Metaphor and Graphic Recording

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, scribing, visual facilitation

Strategic planning is a complicated process that takes time and deep discussion. It’s not easy for an organization or company to step back from itself and see the big picture or grapple with intangibles like vision, mission, and values. This is why developing an overarching metaphor to frame the discussion can be so effective. Stories are the most powerful form of communication and learning. We surround ourselves with stories: blockbuster movies, novels, news articles, plays. The most successful movie franchises all have a powerful story at their core (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Toy Story).  And it goes beyond entertainment – stories allow us to step outside our day-to-day lives. They teach us about ourselves and open our minds to new perspectives. Re-framing the work It’s not easy to reflect on a company’s challenges or opportunities when you’re working day-to-day “in the trenches.”Metaphor frames the strategic planning as a story and allows people to take a step back and gain new perspective. It’s a neutral and safe place to have tough discussions. For example, mountain climbing is a common metaphor used when graphic recording a strategic session. What small peaks can we reach on the way to Everest? What tools and climbing gear are needed? Who is leading us to the first peak? What are the avalanche conditions and how can we prepare for them? Example graphic recording using mountain metaphor (confidential information has been removed or blurred). Tailor to the group Some people may be skeptical of framing the work in this way – they may feel it’s juvenile, a waste of time, not the “real work.” Of course, metaphor can be overused and it’s important to strike the right tone with the group you’re working with. Some groups are more receptive to working this way; others prefer a lighter touch of metaphor. However, the power of metaphor is undeniable. It’s a non-threatening way of assessing a company’s strategy and it’s surprisingly effective at pulling the nay-sayers into the discussion. Anchor the intangibles Finally, metaphor anchors intangible items like mission, vision, values, and quarterly actions into an engaging visual that everyone is more likely to review in future. It allows people to see interconnections between team members, how resources support the yearly goals, and gets people excited about their work. I’ve used a variety of metaphors in graphic recording – from the traditional mountain climb, to canoeing down a river, space travel, sailing, and building a house… just to name a few! Try it at your next meeting and see how metaphor can transform strategic...

Read More »

Research & Cultural Sensitivity in Graphic Recording

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in blog, Graphic Facilitation, graphic recorder, Graphic Recording, scribing, visual facilitation

I was graphic recording at a recent scientific research conference and a woman remarked to me: “How do you know what to draw? You must really know our industry!” It’s a question I’m asked often — how do I choose the right images? How do I follow along with a complex industry discussion? What if I offend someone with what I’ve drawn? Research There’s a school of thought among some facilitators that it’s best to go into a meeting “knowing just enough to be dangerous.” In other words, doing just enough research before a meeting to have a basic understanding of the topic. All meetings are pretty much the same, right? Knowing “just enough” before going into a meeting is like an architect knowing “just enough” about a company’s needs before designing their building. Prior to a full-day meeting I spend 2-3 days researching the topics being discussed and the people in the room. Having a fulsome understanding of the discussion topics allows me to move quickly with the discussion and make connections between ideas when I’m graphic recording. I’ll have a strong sense of what stakeholders are struggling with and what their goals are. Research also ensures I understand the industry terminology (especially if it’s a technical conference for engineers!).  The graphic recording should be an authentic reflection of the industry and work, so including accurate imagery and knowing how to spell specific terms and acronyms makes a difference in people connecting with the graphic recording. Cultural Sensitivity Every organization or community has a culture and I adjust my graphic recording to align with it. Often this means working closely with the meeting planner to understand their organization’s culture and what may or may not be appropriate to draw. For example, I worked with an environmental organization that uses a lot of data and statistics to back up their work. They needed a graphic recording that was accurate, in a straight-forward layout (see “Layout Preparation” below), with clear text and not too image-heavy. This isn’t an organization that would respond well to a graphic recording that is whimsical or overly playful — it’s not their organizational culture. I’ve also been honoured to work with many BC First Nations (Haida Nation, Tk’emlúps, Kitsumkalum, Hagwilget, Gitanmaax, to name a few), and it’s important to respect that each community has their own unique culture, perspective, and history. First Nations art and storytelling is very visual, with an emphasis on metaphor and respectful listening. Graphic recording at its core is about listening and reflecting on a discussion, and using metaphor (often nature or land related for First Nations discussions) to amplify ideas. Layout Preparation The final cornerstone in preparing is the planning of layouts for the graphic recording. This is especially effective for strategic planning meetings where the group intends to develop a vision, values, or action plan. Utilizing a layout to...

Read More »