How Would You Design a Template for a Visual Facilitation Session?


How would you design a template for a brainstorming session? 


Visual Practitioners Matteo Becchi and Barb Siegel gave this challenge to a group of OD Practitioners.  The requirements were simple:

1. Use the template to track ideas generated.

2. Identify two or three ideas that will be researched for feasibility.

3. Keep track of who would be responsible for follow through on these ideas.


Our goal was to give facilitators an idea of some of the decisions graphic facilitators make while we record conversations.  Three groups produced four very different templates produced. (see the drawing)

four templates.jpg


Consider how each template reflects different assumptions about how the conversation would be carried out, as well as how ideas are generated.  The head image clearly shows that three ideas will be researched.  But what about other ideas?  Will the meeting end as soon as three ideas pop up?  Most likely, yes.  We tend to fill in blank space and as soon as the blank space is filled we feel like we have done our job.


The seascape shows many fish; most likely many more ideas will be generated.  Ideas will then caught and selected and later these ideas might be mixed with others, i.e. put into a sushi roll or cooked into a gourmet meal.  This chart makes clear that the goal of the meeting is to generate ideas and then select a few for further research.


The group that created the cement mixer template understood that brainstorming is not the best way to generate ideas.  On this template, ideas are played with in a sandbox then put into a mixer where they may change significantly during discussion.  By the time the meeting ends it may be that no one individual can claim ownership of the idea, rather the group generated it.  However, note that they do have construction managers to follow through.


Finally, let’s look at the box template.  For a group that is less open to wild ideas, this template will look reassuring.  No one is influencing them with metaphor and everyone can understand the intention and flow of the meeting immediately.    This can be a tremendous plus.


Three groups, four ideas.  Visuals can be extremely powerful!

Using Visuals to Understand Complexity

We are systems

We are systems

As practitioners of complexity visualization and thinking, we simply look at complex environments differently. What we do is make the invisible visual — we help reveal through imagery the unique properties of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS),  the parts, the whole and the greater whole, so our clients can see where they fit into their systems.

Plexus Catalysts and Visual Facilitators Barb Siegel and Amanda Lyons are creating a catalog of visual prompts and tools for conversations around applying complexity science to human systems. We draw out what it feels like to be in a system  – literally.  While our styles and outputs are different, we both believe that understanding complexity science concepts and applying them differentiates our work.

Time to Think

Time_to_think (1).png

Time to Think (Nancy Kline) is literally a methodology for giving people time to think. Giving a quiet moment for people's minds to process information and consider more than their first thought is a powerful way to conduct conversation.


Time to Think resonated with me immediately.  Then I discovered that my career path is not dissimilar to Kline's journey:  from working with bright but learning challenged students to working with adults in business settings. Taking the time to listen to the differently structured minds of children with learning differences led me to recognize and understand cognitive strategies of all kinds of minds.   And the understanding led to the hard work of how to help these frustrated children succeed.  Once I was able to help different learners it became very easy to help ‘typical’ people learn better. 


I was introduced to this book and methodology by South African education activist Louise Van Rhyn who prefaced it by saying Time to Think is not well known in the US.  Let’s all read this book, we all need Time to Think.


Tim Allen and thinking differently

One of my favorite Profs from undergraduate days. 

I don't know if I already thought different or if I was just ready to hear Tim Allen's mind blowing ideas.  In any case, when I was introduced to complexity science the ideas felt familiar and comfortable.  Tim was teaching complexity before there was a name for it.  This five minute video is worth watching, he understands the use of visuals, and even with only his hands as props, it helps to see how he illustrates some of the concepts.


Neurocognition and Graphic Recording

My talk at EU Viz  on Neurocognition and Graphic recording went well.  Michelle Boos-Stone told me, "In 90 min. I got more info on the brain than in years of study.  Thank you - this will really impact my work."  I will be writing a white paper on my talk so that graphic recorders can refer to brain based reasons for why graphic recording and visual culture works. 

It was quite exciting to be at EUViz in Berlin, seeing my tribe gather from all parts of the world to talk about how we use graphic recording and how to improve our craft.  One of my take aways was watching David Sibbet draw a person looking at a road from two perspectives.  The multiple viewpoints were understood from not only two perspectives, but two people.  All done quickly and very subtly.  Learning from David Sibbet was a highlight.


The past months were very busy.  Lucinda Levine and I gave a workshop on visual metaphor and using it as a tool to spark innovation in groups . Wonderful to get non-artists comfortable and drawing 'on the wall.'  We really got deep into peoples awareness of using the non-verbal metaphor to understand what someone else is trying to communicate.  

Also did several fabulous gigs working for a variety of new clients.  I'm still surprised when I'm in a room of people who have never seen graphic recording done before.  And I always let them know that the real power is in returning to the images later, as they stimulate many more memories when looking only at typical minutes.

Recorded at Sunlight Foundation's Transparency Camp a few weeks ago.  Was in a session where I had no clue as to what they were going to talk about, but somehow, through my listening skills, I managed to be very helpful - about API's in Federal Government.

THAT Camps

Participated in T.H.A.T. (digital humanities) camp at George Washington University.  There I ran into the Sunlight Foundation's Amy Cesal, who I had met at World Information Architecture Day.  I also recorded a session focussing on ways to transcribe the Smithsonian's vast treasure of recorded archives so that scholars can access the material.  Lots of fun.