Obstacles of Life

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost gifted us with these wonderful words which we use in reference to life, careers, business and many other challenges. As an idea guide, I follow this same thinking by attempting to visualize what obstacles we can face as we travel along our selected path. Many times I hear wonderful goals and expectations without the pondering of the obstacles that may impede our journey.

Just seeing the obstacles is not enough to ensure a successful journey, we must contemplate the effects on our goals if we can not overcome these obstacles. How will our path change or be diverted at each unsuccessful hurdle?

The next time you create a plan for the future, try listing every obstacle and how you will overcome them and what will be your course change if you can not prevail.

Visualizing the solution is the first step towards success.

Setting Up Shop

I have always been fascinated by the phrase “Setting up shop”.  There have been so many people who I have talked with that use this phrase when launching their business, even those starting non-retail businesses. The excitement of offering their unique services or product mix is just like opening a store for the very first time. So much to do like arranging all the areas for products to be displayed, stacking the packaging and even the adding your business colors to the decor. Yes it’s their shop, their business.

Unfortunately this feeling of having a new shop lasts for just a few weeks or so and soon the day-to-day operations of management settle in and they find themselves deep into micro managing the business.  Somehow the illusion or vision of the little shop fades to the daily tasks of paperwork and phone calls.


There still is power in that vision of setting up shop and launching a new business. A lot of excitement, inspiration and creativity were flowing before you opened. You were in the “Flow” of thinking.  It is important to be able to revisit that visual process to maintain relevance in the market. Why? Because visualizing a business from a fresh perspective is a critical and creative process for seeing through the eyes of a consumer for any business.

Here’s a creative thinking exercise that you can try. It involves thinking, not outside the box, rather inside the box or at least inside a different box. When we attempt to brainstorm and think outside the box freely, we lack true focus and some thoughts soon tend to wander or get misdirected because of outside stimuli or distractions. So there is an exercise to help us maintain flow. This exercise has work very successfully in business ideation session where business owners can visualize their business from a fresh perspective.

Step 1: With blank paper, pen, ink and 15 minutes on the clock, only 15 minutes, think about your business visually. See all the things you offer, your branding images, colors and even how you do business. Stay focused on your business.

Step 2: Start the clock now! Think about which retail business you would see your business as if it were a retail business. Not who you want it to be like, but who you see yourself as today. Be honest you’re yourself or this is all for not. Would it be a big box store, national retail chain or a Ma and Pa shop? Think about every detail and compare your business to a retailer. When you have it, write it down at the top of the sheet.

Step 3: With the clock still racing, write down single word attributes of the retailer of choice. At least try to get 5 – 9 clear attributes. If you get more, you can scratch off the ones that are too generic. “Ding” please put all pens down your done. Turn you sheet over or under something to avoid looking at it again until this exercise is done.

Okay, you now have a visualized snap shot of a retail shop or store that you closely associate your with your business. Great, but your task is not completed. You have two more steps to go. Yes, it’s a triad thing.

Step 4: New sheet of blank paper and another 15 minutes on the clock. Ponder the imperfections of your business as well as the successful parts. Do this very briefly and not too deeply. We can always find endless lists of pluses and minuses of our business so keep it very high level. Think about what could be changed if anything was possible

Step 5: Again, start the clock and this time imagine your business as the retailer you would like it to be like. See the store or shop in visual detail. See how the staff interacts with customers, products displayed and the look of the space. Select one retailer that you want to be like and write it down. Time is ticking.

Step 6: Now write down the attributes of this retailer. As many as possible and refine to 5 – 9 again. “Ding” please put all pens down your done.

Wow, that was a bit tougher. If you did it in 15 minutes, which you were suppose to, then you get a gold star, but your task is about to get tough.

Step 7: A new sheet of paper. Place 30 minutes on the clock. This time, place the first retailer sheet to the left of the new blank sheet and the last exercise sheet to the right. You have in front of you is a vision of yourself today to the left, how you see yourself in the future to the right. Look at the attributes of both retailers. See the similarities and the differences. On the middle sheet you will focus on those attributes that are different and quickly give answers to this question for each attribute change. Example: if the first attribute was intimate you might have mass appeal as a difference on the other sheet.

Step 8: In 30 minutes starting now, answer this question as it relates to as many difference in attributes as possible in any combination that seems logical. “Knowing the current attribute, what practices or changes can I make to meet the future attribute?”

Step 9: “Bing” Done, at least with this exercise.

What did you discover about your business? How much easier can you redirect that you have a visual reference? Visualizing parallel conditions such as seeing ourselves as another business type, allows us to drop some of our defenses and preconceptions to explore new options and possibilities. Creating role models can aid in maintaining the focus, direction and purpose of brainstorming. Unlike traditional process of free-form brainstorming, using exercises with visual models helps create tangible call to action for change.

I hope this exercise can help you when you have that desire to take your offering to the next level.

Visual Cognition

The growing adaptation of visual facilitation, graphic recording, visual scribing and visual thinking has become quite apparent in the mainstream of business development and change. If you’re not familiar or confused by these terms or processes, it probably would be wise time to research these unique practices.

As the thINKologist, even I, myself, find these terms sometimes confusing or misaligned  to the given task at hand. Practitioners in this field who utilize these dynamic skills are often adjusting the language or description depending on the application or the client’s perception. It can be quite confusing for the uneducated who may hear one term then another when the same function is being performed. There is a need for clarity and unifying terminology or categorization of these collective offerings.

As a solution to this slight dilemma, I have come to use a term I call “Visual Cognition”. The mental process to conceptualize, learn or problem-solve (cognition) through the use of visual tools. In my preference the key visual tool is the use of the thINKing Canvas. A visual media that employes the combination of text and images to increase clarity, uncover opportunities or define possibilities of a given issue.

Visual Cognition is not the creation of yet another new process or an adaptations of any given current format, but merely trying to identify the collective processes which now exist and employed for conceptualization, problem-solving, learning and strategic thinking. The fact is when we employ visual tools to assist ourselves or others in the process of thinking we are then practitioners of visual cognition. By any other term, name or moniker this is the process we are performing.

So when the next time you want to drop an intellectual bomb in a group, just inform them when asked, that you’re a facilitation specialist in the field of visual cognition allowing yourself the opportunity to take center stage to describe your skill set.

Imagine and envision your future.

The thINKologoist.