July 11, 2019

Dear Diary,

Today there was once again a brainstorming session with the best and it wasn’t ideal.  As always, there was an awful lot of talking and very little listening. Johan held a monologue about “project-based work” that seemed to last for hours.  Meanwhile, I saw Sandy just staring ahead, she literally said three words the entire session (even though she has to deal with this too).  Rachelle made it sort of a mission to counter everything Johan said, and Rick only said “good point”. The rest didn’t show the back of their tongues either. So frustrating! 

While I’m just sure everyone here is walking around with good ideas, why don’t they manage to get them out?!

Instead, we all sit in a room for two hours and I come out feeling like my brain was sucked out through my nose with a vacuum cleaner. Another brainstorm is scheduled in two weeks. Am I looking forward to it? Of course not!

August 14

What I experienced yesterday changed my life. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it was a little puzzle piece that fell into place.   

Sandy had pushed me to participate in a “creative session” and I can’t say I was immediately excited (“are we going to paint or something?”), but man am I glad I went anyway.

The afternoon was led by someone who calls himself a “visual thinker” and all afternoon we just sketched. We sketched!

We drew our ideas and solutions and they were all collected on a few flip charts. I immediately saw how drawing and interactive tasks inspired the group and wanted to build on the other person’s ideas! It gave such a boost, that just after four hours, we had a concept and action list ready, I have never experienced this before.

I had heard of ‘visual thinking’ before but hadn’t thought that it could be so interesting and useful for my situation.

September 7

The last weeks I’ve delved into Visual Thinking (a lot of interesting books about this topic are there about this topic!) and last week I decided to take matters into my own hands.

With a few simple tips and exercises, I made a plan for the next brainstorming session. Everyone got their own color sticky notes that they could write and draw on. I prepared some simple drawing rules and short exercises to make the brainstorming more lively.

I have to admit that I was quite excited to introduce this to the team. Johan in particular reacted (sigh) not super enthusiastic. But now that I had announced it, I had to go ahead with it. Besides, it was all very small-scale because it was with my own team, which at least made it manageable. Worst case scenario, we could just go back to a boring mind-numbing brainstorm in a month’s time.

The result was insane. Insanely good haha! 

By the end of the session, we suddenly had a list of ideas that we were going to move forward with, a list of ideas that would be dropped anyway, and an action list with categorized actions.

But the most important result was the energy and (do I dare to say it) passion (yes I dare to say it) that flared up in the team.  Because everyone was allowed to draw, everyone’s ideas were given equal space: Sandy was alive as soon as she was allowed to draw. More importantly, some of her ideas were rock solid! And instead of fighting each other, Johan and Rachelle managed to hitchhike on each other’s ideas, what a difference! 

People stuck around the flip-over and were still discussing ideas after the session; they left the room energized. And I didn’t feel like I was drained for a change but rather recharged.

Sounds a little over-enthusiastic maybe, haha. And it really wasn’t an outpouring of the Holy Spirit there either, but I could see that something was starting to change. 

At the coffee machine afterward, I heard Rick enthusiastically telling one of the guys from H.R. about the session. I think the last time Rick was enthusiastic was in 2016 when we announced that employees could claim a financial allowance if they purchased a laptop.

So at least something is changing.

January 23

Since that trial session, I have continued my explorative dive into Visual Thinking. In addition to reading a number of books, I have now even attended a number of training sessions about this subject. And I am starting to see more and more how I can use it to achieve more quickly the wanted results with a group.

For example, I started a working group called ‘creative sessions’. In it, we think about ways to work together with colleagues, clients, and partners. In a visual, creative way and with space for all different voices (including the ‘window starers’).  Do you know who else is in that working group? Johan! Can you imagine? He can still monologue for hours, but currently, the topic is Visual Thinking!


A Visual Co-Creator

Are you also a Visual Co-Creator?

Do you recognize yourself in this diary?

Would you like to actively work with others on the things that really matter?

Would you like to use visuals to have joint ideas and agreements communicated more clearly?

We can help you achieve this, with the special Visual Co-Creator training path.

By Hugo Seriese