I often get asked “Is visual thinking is exclusively about the use of pictures?” and “Can I not use words in my pictures”?

My answer is that visual thinking can be just about the way you position words in relation to each other.

For example, the following template is used to help people share their thinking about an organisations values:

Values Health Check Template

People are simply asked to write their thoughts directly onto the large template. When the activity is completed, the relative density and positioning of their responses can immediately and visually provide valuable feedback about the organisations values:

Values Health Check Template 2

In the example above, before we even look at the detailed content of the responses, we can immediately see that:

  • People see Value 2 being lived in the organisation more than Value 1 and Value 3.
  • People have plenty of ideas about how colleagues could better live Value 1 in the organisation.
  • Value 3 has the least responses (is this because it is the least understood or relevant?).

All the above insights are obtained without the use of any pictures – simply from being able to see the positioning and density of the words on the template.

So the answer to the question is “No”, visual thinking is NOT all about pictures. It is all about helping people see information more clearly – whether this involves words, pictures or any combination of these.

John Ashton


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