We are inherently visual creatures. We approach the world around us with eyes wide open, and speak about what we see in metaphors that paint a picture of our experiences. Visuals and language are interdependent ways of conveying information. So, what does our visual nature mean for effective communications?
Pictures can convey a lot of complex information, which is where we get that “worth a thousand words” adage. Pictures can also serve as a common reference point for a group, helping align everyone to the same process. This efficiency and unity can help the group move more quickly to deeper conversations and to the real work that needs to be done. In other words, pictures can be a powerful internal communications tool to align your team in preparation for external action.
Using visuals can be an effective way to brings groups together, to galvanize a team, and co-create big ideas. The power of communicating with pictures is at the core of visual facilitation – an approach that can breathe new life into your next team meeting.
But I’m no Van Gogh
People often assume that I’m an artist. But, I haven’t had any formal training. Why do they make that assumption?
As I work with groups, I track their conversations to create large-scale visual maps, drawn in real time, to facilitate a group toward their desired outcome. Besides the color and design of the shapes, they figure an artist must have been at work because the resulting images have meaning. Yet, the power of the images is actually due to the connections they themselves made with the images. The images represent their experience in that room that day, which is powerful, personal stuff. They made their own meaning. I just provided the pictures.
By watching something being drawn, the viewer’s memory becomes anchored in that moment. When they see the image again, they will recall that moment in a more visceral way.
The most powerful quality about using visual tools is not the resulting picture your group creates together, but rather the enhanced engagement you gain from working together in a visual way. Working with ideas that can be touched, moved around, and seen together will result in more opportunities for individual insight, innovation, and involvement in the group process. The picture becomes an anchor for the content the group worked on, triggering sensory recall of the work that cannot be accessed in a Word document or bullet point summary of the session.
So bust out those markers and crayons to picture your way to greater team engagement and more effective internal communications. If your team had a shared picture of your common goals, what would it look like?
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Julie Gieseke is a LightBox collaborator with a knack for responding creatively in the moment. She urges you to create your own pictures for impact.