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.

5 Rules For Successful Collaboration

Play nice…

Play nice? I know this may not sound impressive, yet indulge me a moment and you will see that these words can change any collaboration form a possible to a definite success. First I should clarify, these are not really rules, more like great hints. Rules are made to be broken, not hints.

So growing up I was told, like any child, when playing with others to play nice and get along. A common phrase out of any parents terms for children. I heard this all through my elementary and middle school years, but it wasn’t until one of my first facilitated ideation/brainstorming sessions did these words began to have a whole new meaning.

The Story Behind the Idea (based on a true story)

The day of the event, I was pumped, confident in my planning and the fact I knew I was going to blow them away about how good I was helping them create hundreds of great ideas. Yes, I know, I was unprepared for what was to come.

Eighteen people from the company had confirmed attendance in advance, but that bright and sunny morning at 7:30 I waited. The session was scheduled for 8:00. The clock must have been set fast, because 8 o’clock came and went without a single person to show. It wasn’t until 8:20 that a small group of five arrived. Where was everyone one else I wondered. No one else would come.

After a bit of discussion, I was informed my that no one else was coming because the meeting was not really mandatory so they cancelled at the last-minute. But, to my surprise, this five still wanted to have the session. Maybe it was to get out of whatever their day offered or boredom. Whatever the reason they were here and the event was paid for.

Rule one, don’t sweat. Don’t panic. 

Quickly I exited the room and confronted a hotel staff and asked if anyone from the hotel would be interested in participating in a brainstorming session to help a local company with a problem. Out went the call over the staff radio. I returned to the room and began the session by listing the key outcome of the meeting even in this few of participants. I had the “group” list some major issues they would be hoping to discuss.

As I listed each of the issues with some conversation, I noticed a few staff had entered the room. They told me they were here to take part of the event. By the time I had them get seated, ten had joined the group. We were now 15 people strong; 5 insiders and 10 outsiders.

Time to improvise. Dance, man, dance.

Without rehashing painful details and some stumbling, let me just state that after 4 hours the session went surprisingly well, no, actually, went exceptionally well. Something happened that even I would not ever planned for or could even imagine was possible. The group was energetic, insightful and very productive. 

But why did it happen?

Perfect time to take you back to the original statement… ‘play nice.’ Play nice is not just a statement of politeness and behavior conditioning as once thought, no, it is in fact a clue to having a great collaboration. These words ‘Play nice’ have become a powerful tool in my toolbox of collaboration. A set of hints that grant me the best chance at success, for ‘Play nice’ is actually five words of wisdom. Let me show you.

Play N.I.C.E

The word “Play” is the first key to a great event. Some collaboration events, possibly more than shared, are slow, unproductive or down right fail, not some much because of the facilitator doing something wrong are not providing the right stimulus, because I believe it’s an issue of egos and status. People are always in competition. Competition drives rigidity, confrontation and conformity. True play frees us from this rigidity. When children are truly in the flow of play, it’s about having no boundaries, no limitations and moving freely from idea to idea and always changing. So make sure the participants are put into a state of play, make them child-like in their thinking. Avoid commitment to one idea. This is the first lesson I learned from the story. The hotel staff had nothing to prove, so they played. They had no limitations and were free to try ideas.

N letteris for ‘Notice’. To take notice means to be aware of your surroundings and to pay attention. In this case, to pay attention to others and the ideas the share. To take notice of others is a deliberate conscious act of giving others your attention with an open mind. So notice others, their ideas, the surroundings and how these ideas can grow.

Looking back at the story I realized that the staff  had no knowledge about the original 5’s issues and because of this, they were able to give them their full attention to learn more about them and the challenges they faced. They took notice completely of the original five.

I letteris for ‘Inspire’. If you are consciously taking notice of others and their ideas it is easy to inspire them to grow those ideas. By inspiring others to flourish, something amazing begins to happen, we become inspired ourselves. Our minds begin to “play” with these ideas and add to them, growing from others inspiration.

In the story, the team were providing a source of fresh thinking as an outside source. The staff, growing more knowledgeable of the issues, could feed them insights, parallel thinking as well as build on their thoughts. They were inspiring fresh thinking to current situations.

C letteris for “Create”. Create is the act of making something. It can be by the blending of ideas or inspired by other’s ideas and built upon to create a new idea. This is at the heart of collaboration, combining ideas and applying structure to these ideas. Making them solidify into something becoming almost tangible.

By collaborating with the staff, the developed new concepts or applied concepts built on from the staff. The ideas were weighed and adjusted to become more relevant to the issues at hand. they were becoming real solutions or opportunities. They were becoming solidified.

E letteris for “Explore”. Any new idea created is worth exploring. Since this new idea was formed out of a deliberate act of awareness and blended with other ideas, investigate it, analyze it for potential applications, developing new avenues, changing existing ideas or for the pure pleasure of exploring something new. Exploration allows us the beginning stages of further solidifying new ideas. It helps us to understand how ideas could work and become real.

So, as you can see by the story and the five words that my mother told me so many years ago, but took so long to learn…

Play N.I.C.E.

Words to live by, collaborate by and to grow with.

Until next time, remember, ‘The best plan is one that all can see.”

Apathy to Empathy: A Business Shift

Technology affects our everyday lives more than most would imagine. It has shaped our means of communication, education, social life and even business models. There are many studies that can show trends in delivery and production, yet the biggest change does not set a mark on a statistical chart nor can it be counted on a spreadsheet, but it is there. Technology is changing the very nature of business and consumers.

As a little as 15 years ago, the majority of businesses pushed product and services out to consumers. This was how companies have functioned since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Today, factories produce more goods than a population could actually obtain at sustainable levels. To compensate, companies decrease the cost of goods by lowering the quality of production to ensure constant mass production and keep pushing product to the mass market.

In 1998, two gentlemen, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, authored the broadest, most concise look at economic changes with “The Experience Economy”. In the book, the progression of economic value is outlined and clearly defined. During the 2004 TED conference Joseph Pine spoke to this very progression. Both the book and the presentation explains how companies evolve from one economic value to the next. In their book, the authors identify some of the driving factors that make this progression clear. But even Pine and Gilmore could not see how technology would begin reshaping consumer consumption trends years later.

In 2010, Rachel Botsman spoke at TEDx in Sidney on the subject of “Collaborative Consumption” where consumers are making an incredible shift from acquiring mass production products to renting or sharing products only when they need them. She argues the issue that consumers are tired of acquiring “stuff” which ends up controlling their lives or where they must live to house this stuff. Consumers began creating a new consumer acquisition model. (see impact sample study)

U.S. News published a compelling article “The Rise of The Collaborative Consumption Economy” on  April 9, 2012 by David Brodwin. In this article, David identifies a new model of consumer habits, “peer-to-peer” consumption. No longer are people acquiring goods when they want something or even if they may need sometime in the near future, rather, consumers are sharing purchases with others or renting products when needed, minimizing space needs as well as costs.

Just as Pine & Gilmore investigated the progression of economics is driven by the consumer’s increasing demand for greater value, technology is a key reason in the evolution of economic value, however, there is another element that I feel is driving this shift in consumption as well as how companies are modeling their businesses. This is a shift from apathy to empathy. (see empathy maps)

Apathy Empathy

In the traditional business model of consumer goods or services, most companies functioned in a state of apathy. Not listening to the consumer’s wants, rather how consumers buy. Companies create offerings and push them out into the market and using marketing and advertising to create demand. Companies rely on consumer field research, focus groups and test groups to gain insights on what consumers will acquire next. Then came the internet.

At first, the internet was a great way to promote, distribute and sell new products to a larger mass market. For businesses, only a slight adaptation to their business model was needed to exist in this new competitive arena. Yet technology and the internet would begin to grow a new breed of consumers and educate existing ones. A consumer who shares information openly, resells products and even collaborates on product design. Business need to become collaborative if they plan to grow.

Through the use of social media and instant connectivity, the old model of apathy thinking is dying. If companies are to grow and maintain profitability, they will need to begin to think about consumers on a more empathetic level.  Understand how consumers see the world and those providing to them. Companies will need to listen more and tell less to the consumer about products and services. If there is any truth in this new collaborative consumption economy idea, then a new business model is needed.  A model that embraces empathy and moves away from traditional apathy. If companies truly want to know the consumer, then they will need to get to know the consumer and how the consumer sees and thinks about them.

Below is the visual structure model of the new “Empathetic Business Model”.


Originally developed in 2005 for a changing economy and to support a troubled industry, a similar visual model was created to help companies develop stronger observations about their focus markets. Over the years this empathetic business model has been refined and adjusted to work especially well for start-ups, small businesses and individuals. This type of model was conceived to work with traditional business models such as the Business Model Canvas which demonstrates cash flow, business relations and supply channels. The Empathetic Business Model, with a business journey map, is used as a prequel business model that helps companies or individuals to identify their strengths, determine possible obstacles and define the relationship between the provider and the consumer by using empathy as a key discovery tool.

If the consumer is changing their buying habits, then the model to provide for those habits needs to change as well. By employing empathy into a business development model, companies gain insights on the life of their offering, how better to serve their customers and increase the value they offer.

For companies to be successful in this Collaborative Consumption Economy they will need to shift from merely selling products to a market and begin listening to consumers so they can better serve their market.

If you’re interesting in learning more, follow the path along the journey map in the posts. The first “Starting the Journey” and request your access. Thanks.