The benefit of being a live illustrator is that every event spurs new insights, challenges and inevitably new drawings. However, one factor remains the same.
Without exception, usually whilst I'm crawling around the floor clutching pens, someone will murmur the words "I wish I could draw"! This cutting statement naturally triggers my auto-response ‘but you can’. Ok, it’s a simple and effortless response, but my genuine opinion is 'you can'!
As the majority of events I attend are within the Agile and innovation arena, the likelihood is that this disheartening statement would have been presented by an individual who already embraces the power of visualisation within their workplace. Be that an UX designer, Scrum Master, Workshop Facilitator or even Project Manager, there are basic skills that can enable anyone to communicate through pictures.
I wanted to create a blog article that introduces a simple technique which can assist you on your journey to visualisation success. Before I begin though, I wanted to start with asking the ‘why’-question. Why bother drawing? How can drawing pictures make such a difference to the way we do work?
Well, imagine you could visualise your ideas, make it easier for others to relate to what you have in mind, keep stakeholders engaged and make team collaboration more effective. This should answer the 'why' question. A picture speaks a thousand words. Yes, it’s a cliché - but it's true.
OK, enough of the intro. Let’s get started with an useful visualisation technique. I can imagine that you’re now clutching a pencil or pen, desperately ready to make your first mark on the paper. Well, take a step back! When capturing insights and ideas in a workshop, or minuting a meeting with pictures, you need to consider this 3-step process to visualisation.
3 Step visualisation Process
1. Active listening
That’s right, listening. Sounds simple, right? Actually, it takes a bit of practice. As information is shared, it’s your responsibility to search for the nuggets of gold, the crucial key points of a discussion that need to be crystallised in pictures. The good news is that there is a fantastic tool to assist you in capturing these important sound bites in real time. It’s none other than our loyal companion, the post-it. Use a separate post-it for each key point and place this within your workstation (be that a flipchart paper, whiteboard or a large scale roll of white paper).
2. Synthesising your ideas
This is that moment when your head leans slightly to the side as you gaze at the blank canvas. Potentially the most tiresome of the 3-steps which, once again, takes some practice. Your wonderful friend, the post-it, is still able to assist you. Look for patterns in the information, cluster key themes, by rearranging and sorting the post-its. You are now beginning to synthesise your ideas.
During my ‘Graphic Facilitator Skills’ workshop I spend some time discussing the benefits of Graphic Templates. Just like any good boy scout, the cue here is ‘preparation’. By creating ready-made templates prior to graphically facilitating a workshop, you can naturally populate sections of your template with the post-its as you progress through the session.
We’ve finally arrived at the ‘sweet spot’: the drawing. There are a variety of techniques that I can throw at you here when it comes to drawing, but the most important piece of advice I can give you is to keep it simple and practise.
Remember that the ultimate aim is to capture the most crucial points in a meeting so you can’t find yourself being too precious. Prior to the meeting or workshop, consider buzzwords that will undoubtedly get a mention and begin to sketch up ideas on how to draw them.
Another area that I focus on heavily during my visualisation workshops is ‘Collaborative sketching’. Why not consider buzzwords collectively within your team and share suggestions? By timeboxing this activity to 30 seconds per word there is little time to be precious and it will encourage people to be experimental. Iterate over ideas and refine a drawing until you find the perfect blend of detail and simplicity.
The 3-step visualisation technique described above is one of many visualisation techniques that you can play with. You can learn more about this and many other techniques during our ‘Innovation through Visualisation’ one-day workshop. The workshop is bursting with a multitude of approaches, techniques and activities which will upgrade your facilitation toolbox and enable you to transform any workshop or meeting into a truly innovative environment.
Find out what other people have been saying about the powers of visualisation at the San Diego Scrum Coaching Retreat, organised by Scrum Alliance: