Saturday, August 22, 2009

Using Visuals as an Extension

I have been dabbling with the use of pictures since I was a kid - illustrating sing-alongs, school books, stories, and painting murals.

When I stepped into the corporate world I thought I was saying goodbye to my visual background. Work is serious, and pictures are for fun, I thought.

But slowly I started seeing something very strange happening - as an Analyst and Process Consultant I needed to understand what people did and see ways they could do it better. But often when people "told" me what they did, I ended up with a big pad of messy notes, not sure how to put it together.

And how could I explain to my managers the impact of a person walking from the front of the room to the back too often? just saying it out loud sounded silly.

So I started drawing - I drew people's movement pattern, I color coded the personnel on a floor, and I wrote strategies up on the board in a way that was visible to all to see and comment. I was just doing my job, I thought, getting the message across or getting information organized.

A bit over a year ago, while working on my Masters in Organizational Development, one of my Professors at Bowling Green State University took the class to Root Learning, a company that creates visual learning tools and strategy maps. My jaw dropped. You mean there are actually organizations out there defining themselves by the use of visuals? and helping organizational increase competencies in the meantime?

In the past year, I have been learning more about visuals and their uses. Stuff that came naturally to me before like capturing information in a visible place, or telling visual stories to demonstrate strategic concepts, became stuff with a "name" : Visual Recording, Visual Facilitation, Visual Thinking, Visual Communication, Visual Learning.

But what's the difference between these? and how are Visuals used differently in all these names or functions? Do they require different skills of the practitioner using them? Or impact the audience/user differently?

This will be topic of this blog. I hope to find others interested in this topic who are willing to share their thoughts, opinions, and tools/usages they've found appropriate.



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