Editor’s Note: The Grove is delighted to welcome Malgosia to our consulting team. This article is adapted from several get-acquainted conversations about how she found her way to this work.
Q: Do you ever wonder if you were drawn to visual communication because English is not your first language?
Malgosia Kostecka: I was born in Warsaw, Poland, and moved to the Bay Area from Switzerland when I was four years old. Growing up, my parents upheld our Polish heritage through tradition and storytelling.
Assimilating to a new culture and language taught me how we can communicate a great deal without necessarily understanding the language. From a young age, I was fascinated by the way images create a universal language and metaphors bridge a cross-cultural gap. Processing information visually became my dominant mode of learning.
Q: You seem to have a special knack for helping people feel at ease with their creative self-expression.
MK: I graduated with a double major in psychology and fine arts, with the intention of practicing art therapy. People are told at a certain age whether or not they are good at art. I have met many people who have closed themselves off to their creative expression and have gone into a default mode of “I can’t draw.”
With drawing, as with every skill, practice is essential. It takes time for muscle memory to develop when you are learning something new or healing something that has been damaged. I’m not saying practice will make you into Picasso, but it can open up a useful and enjoyable channel for expressing your thoughts and ideas.
Q: So how did you make the leap from art and psychology to graphic recording and visual facilitation? In retrospect it seems like a natural step, but it can’t have been an obvious one.
MK: Five years ago I had no idea this field even existed. In my previous work I became increasingly aware of how frustrating meetings were. I began noticing the same patterns occurring: a few people dominating the conversation, information presented via monotonous PowerPoint slide decks, and recurring issues that invariably spun the conversation into futility. No one in the group enjoyed going to these meetings.
Then one of my mentors happened to introduce me to the field of graphic recording. This way of working built a bridge between my two fields of study, psychology and art. I felt an immediate sense of affinity and was determined to learn more about it.
My research led me to The Grove Consultants International, a pioneer and thought leader in graphic facilitation and recording. Once I took the Principles of Graphic Facilitation (PGF) workshop, I was off and running.
Q: And now you are teaching PGF, getting other people launched in this way of working. Quite the full circle!
MK: PGF showed me that skillful graphic recording is not about drawing pretty pictures during a meeting. The important thing is that the charts be an accurate reflection, in words and images, of the group’s interaction. This creates a visual platform for interacting with the information.
Using graphic recording results in meetings in which all opinions are represented, a shared visual memory of the conversation is produced, and participants leave with a clear map of where they plan to go. People actually enjoy going to this kind of meeting.
Q: Your interests, gifts, and life experiences combine to give you a tremendous footing for this way of working.
MK: I feel fortunate to have found work that I am so passionate about. Since starting my position at The Grove, I love coming to work every day, and it’s because I’m part of a great team. Everyone here is invested in creating powerful tools and methods that help people “collaborate across time, space, and culture.”
This work has a huge capacity for helping people see things in different ways and become more creative in their work. Whether you read one of The Grove’s books, take a workshop, or work with one of the consultants, there is something useful here for anyone working to get things done in any organization.
I love that as part of my job I get to listen to people and display what they say in a visually engaging way. I know I will always continue to learn and grow in this field.
Q: Any closing thoughts?
MK: As we continue to see new technology changing the course of how we interact, we are presented with new opportunities in cross-cultural collaboration. My experience with visual communication makes me confident that we can connect better with one another using visual media. I look forward to seeing how this field continues to expand and evolve as more people collectively visualize change.
The video of Malgosia’s graphic recording is from “The Future of Talent,” an event at Google in partnership with The Aspen Institute.