Visual Intelligence: Using the Deep Patterns of Visual Language to Build Cognitive Skills


What Is Graphic Facilitation?

To begin, let me share a story that illustrates how graphic facilitation works. Recently, a rapidly growing human resource development consulting firm operating in China and Japan asked my company, The Grove Consultants International, to come to China and teach its consultants graphic facilitation. In spite of a tradition of using wall posters for communication and having a language based on ideographic characters, the firm had not made the leap to using graphics as people use spoken language—in an interactive way.

To orient everyone, I drew the chart depicted here and told a story about how a facilitator manages the four flows of activity in any group process. The top levels of the graphic illustrate the attention and intentions of the group. Next is the physical energy and movement created by the activities and interaction of the group. The third level shows the flow of information, referring to all of the things said by the participants in the meeting as recorded on charts and boards or presented in tables and graphs. The final level, bottom line, represents the flow of operations, meaning the physical and organizational mechanisms that provide the means of expression for the group.
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Tools for Virtual Meetings


I am frequently asked about the tools I use to graphically record virtual meetings. “Virtual meetings” in this case refers to web-conferencing sessions where people are connected from all over the place using computers and various software tools including WebEx, Connect, GoToMeeting, Live Meeting, Elluminate, and so forth. The web-conferencing software has to either support screen sharing or have a really, really good whiteboard feature. Here’s why I choose the tools that I do.

The Short Answer

Mostly, I use the Wacom Cintiq tablet with WebEx meetings. The Cintiq is an LCD tablet that works like a second monitor you can write on with a special pen or stylus. I use SketchBook Pro software for drawing and editing, because it’s very responsive and has all the features required of digital graphic recording. I attach the Cintiq to my laptop, set up the monitors so they are not mirrored, log in to WebEx, and share the Cintiq screen.

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Announcing My Latest Book: Visual Teams



The success of my book Visual Meetings brought publisher John Wiley & Sons back for a “sequel,” and I recently finished Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, & High Performance in time for a fall launch. Visual Teams builds on the concepts covered in Visual Meetings (top 5% of all business books during 2010) and will be available in stores October 11.

For those of you familiar with the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model® (TPM) you will notice in the title the key words for the right side of the model—the pathway to high performance. Visual Teams is built around the idea that if teams learn to use visual meetings and other visualization methods across the full arc of their work, they will be much more productive, creative, and influential in their organizations. The book also uses visual language to unpack the TPM itself, and delves a little deeper into its theoretical underpinnings, most notably Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process.

I organized this book around the TPM. Initial chapters make the case for teams working like designers—experimenting, creating prototypes, and using visualization to test ideas and share information and mental models. I’ve pulled forward a full treatment of the TPM, adding what visual teams would do to handle each stage of the model. I have a special section for team leaders and how they can manage the four flows of attention, energy, information and operations on their teams—building on our work with Agilent Technologies for its first-line manager training, in which The Grove’s Team Leader Guide was a source book for many years.

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Chart Critique

Looking for a way to track your progress as a graphic recorder and find out what areas to develop further? Try a chart critique. I recently printed small copies of charts that I created in meetings during the past six months — I picked one or two per month — and sat down with my colleague Laurie Durnell to critique them. We looked at how my style has been evolving, identified areas that are working well, and came up with a list of things to practice going forward.



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