I Love Rich Pictures
There is no denying the impact that graphical storytelling can have on groups of people – particularly as it often transcends the borders of industry sectors and breaks down the barriers of language. Taking complex data sets and visualising them, produces some great insight.
A good visual representation of an opportunity or a challenge, can help focus the mind on making the most of it. If we get bogged down in semantics or formulas we miss the moments of joyous eureka and co-created serendipitous discovery.
Business Visioning Workshops
When I work with clients on complex issues, I will use any medium to present the most useful and meaningful core facts. My workshops are meant to demonstrate the principle of learning by doing and understanding through discovery. Those things that we write we tend to understand, by adding images and comments in ones own style creates even more impact. Layer by layer we gain more valuable insight as we simply document the areas in focus by means of diagrams, doodles, sketches, and notes.
Collaboration Between Subject Matter Experts
I visit many companies to encourage collaborative working. I use use different business visioning techniques to help teams of people to find answers together. It sounds obvious but when you sit people down from different areas of a business and ask them to describe the way they work together and they become tongue tied and often feel inhibited to speak up. Give them post it notes, marker pens and a skilled facilitator and you end up with a very different experience.
The Warehouse Effect
Good facilitators can help people to open up and lose the inhibitions that limit the opportunity for real talent to stand out. I love those moments where the unassuming individual in the Management team rises to the challenge and demonstrates to their colleagues that they understand more than was expected. I call it the warehouse effect, something that I have seen many times, where the anecdotal ‘person from the warehouse’ stands up and says their piece. They are watched by a group of heads of business and there is magical moment of awe. They say; ‘ Wow – that person knows more about this than we do!’ Those moments are priceless and can often lead to a head of business wanting to know more about the untapped potential hidden within the team.
Knowledge is Attractive, But Insight is Beautiful
During workshops it is important to allow the conversation and insight to move towards consensus and action. A good facilitator will be able to document the conversation and illustrate a situation with relative ease. I draw upon a rich library of business model tools and visual aids to keep the ideas being generated and the information flowing with positive momentum.
The Joy of Discovering the Terrible Reality of Now
There is nothing wrong, in my humble opinion, in introducing humour into the mix. In fact sometimes it is wise to do just that to ensure that the group can take a little light relief from a tricky situation. If the energy of the meeting is flipped into negative space it quickly shuts people down, sapping their willingness to throw ideas onto the table. In some cases it creates hostile situations where fingers are pointed and defences are raised. That is not how business visioning workshops are meant to operate. They should be collaborative and remain largely positive in spite of the difficult challenges that are under discussion. A good facilitator needs to be able to spot this early and diffuse the situation without losing the core insight – which maybe the moment where the team say; OMG, I think we know what the problem is….
Get Information Together Wherever You Can
My business visioning workshops do not always happen in a meeting room – I have delivered them in swimming pools, cafes, peoples living rooms and factory floors. I have wrote on walls, windows, tables, napkins, wallpaper rolls and even flattened cardboard boxes. Getting information down is key and the environment needs to fit the mood and put the group at ease.
Doing Something With This Stuff
It stands to reason that once you have visualised the current state there are certain expectations, that one must move the conversation onto what should be done next. This is where, through the use of visual tools, my projects present data for discussion in a more formal manner – using regularised business models.
So Many Good Ideas – But What Next Captain?
It is at this point, as we view the data sets in graphical, familiar tables and business diagrams that we start to see plans being formed – actions being assigned to owners and timelines being proposed. Finding a good facilitator means looking for one that can simplify complexity and fit into your management team. They should help you find the answers and build a plan to reach the appropriate goals. Remember, you and your team probably have the answers already – you just need help to find the right key to unlock the door.
Use facilitators to ask those honest, probing questions. Learn to use their visual aids and props to explore situation and explain challenges. Develop useful, internal tools and models for explaining what you have found. Get the facilitator to build a plan that can be delivered with the help of your team. Don’t expect too much from the first session as it can take a little while to get people into the right head-space to understand complex business matters. Be willing to have a little fun and expect the unexpected. The final word belongs to one of our many satisfied clients.