You Are Here

I love the malls. My biggest enjoyment in these massive places is people watching. You can learn so much about how we humans interact and react. Also, there is great inspiration in these shopping meccas. One inspiration I use came from a sign that almost all shoppers have see, read and referred. It’s a sign predominately display for all to see.. I am referring to the mall map. The sign that plots out all the shops by place and group of services or goods.

The mall map tells us so much about our environment. However, this sign in its entirety was not the source of my inspiration, rather the simple red dot icon and three words accompanying it. “You Are Here.” As a statement to anyone planning strategy, this hits home quickly and strongly. In order to plan, we need to know where we are on this very spot and in this current time. We need to know where “You Are Here” is.

Here is a visual exercise that I challenge anyone who is planning to move forward to answer ‘Who’ and ‘What’ holds you bank and drives you forward.

Hold Back Move Forward

 

Before you can move forward you need to know your “You Are Here.”

 

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Focusing The Conversation

Part of the role I am tasked with in my field is helping to uncover the underlining issues that most groups or individuals are overlooking or are unaware that exist. I traditionally do this through the use of visual translations and interactive visual thinking. It is important initially to make sure the goal is clear for the outcome of any meeting. As the role of facilitator, setting the path direction is key.

There are various methods used . All have their place and purpose. One idea I enjoy is starting any conversation with a question, but not your typical question. A question that becomes the focus lens to issues that may need to be uncovered. A question that is approachable, yet has very telling feedback. I call this a focusing question.

Focus Question

After introductions and everyone is comfortable and before the real work begins, introduce a index card with the question visualized above.

“____________ need(s) a way to _______________, because_________________________.”

Share with them that the first space, I’ll call the “Who”, should be filled with a person or persons that you feel are key to your group. It can be anyone from a customer, staff, executive or even family or friends. The second space, which I’ll call the “What”, is the key process or action that can not be achieved currently. And last is the “Why”. This is the reason or purpose for the need by a person or persons.

It is important to note that, by not directing them to a specific person, action or purpose, you begin the process of unlocking each person’s more urgent concern. Once completed, collect the responses and during the course of the event. Combine and tally all the participants responses on a grid. Now you can begin to see an insight into the underlining issues that maybe present, but not discussed.

Start the Conv

By initiating the conversation in this way, you have a guiding tool throughout the conversation/session that also allows to keep the conversation on track as well as providing content for deeper reflection after the event.

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Taking Action

An associate of mine and I were discussing a project he was undertaking over drinks. He explained to me some of the most complex issues and connections associated with a single project I have ever heard. So many moving parts that even the flow chart he created to “simplify” the decision-making process was overwhelming. I was constantly getting lost in the “What if’s” that I even couldn’t keep track of where I was along the plan. The worst part was neither could he as he tried to explain all the paths, conditions and consequences.

Time for a simpler view…

actions

I sketch this to explain a simple process. We make three possible decisions when presented with an issue. Either we agree and move forward, block and reject the idea or wait for something else to make that decision. In my experience, option three means giving up any power over the outcome unless the condition is in flux and you are waiting to take the first or second action.

After the sketch and a bit of conversation, I asked if he could highlight at each major point in the process where this image would come into play for him. After a bit of review, he realized that his need for making critical decisions was not as many as he anticipated, nor would the smaller decisions, which he could delegate, greatly alter the course of the project. He also added an extension to the first decision of holding a torch or passing it on representing self-ownership or delegation.

I truly believe we live in a self-created world of over complexity and confusion due to lack of focus, vision and prioritization. We all need to simplify the process in order for us to live, work and play efficiently and affectively. Using visual thinking and design thinking processes can help us create focus and clarity even to the most complex problems.

Here is my advice, if you’re confronted with a dilemma that appears more than a simple ‘Yes or No’ decision, stop, take a breath and do a quick sketch like the one above. Now add the effect/answer alongside each of these decisions to get better clarity and focus. See how your response will play out before you take action. Then, determine the best course of action before sharing your decision. The power of visual thinking is seeing a solution before acting on it and not the reverse.

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Difficulties of Challenges

Every challenge we face has some level of difficulty. Some are gradual and modestly challenging, while others take us to the brink of self-destruction. So ask yourself ‘how was my day, week or project?’ What did it look like? Now, here comes the tool of visual thinking. Rate them by using simple images like the ones below.  Record these little images on a calendar, small corner of the project notes or on anywhere that will help you to remember and possibly prepare for the next challenge.

The simple images below which reflect the levels of difficulties in challenges were inspired by a fellow sketchnotes enthusiast Patricia Kambitsch of Playthink and Redesign. Feel free to use them as needed. You may even want to print the image out and attach them to your project notes, then circle the related image.

Uphill BattleBy using such images as indicators, we are visually connecting the image to the event and later, using the image to trigger the memories of that challenge and similar challenges with the same level of difficulty. You train your brain to create unconscious connections between challenges. The connection also create warnings as well as possible solutions to be used in new challenges.

So, look back on your day, week or challenges and use the images to make mental filings for future use. Good luck and keep (th)INKing visually.

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Four Decisions

Over the past 25+ years working with businesses of all sizes, you come to believe one simple truth; size does not matter when it comes to decisions. All can be life changing or devastating.  Sure, the number of people, dollars or customers may change, but at the end of the day, all businesses owners need to make decisions that will impact their business.

I have been told by some of the best business minds, psychologist, and many entrepreneurs, ‘focus on one major decision at a time.’ This is good advice about 90% of the time, because if you making those decisions all at the same time, you’ll go crazy and eventually destroy what you are trying to build. Stay focused.

That leads me back to the title and the graphic below. In my years of listening to owners, executive management teams, board members and entrepreneurs, I have identified, in most of my meetings, the four main decisions that groups face that creates action fear.

I am not going to label these except by a single letter. I’ll let you create the narrative. If you’re facing any big decision, I am sure you can identify very clearly by one of these four images. Which one stands out to you?

4 Decisions

I use this sets of images to help groups and individuals to uncover their underlining issue(s) so that I can help them understand all the issues facing them at this point. By begin the process with these images, it guides the conversation and visual thinking towards a solution. So ask again, which one stands out the most to you now?

Try it out for yourself

Draw the image that most stands out to you in the center of a piece of paper small enough so you are able to add comments around the image. Now ask yourself the question that you feel relates best to that image. Write down that question just above the image. Highlight this question so that it stay predominant on the page. Now, jot down simple, short answers as they come to you over the next day or so. See if an answer doesn’t present itself, even if it’s the one you may not like, but must do.

Good luck and happy visual thINKing.

To learn more about this type of visual thinking called Mind Mapping, check out some of these sites for more ideas. 

Video File; Tony Buzan “How to Mind Map”

WikiHow: “How to Make A Mind Map”

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Lemming vs Prairie Dog

After being around, in and outside of many corporations over the past 30 years, I have come to the simple observation that there are two distinct types of companies. Sure you can argue that there are many variations, but I like these two as polar opposites.

Lemming, Inc. – by the books kind of operation.

Lemming Inc 1K

The Prairie Dog Co. – a very adaptive and diversified group.

Prairie Dog Co 1KMy question, which are you?

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