Monday, April 25, 2011

Visual Meetings

Back when I had 2 babies less than 2 years apart I became an ebay addict. There's not a single room in my home where I can't point to something I bought on ebay back then. If you know ebay, you know there isn't anything you can't find there. In their art section they have a category called outsider art. I used to browse through pages of artwork just to kill time between diapers. There was one particular artist I followed, waiting until he posted something I couldn't live without. The artist's ebay handle was Zen and Ink. He did beautiful, simple ink drawings on cocktail napkins. Something about them just struck me and I'd search for new works every few days. I never bought anything and eventually there was no new work posted. I don't know if he found a new medium or just gave up on ebay. Maybe he was discovered and he's hanging in a gallery somewhere to great acclaim.

In any case, that's what I thought of when I was browsing on Amazon recently and came across a book entitled The Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam. But Roam's book isn't about napkin artwork, it's about using pictures to solve problems and persuade people. While I was reading the book and researching the idea I came across David Sibbett's Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. I've already decided to implement some of the ideas I've picked up from these two authors. The gist of their work is that using simple images is a very effective way to communicate ideas clearly in a group setting. It's a very low-tech idea that I really like as a collaboration tool. How many times have you come away from a meeting thinking everyone was on the same page, only to find out later that not everyone saw things the same way? Adding visual restatements, explanations and clarifications can go a long way to making sure everyone is speaking the same language. And you don't need to have any artistic talent. Both authors provide you with simple techniques and the use of some basic shapes that can do most of the heavy lifting. Of course, for you artists out there, this would be a real opportunity to not only enhance your group work but also showcase your inner artiste. Check out these great books and go visual in your meetings!

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