How to use visual thinking at work

Today I thought I’d share with you some of the many ways my clients are using visual thinking at work.

I’ve had people say all sorts of things to me about visual thinking and its applications. From ‘I can see how L&D might use this but not anyone else in the business’ to ‘Isn’t this just for deaf people?’ I’ve heard it all.

One of the brilliant things about visual thinking is that it can be used in so many different settings. Today we’re looking at some of the not-so-common applications in business settings:

– Discussing team cooperation problems in our teams with our managers
– Highlighting skills and future objectives in a career development discussion
– Developing posters and storyboards for product launches and stakeholder identification
– Creating visuals on our team board from our key points in a retrospective (so easy to forget action points when they’re just things we need to be mindful of and we’re just emailing them around)
– Series of visuals as suggestions to a mental health group
– Note taking, spicing up minutes, planning stories

Visual Thinking at Work


Here’s what self confessed former sceptic Sandeep has to say: ‘I have been a Business Analyst for 20 years and in that period, I have attended many training courses including those having formal process diagrams and what not, which most times confuse rather than convince people. And then you come across this – Visual Thinking for Business – which is simple and easy to understand. It is the best thing I have come across in my work in 20 years.’ Sandeep Jayan, Senior Business Analyst, Baillie Gifford.

Visual Thinking is not about impressing your colleagues with fun drawings. It’s so much deeper than that. At its heart it’s about problem solving, generating ideas and sparking creativity.

Ready to learn more? Book in for a Visual Thinking for Business call with me and we’ll explore whether this is a good fit for you and your colleagues. Book a call here >>

Have a top week meanwhile,

Getting started with visual facilitation Part 2

Getting started with visual facilitation Part 2

Last week we looked at the first steps you need to take when adding visual facilitation to your work.

Today we’ve arrived at the day of the session.

You have your templates created in advance, now:
1. Make sure you hang them up well in advance of people arriving in the room (N.B. Use masking tape, not blutack!)
2. Have extra flipcharts to hand at either side of your templates in case you run out of space when filling them in.
3. Explain the process clearly and outline exactly what’s going to happen i.e. talk people through each section of the template. (mention you may have your back to them from time to time – it’s more like a pivoting action, the listening/scribing.)
4. Throughout the session use different methods for capturing information – post-it notes, dot voting, them drawing etc.
5.When scribing, be sure to do so in their language. 
6. At the end of the session read through the content you have captured and check with the group to see if you missed anything or if anything was captured incorrectly.
7. Review and reflect – what worked well, what will you do differently next time. 

The most important step however is to be brave and give it a go.. 

..because, sure when we’re faced with something that’s way out of our comfort zone we can think of a million reasons not to do it…but oh how satisfying to take a leap of faith and see the net appear. 

For 1:1 or group coaching on how to add visual facilitation to your toolkit, please get in touch

Getting started with visual facilitation Part 1

Getting started with visual facilitation Part 1

Are you a facilitator who is looking to incorporate hand drawn visuals into your work?

In its purest form visual facilitation is about embedding the use of large scale visual templates into your facilitation process – ideal if you’re looking to take your facilitation practice to the next level and to increase engagement and participation.

Visual facilitation can be conducted as a solo practitioner or by working in tandem with a visual (graphic) recorder. These tips relate to working as a solo practitioner. 

To get started:
1. Remember that the visuals are used as a tool to enhance facilitation – your facilitation skills are more important than your drawing skills.
2. Map out your existing facilitation process – start with a short session you run regularly, perhaps a planning meeting or focus group.
3. Outline your outcomes and timings for each part of the process.
4. Decide which parts of the process are important to be captured visually.
5. Play around with related metaphors and themes – what imagery lends itself well to the topic?
5. Create a series of large templates (if it feels more comfortable to start with flipchart paper then by all means do so) each containing a key question or statement under discussion. More tips on creating templates here. Remember to leave lots of white space! (Tip: Think about your timings and how much content you’d like to capture) If using a template created by someone else be sure to credit them. 

Tune in next week for tips on how to run the session.

Speaking of next week…I am in the process of reviewing my email marketing and I’d love to get your views. Am I emailing too much? too little? Do I mention my open courses too often? not often enough? Do you like the short emails or would you rather a longer one say once a month? Is the content ok or would you like info on other things such as what I’m up to? Let me know! It’s always great to hear from you.

Presentation secrets: six ways to increase engagement

Presentation secrets: six ways to increase engagement

Presentations can often be challenging – all eyes are on you, expectations are high and there’s no room or error. Or is there? 

Here are six simple ways you can increase participation and engagement when delivering a presentation:

  • Focus on your connection with the audience and see your presentation as a relationship building exercise.
  • Ask open questions. Show genuine interest in the opinions of your audience which means..
  • …not viewing your presentation as a finished piece that needs to be ‘pushed out’ but rather as an opportunity to develop and shape existing thinking.
  • Use silence. This is an incredibly powerful tool. Build in opportunities for your audience to reflect in silence before sharing their thoughts.
  • Express vulnerability and credibility. Sharing a challenge you have overcome, for example, is a great way to communicate this.
  • Use simple images to tell your story. These can either be pre drawn in advance or drawn live in the moment. 

And finally, remember it is ok to make a mistake. That’s what makes us human after all.

Five quick ways to build visual thinking into your everyday activity

Five quick ways to build visual thinking into your everyday activity

Excited about visual thinking and graphic facilitation but a little daunted about the work involved?

The best way to use visuals and graphics is to enhance the work you are already doing. This way graphics don’t become an extra item on your to-do list, rather they make the to-do list just a bit more interesting…

Here are some quick wins you can start with today.

1. Invest in an unlined notebook.The beauty of a blank page
Whether you’re a fan of A4, A5 or the tiny A6 choose a notebook that is line free. It’s much easier to get into the habit of drawing graphics when presented with a fresh clean white page.

2. Ditch the biros.
Biros tend to suffer the same fate as socks and teaspoons – they disappear into an unknown vortex never to reappear. So why not bring some colour into your life and opt for a fine nib set of markers such as Berol Fine Tip or Neuland FineOnes? Don’t be surprised when people ask for a copy of your notes at the end of a meeting.

3. On the phone? Make visual notes.
The next time you’re on the phone to someone use a combination of text and graphics to jot down what they say (with the aid of your unlined notebook and fine tip pens). It’s fascinating to look at afterwards, especially when it brings home the fact that yes, your sister did spend the last 35 minutes waxing lyrical about her latest squeeze.

4. Pimp your to-do list.
Many of us use to-do lists. They tend to be long, tedious and without end. Inject a bit of interest by adding a graphic to each item on your to-do list. This is also a great way to remember what actually needs to be done!

5. Design a template for an action plan.
Whether or not you take minutes at a meeting more often than not there will be an action plan at the end. Why not design a graphic template for this that you can reuse over and over again? Far more interesting than just another list…

My last tip is to share what you’ve created with your networks. Take a photo of your visual notes and share it on Twitter or LinkedIn. The positive feedback you receive will encourage you to keep going.

For more tips and in person practice why not join me for Secrets of Simple Graphics on September 27th 2019. Book your place now >>


Turning reports into one page visuals

Turning reports into one page visuals

I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment whereby I’ve been asked to take a lengthy report (anything up to 50 pages and beyond) and turn it into a one page visual summary.

After all, who has the time or energy to read through a 50 page report? And even if you do, are you able to recite the key points afterwards?

It’s so powerful to have a one page visual summary so people can readily digest the information, grasp the key points and furthermore, remember what those key points were.

Would you like to be able to do this with your own reports? Here are some steps to consider:

1. What are the three biggest takeaways from the report? If you really had to choose only three, what would they be? 

2. Do these points take the form of a narrative? If so what 

sequence do they follow?

3. What are the crucial supporting points for each main takeaway point?

4. Does the content lend itself well to a particular metaphor?

5. What images come to mind when you think of the content?

Still stuck on ideas? Read the report then immediately record yourself talking through what you’ve just read. Don’t talk for longer than three minutes. Listen back and jot down the key points. Develop a visual for this. 

I hope this has helped you to think about what is possible for your reports. If you want to take this further you can:

1. Build your visual thinking skills by signing up to Secrets of Simple Graphics

2. Speak to me about 1:1 visual coaching (or commissioning a piece) 

You could also…just go for it! You may already have all the skills you need. Remember half the battle with this kind of work is making the commitment to getting out of your comfort zone and giving it a bash.