Research is definitively showing that visualization fosters knowledge-sharing in teams and dramatically improves the productivity of meetings. Hey, we knew that! But it’s nice to have hard evidence to back us up. Thank you to the University of St. Gallen in Lugano, Switzerland and Prof. Martin Eppler.
It’s a good thing I don’t try to make my living from blogging, otherwise I’d be broke! But never mind. I’ll just restyle myself as the Quarterly Blogger, and all will be well. It’s all in the framing, right?
Well, lots of fun since the last time I posted. The Big News this fall was co-mapping Connecting for Change (C4C) with Mariah Howard in September. Mariah is one of the most talented and thoughtful visual recorders I know and I was overjoyed at the prospect of working with her. Plus she’s smart, funny and gracious, and I’m proud to call her a friend.
C4C was a 3-day dialogue that brought business, social sector and philanthropic leaders together with the aim of learning “with and from each other about how we can create new and advance existing cross-sector collaborations in service of addressing the most pressing issues of our time.” It would take me the entire post to describe the event, so I’ll just mention a few key details:
It was part of the Vancouver Peace Summit, organized by the Dalai Lama Center, and included a day at the summit where we got to hear the Dalai Lama and various other luminaries speak about compassion, forgiveness, peace, and educating the heart – topics we need to keep talking about and hearing until we finally absorb the lessons;
C4C facilitators included Meg Wheatley, Peter Senge, Juanita Brown, Dawna Markova, and Peter Block, which is pretty heady company to keep. (Not that I actually talked to all of them, but I at least got to breathe the same air – and I did give Peter Block a couple of pages from my sketchbook!)
The organizing team was made up of some of the coolest people on the planet and I’m thrilled to be able to say my name in the same sentence as theirs;
The Dalai Lama shook my hand!!
I worked with Mariah at the NCDD Conference in 2008, but we worked on separate charts that time. This time we actually co-mapped on the same sheet of paper, and once I got the hang of it, it was like doing a dance together. We’d each start out on one side of the chart, then weave back and forth to mix things up over the course of the session, and act as a sort of tag team to capture different bits of the dialogue so neither one had to do it all. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, since I love working as part of a team and it takes a lot of pressure off when there are two sets of ears and hands at work!
Below are some of the images we created for C4C. (Click on them to see them more clearly.) You can see them all on the Connecting for Change website, along with a little descriptor we wrote about graphic facilitation. Can you tell which of us did what bits on the charts? I think our styles mesh very well.
PS: Yes, I took the picture of the Dalai Lama at the top of this post: I squeezed my way into the media scrum just before the second half of the session and snapped off several pix. Training for the Paparazzi Brigade!
The images here are from a pair of community events that were convened to support the District of North Vancouver’s Official Community Plan. (OCPs seem to be a recurring theme for me this year…) At these events, participants were invited to talk about issues that mattered to them relating to (a) people and (b) places in the District. As I stood at the chart, people came up to me with their ideas, dreams, wishes and concerns, and I drew them all out. This is what they looked like:
It was really quite wonderful, because everyone was so passionate about what they wanted to see for the District and wanted to make very sure their ideas were fully drawn out. If I missed a detail, I heard about it! For example, the proponents of community gardens made sure there was a composter in the picture. And the folks who wanted to see vibrant urban spaces made sure I drew children into the picture and that I noted that vibrant space meant “night AND day”.
What this tells me is that the drawings really mean something to people. I see it as a way of making abstract ideas concrete. Pictures are so much more solid and real than mere words, and I think people feel their ideas become real when they see them translated into images. It reminds me of my favourite story when I was a little girl, which was a story about a little girl who had a magic pencil, and whatever she drew with her magic pencil came to life. I always wanted to have a magic pencil like that … and lo and behold, now I do!
Last October (yeah, I know – it’s taken me this long to post this) I had the rare privilege of heading up a whole team of graphic recorders at the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). In Austin, Texas, no less, which was a kick in itself! But the gig would have been great even if we’d been in Podunk, because (a) I had such an amazing team to work (and play) with, and (b) I felt that we integrated graphic recording into the program more tightly than ever before, and that it was a high-water mark in terms of people’s awareness and appreciation of the process.
In addition to real-time mapping of plenary presentations and panels, we were presented with 5 ‘challenge’ areas for the field of Dialogue and Deliberation. Since there were 5 graphic recorders (what luxury!), we were each responsible for one of the challenges. I chose ‘framing’ – i.e. how to present D+D in a way that is accessible and attractive to different interest groups and audiences. The night before the conference started, we each stretched out our paper on the wall and put in the title and a couple of pertinent comments and images. Then we spent the next 3 days building our charts, with input from conference participants throughout. My finished chart is above.
One of the most interesting talks at NCDD, in my view anyway, was a panel of conservatives whose conversation I mapped. My politics are not conservative, so it was quite a mind-expanding experience for me – and especially interesting to find myself agreeing with the speakers as often as I disagreed with them. I was particularly taken with Joseph McCormick, who heads up an organization called the Transpartisan Alliance, which seeks to de-polarize politics and find ways of cooperating across political divides. Hey, sign me up! I’m soooo over partisan politics and blaming the “bad guys” on the other side of the room. But that’s a discussion for a whole different blog.
Below is the chart from the Conservatives Panel. It’s actually a pretty crappy chart – much too wordy, doesn’t flow well, and the pictures are bitty. But I’m including it here just because I was so intrigued by the conversation and think it deserves posterity. Plus, posting pix of my not-so-great charts keeps me from getting a big head when I start to think I’m hot stuff with a marker.
It’s March 1st, and at least in Vancouver, March brings with it intimations of spring – YAY! I’ve always felt a bit of a Bad Canadian in my dislike of winter. Our literature, our icons, supposedly our very identity, are bound up with cold and snow and ice…. But I grew up in Vancouver, which is more about chilly and rain, and…more rain. And early springs that start in February and stretch gloriously through to June. So today I was walking along in the rain, and was pleased to note lovely clumps of crocuses, snowdrops and purple heather, and despite the rain I realized spring is just around the corner. And I say again: YAY!
And on that note, I’m going to spring into action by updating my blog with a few images I should have posted a long time ago.
Here is one I did some time ago for a session for the Burnaby Understanding the Early Years Project. The team members were invited to celebrate their accomplishments, and this is what they looked like (click on images to see larger):
I like the way the words and images flow in this chart. It feels celebratory to me even when the words are too small to read!
Fast forward several months, and I’m co-facilitating a session with a group of youth workers who were charting the journey they had taken as individuals and as a team. To help me choose a resonant image for their map, I asked them to think about what the journey looked like to them. A river? A winding road? Climbing a mountain? They thought for a few minutes and then one of them said, “To me it looks like…a rainforest!” And he proceeded to explain exactly why. And everyone on the team agreed that yes, a rainforest was the very image to describe their journey!
Well, who knew? Of all the images I might have come up with myself, a rainforest would not have been among them! Which just goes to show the value of asking people what things look like to them. Here is their rainforest journey:
(The blue-rimmed boxes contained names, which I removed for confidentiality’s sake.)
What especially delighted me was that once they had chosen the visual metaphor themselves, they really owned it. They used the imagery in talking about their journey, and situated their accomplishments and challenges within the framework of the rainforest. And it was on the group’s instruction that I included the giraffe in the corner!