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.

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”

Personal 2 Public

There has been much debate around sketchnoting, graphic recording and even the rise of  graphic note taking or “Graphicnoting.” Though, similar in nature of recording others through the use of text and graphics, each present some unique characteristics that can help define or clarify what they are.

Mike Rohde is by far the best person to explain what and how sketchnotes work as he is one of the primary founders of the concept and he defines sketchnoting as being a personal tool. While on the far end of the spectrum, graphic recording has a very strong public presence by taking a public conversation and recording it for all to see.

Personal 2 Public

Now enter “Graphicnoting.” Graphicnoting is something I am all too familiar with as this is my preferred method of visual recording. The process can be explained like this; recording graphically a public conversation at a semi-personal level, then sharing to the present and non-present public. Graphicnoting is performed on a smaller scale than that of traditional wall graphic recording, yet with very similar processes formats. Unlike large wall graphic recording, graphicnotes utilizes a more portable media like that of sketchnotes. I see Graphicnotes as bridging the gap between the personal tool and the public performance.

On a last note on production, once completing a graphicnote on paper, the inked pages are digitized, colorized and then publish as needed. There are other ways of creating these graphicnotes such as the use of tablets which allow the creation of digital originals. I don’t believe or see one method being better than another. Each method is based upon the preference of the recorder.

So if you want to shift from sketchnotes into graphic recording slowly or vise versa, my suggestion is try Graphicnotes where the practices and processes of both formats are used. Who knows, this may become your method of choice also.

Until next time, keep your ideas sketchy and your conclusions drawn.

Public Transport Theatre

Graphic recording, visual thinking and even sketchnoting are all things hard to communicate via email, phone conversations and even one-on-one, so how can you share what you do with impact and clarity?

Find a captive audience and let the show begin!

Recently, on a trip to Vancouver, BC, I was onboard the Clipper heading over to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Ferry crossings are slow and take a good amount of time. Like all public transportation, the seating is adequate. On the Clipper, seats are arranged in tight groups of four around mini tables that are provided for eating, reading or just relaxing. The advantage of traveling with one other person is that you always end up seating across from two strangers.

On this trip as with so many others, I pulled out my sketchbook to record some ideas I have thought about. I opened up my pad, grabbed by pens and began visually reconstructing an idea. Immediately, the couple across from us became interested and then hooked. Their eyes followed as my hand moved from one node to the next as if unveiling chapters in a story.

Eventually, one of my audience speaks up. “What is that you’re doing?” That’s my cue. Start the music from the Calliope, put on the smile and it’s showtime? My response is always the same… “I’m capturing ideas visually so others can understand later on.” This is vague enough to get a head nod or a tilt of interest.

The next few minutes I explain how visually we all think and remember things as well as show examples of earlier work, either on my tablet or from the sketchbook. I share with them how others have used my talents to better communicate or identify ideas to larger groups. While all this is happening, curiosity spreads around the nearby seats and more eyes and ears are drawn in on the conversation.

I demonstrate how it helps, not by using the spoken word, rather by starting a new page and banner title it “Interesting People I Have Met”. I ask them to share why they do what they do and begin the recording. I ask eavesdroppers also. Soon a handful of people join in and the fun begins. People begin connecting with me and with each other.

Nov TripThe show is in full swing, time to spread the word…

Eventually, someone inquires about applications of this thing you do. Time to get contact information and spread out the calling cards. Remember, you’re not just creating new friends, this is you livelihood and the best way to promote yourself, because you never know if they may be the next client or stepping stone to that client. At this point I always politely try to get email addresses to send them links to see the final work as well as my portfolio.

“Storytelling is the key to adding value to anything you offer, especially if it’s others providing that story.”

Storytelling 01

Anywhere there are a mix of people waiting for something, you have an audience to entertain, share stories and eventual educate to the world of graphic recording and visual thINKing.

Visual Storytelling

Storytelling 01

I have noticed over the past year that more and more clients I work with are focused on business storytelling. Many companies are reconnecting with the power of having and telling their story, because of this, more companies are hiring graphic recorders and visual translators to help capture these elements and connections. In fact, they have begun to use the visual language tool to help develop their verbal storytelling scripts.

So, why are graphic recording and visual translators becoming popular as a key tool in the creation of business stories? One answer could be that we have been programmed to identify with visuals as an essential part of our storytelling experience. In many ways this is true and yet it goes even deeper.

Storytelling 02At a high level as children growing up, our first frameworks to communication and learning were tied heavily to visuals. Many of the books we grew up with were composed of few words and lots of images. Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane books all used visuals to support the words.  We were developing visual clues and associations to the words. We were learning through visuals and storytelling.

Storytelling 03Let’s back up the clock a bit further, 40,000 years further. Cave walls are filled with images of animals, hunters and even heavenly bodies. All to communicate their surroundings, important events or to catalog area life. What is most amazing about these paintings and charcoal renderings is that they tell stories, stories that are still understandable  40,000 years later.

The popular explanation is that what we see as images is processed much differently than what we read or hear. Images and visuals are processed at a higher rate with greater memory sourcing without the mechanics of deciphering, organizing and association that the written or spoken word is required for processing. Just reading this post uses more thinking processes around just reading that of a visual which taps deeper and creates better connection to other ideas. We think better with visuals. It’s part of psychology as well as our physiology. We are wired to learn visually. (at least 90% are)

So, back to business storytelling and the use of graphic recorders and visual translators. Okay, I think you know where I am going with this, but allow me to add one more dimension with visuals as it applies to business, and group understanding. Visual translations and graphic recordings allow, not just the conveyor of information, but everyone seeing the information to understand the idea or ideas being expressed.

As I always say ‘the best plan or idea is the one seen by all.’ Just as the caveman painted his story of hunts,tribal life and the changes in his environment which we still can comprehend 40,000 years later, companies are utilizing the talents of visual translators and graphic recorders to help visualize their stories and ideas to unify and better communicate their story.

Sighted Vision

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Helen Keller

Vision ComparedAs Helen Keller so eloquently stated, sight is not everything if one does not have vision. Vision is more than a dream to achieve something, vision is being able to see obstacles, goals and the right path to achieve your dream. Visual translation is that tool that can convert your dream into a tangible vision. By utilizing the talents of a visual translator or graphic facilitator, a person or group can develop visual strategies that help solidify the future and lay the path to success.

Creating a thINKing canvas, you are able to convert the intangible dream into a tangible vision plan and as I always say, ‘the best plan is one seen by all.’ Mere words or text cannot always articulate beyond the content of the communication. Graphic maps can help show links in conversation, uncover gaps in thinking and offer insights to other opportunities.

Using journey maps, mind mapping and graphic-notes, entrepreneurs, small businesses and organizations can create a tangible visual that everyone can see and understand. Graphic maps provide the articulation that words or text sometimes overlooks or understates and can put everyone on the same path with the same goals in mind. Once everyone has the same vision, than everyone can constructively work towards success. That’s having sight with vision.