Becoming a Visual Thinking Organization

Foster creativity and collaboration by building visual thinking into the fabric of your organization. Here’s how:

Clear some wall space

Nothing enhances visual thinking quite like big blank sheets of paper on the wall. White boards are cool, but I suggest paper, at least to get started. It’s easier to read and it feels like doodling which makes it easier for people to get comfortable. With paper, you can reuse the graphics you create, move them from place to place and share them with others more readily.

Get some new tools

Going visual can actually be quite cheap. You’ll need some paper, some markers and some tape. Suggested supplies and suppliers are linked below (1.)
You’ll probably want a digital camera as well, if you don’t already have one on hand. This allows you to take photographs of the graphics and archive your work, pass it around via e-mail and include it in meeting minutes. Higher resolution is better, to ensure legibility.

Invest in training

The largest financial investment an organization should make in this (or any system’s change initiative) is in developing the skills of its work force. Hire me or send people to the Grove (2.) or find local workshops. Buy some books. The best things your people will get from training is a sense of how to get started and permission to try it. For a lot of people, that’s all they’ll need.

Develop one piece of training curriculum to be visual

Leave the slide projector in the closet. Revise an existing or develop a new curriculum to be visually based. Create structured notes, process maps, call-outs and other visual elements that engage learners and deepen their understanding of the content. Changing your organization’s training curriculum is a powerful way to change the culture. It sets a baseline for new staff that emphasizes creative, collaborative problem solving. It also demonstrates how visuals can be used in the daily functioning of the organization. And it’s way more fun.

Introduce templates & recording at meetings

Meetings are an ideal place to get started using visuals. A graphic agenda or visual notes of the minutes are quick and easy ways to get people familiar with the ideas and practicing. Move towards using templates to solve problems and creating visual action plans that build accountability and engagement.

Give permission

Let people play. Let people make mistakes and struggle. Celebrate the successes and failures and learn from both. All the training in the world won’t help at all unless people are allowed to explore what they’ve learned.

Just do it

Don’t overthink change. It is too easy for organizations to get stuck getting ready. It’s not possible to micro manage a broad, sweeping change to a system. Get started and learn as you go. Ride your momentum through the tough patches and watch as a new more creative and collaborative culture flourishes within your organization.

(1.) Tools of the Trade
(2.) The Grove