VizThink NYC: Visual Business Planning

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VizThink NYC kicked off 2011 on Thursday evening, January 13 with a full house of old-timers and new-comers, all bringing new ideas to life through visual exploration. We were very pleased to welcome attendees visiting from Spain and Japan!

Steve Cherches warmed up the group with a visual version of the game “Telephone” where individuals clustered in small groups (of 3 or 4) to initiate, pass on, and creatively elaborate upon a simple drawing. This quick, non-verbal collaboration caused new stories to emerge and took participants down unexpected roads with some surprising insights.

For our main activity, Dean Meyers led an exercise in using visuals and collage for exploring the future.

Visuals act as metaphors for our life situations, our goals, our hopes, our dreams, and our ideas. People tend to think in patterns, which are how we organize, create, and execute processes, i.e., how we get from here to there successfully. Patterns are most easily understood visually!

Collage can be used to tell a story of who/what/where we are — what we do, what we produce, what we represent — or what we want to be, using images, words, and color purposely placed on the page to guide the viewer through that story. In creating a collage, we focus our thinking and “looking” to find descriptive images that demonstrate our intentions and goals, and what we will need to get us to that place. We can show physical materials (rock, paper, water, money, etc), services (programming, design, investment strategies), modalities (working in an office, working independently, exploring or manufacturing) and values (encouraging innovation, seeking well-researched truth, fostering education, being creative or taking risk)..and then organize the contents to give either a simple or highly detailed picture of our goals and desires.

Dean then outlined basic compositional structures to help frame the exercise:

• ONE: Circle, unity, wholeness, inclusion, gathering, emanating from a central core

• TWO: Duality, attempting to find balance, showing conflict or tensions, “drawing a line in the sand”

• THREE: The pyramid/triangle, the Venn diagram, heirarchy of order

• FOUR: Square, corners of the earth, the elements, balance

• NETWORK: Multiple links, a collection of branches, interconnected systems

Attendees had about 45 minutes to explore what is important to them and what the future might look like through drawing and collage. Available supplies included loads of old magazines, large-format paper, scissors, markers, tape, and glue sticks. Energized participants worked both individually and collaboratively. The room literally buzzed with creativity, energy, and fun!

It was great to see everyone dig into both activities, learning more about their fellow attendees and themselves in the process. During the walk-around-the-room and group discussion that followed, participants were enthusiastic:

“I left collage back in third grade and it is not the type of activity I would ever think to do on my own, especially to solve some business problem. I was surprised at how much it opened up my thinking.”

“I learned about this event through an email forward from a friend at work; I’m really glad I came!”

“Looking at magazines, particularly those I don’t usually see, caused me to consider ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“At work I am constantly trying to find answers or solutions to strategic problems. Tonight I realized the area of my inquiry has been far too small and I need to step back and look at the bigger picture.”

“Going to a VizThink event is a great way to flex your eye/hand muscles in a relaxed and energized group setting.”

“Getting a group of people together, providing the materials, time, and direction to use a visual thinking technique in perhaps an unexpected and delightful way is what VizThink local groups should be all about.”

View event photos on Flickr

Special thanks to hosts Kalow & Springut LLP and John Reaves of Learning Worlds Institute and Care Lab.

Liked this article? You may also enjoy:

  1. [Simple Tools] Business Origami
  2. Daniel Weil: Drawing the Process
  3. SketchCamp: San Francisco May 28, 2011



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