In recent years I have tried to develop myself away from to-do lists, bullet point presentations and text heavy notes to explore more creative ways of displaying information. There are a whole host of these, from mind maps to sketchnoting (see here and here for ideas), imagery to graphs and charts.
I find that using these methods unlocks different trains of thought for me, and allows me to stay energised with my topic in a way that a list just doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love a list still and have many dotted around – increasingly important to me as my memory struggles to keep hold of all those little jobs I need to do, calls to make, shopping to buy – however if its more than just tasks but a rethink that is needed then I crave something more.
This active choice to develop has led me to explore a whole visual world as part of the job that I do (facilitation of others learning). I gleefully steal others ideas in this regard – I participated in a fabulous course last year where the days agenda was not a dry list on a slide with times attached, but a dynamic set of drawings interconnected with arrows, not a word or time in sight. I was excited and energised by what lay ahead that day if this was a taste of things to come, and use this technique often.
I find images can tap into a part of our inner world that we might not otherwise access. Colleagues and others I have worked with will know I often reach for a set of cards to facilitate activities, which contain a beautiful set of photographs. I ask prompt questions such as “what does wellbeing mean to you” “how would you describe your leadership style” “how are you going to take your learning forward from now” or simply “what are your thoughts”. This technique has never failed to produce a rich and fascinating set of responses from those in the group I am working with, as the pictures are open to personal interpretation and analogy, whereas words often lock you into a particular meaning.
I recently completed an online “Draw More Boot Camp” introducing the idea of using simple drawings in your work to explain or communicate more effectively. I have never put myself down as an “artist” and I guess that has often limited my confidence in using visual techniques in my work. This free course (I would highly recommend – link here) showed me that the simplest of lines portrays a strong message. Developing skills in sketchnoting is my next goal, I’ll write another blog about that when I make some progress.
Even without a specific tool, or indeed much artistic talent, it is easy to use visual techniques in your work – whatever your work is. Next time you are tempted by bullet points, pick up a pen and try a curved line instead, and see where that might take you.
Staff and Organisational Development Advisor