Incorporating sketching and visual note-taking skills for meeting facilitation in real time instead of using PowerPoint presentations is an effective way to solve problems, articulate ideas and communicate with clients and team members.
Here are ten things about visual thinking that will help you to facilitate a highly interactive, productive and enjoyable meeting.
1. Communicating visually is not new, but it is still underused in the business world. Visual design thinking started in the seventies by a group of pioneering visual facilitators in the San Francisco Bay area. The Grove Consultants started running visual meetings and then training people in the process of visual thinking methods. The increased interest in incorporating visual practice in the business world has been seen in the past five years. Today, the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) has 146 members globally.
2. What exactly is visual thinking? Using a set of tools, including a pen and paper, markers, index cards or chart paper, allows users to visualize ideas and think about complex issues and communicate more effectively. Common uses of visual thinking are strategic planning, brainstorming, project start-up, team building and key note presentations, to name few. Check out this video on industry leader Sunni Brown to learn more about the practice.
3. You don't have to be an artist. Approximately 60 per cent of the population thinks visually; however, to be a visual communicator you do not need to be a gifted artist. If you can draw a box, an arrow or a stick figure, then you can be successful. To get started, think about the visual constructs used within your current business today. Consider working with a visual practitioner consultant to do some simple visualization examples of current issues and action plans.
4. Be a stand-out presenter. PowerPoint presentations are boring. Some of the best pitches and plans require nothing more than a one page drawing or a picture to explain them. A pen and a piece of paper is all that is required. Have fun and challenge your staff to capture a company position or action item using a graphic visualization facilitator.
5. Use graphic recording. A graphic recorder creates a story map of a presentation, discussion or a entire event in real time on 4'x8' chart paper. The graphic recording provides a visual record for the group to refer to but also stimulates peoples' interest during the meeting itself.
6. Or use graphic facilitation. A graphic facilitator engages people in meetings while also weaving in a graphic component to the process in real time, using 4'x8' chart paper. It is a highly interactive process, which helps participants to visualize the information, clarify meaning, organize thoughts, plan and reach agreements. Engage and work with a visual practitioner consultant on an existing presentation and consider how the message can be augmented with visual thinking graphics.
7. How do the processes work? The graphic facilitator or recorder will meet with a client to plan and discuss desired outcomes that the client is trying to achieve, as well as key themes and content. Understand the differences of visual practice and consider how you might use these individual skill sets in an upcoming strategic planning session or a customer presentation.
8. It's efficient. Incorporating visual graphics in meetings offers a streamlined process for the group to follow. Working graphically is efficient and effective – as a result, it saves time, money, and much aggravation. Plan ahead and frame your possible outcomes as a guidance piece for the visual practitioner consultant. Working visually enriches facilitation and group learning, addresses visual learning, stimulates fresh thinking and provides direction and clarity.
9. Develop your drawing skills. A 'graphic jam' is a way to practice drawing pictures. Take 20 small plain square pieces of paper and ask a friend to create 20 words – time yourself for 30 second intervals and draw an image of each word. These new pictures will be the start of your icon library. Encourage your staff to think visually and develop this as a new skill set for their armamentarium.
10. Outcome. Visual communication offers a common language for teamwork across all businesses of an organization. The completed real-time meeting visuals can be digitized and shared immediately. The end result is large scale murals designed to bring an exciting and distinctive component to an event. The visual graphic representation is a summation of this point in time and/or your thinking process that will live on long after the meeting chairs have been vacated. The completed chart will be a powerful take-away that allows the meeting participants to relive the experience.
Leslie-Ann Miller is the founder of Graphic Facilitator and principal at Ripple Think Inc .