Western societies have largely lost the ability to think in images rather than words.
Each day, I am amazed at the brain power that is lost when we focus solely on words; I now am using hand-drawn images more and more for:
- thought clarification
- memory enhancement.
For a couple of years, since reading neuroscientist Dr. Ian Robertson's Opening the Mind's Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us How To See, I have been increasingly convinced through many experiences that including both words and images enhances processes such as the four listed above.
Now it looks as if more and more people are coming to the same conclusion and practicing brain enhancement by image or drawing. Take a look at some of these links and excerpts below before discarding the idea of drawing pictures (and lots of them!) in your dispute resolution.
Over at idealawg, I posted about the new book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. Roam's book about the value of using images in business has been in the top 200 at Amazon since it came out. Seems I am not the only one who found the book to be an excellent book, offering practical advice on using pictures—and explaining why you would want to incorporate images. A couple of articles about the book . . .
From "Doodling for Profit" (Business Week):
In a corporate landscape awash with slick computer presentations, charts, graphs, and logos, some managers still utilize an age-old tool for business problem solving: the hand-drawn doodle. Whether sketched on a legal pad or drawn on a whiteboard, a doodle has the power to humanize the abstract and simplify the complex. It's a way to add humor into a dry topic. And, when doodles are used in meetings with colleagues and clients, it's a way to pull people into the process of solving a problem.
The author of "Pictures aid communication, book argues" (Miami Herald) writes:
. . .I think the very act of trying to come up with the right images forces the presenter to break things down into the most important and meaningful components, which is a very good way to get a point across, irrespective of the chosen medium. . . .[A]s a way to get attention and disrupt the status quo and penetrate defenses, simple imagery is deceptively potent and effective.
Here's the "lost chapter" of the book: "The 10-1/2 Commandments of Visual Thinking." (pdf)
Best-selling author Dan Pink's new book (book's Web site) uses lots of images: it's a comic book! (Or manga to be exact.) Howard Zinn's newest title is in comic format, too. The graphic novel genre is growing in popularity and acceptance.
Pictures are great teachers. I was happy to see that I am in good
company when using images—created by both me and attendees—in seminars. The National Science Foundation has found that using the visual approach deepens understanding of the content. NSF launched "Picturing to Learn" in which college students make drawings to explain concepts to high school students.
On the evening of the 9th of this month, I had students create pictures of concepts in a Brains on Purpose™ seminar and was particularly pleased with the results. I woke up the next morning to find in my e-mailbox an article in Science Daily about "Picturing to Learn" titled "Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings."
What sets this project apart is its emphasis on inviting students to draw in order to explain scientific concepts to others. The act of creating pencil drawings calls into play a different kind of thought process that forces students to break down larger concepts into their constitutive pieces.
. . .
"Visually explaining concepts can be a powerful learning tool," says Felice Frankel, principal investigator at Harvard University. "The other important part of this is that the teacher immediately identifies student misconceptions."
The universities involved make up an impressive list.
The project brings together five institutions: Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Duke University, Roxbury Community College and the School of Visual Arts in New York City
The drawing process creates delightful, insightful surprises. Because another way of thinking is involved, the brain and mind power in the room is doubled. I highly recommend it to you, both for your own thinking and for that of the people with whom you work, mediate, teach, persuade, learn, think, negotiate. This may sound a bit odd to some of you now but, trust me, it will be an acceptable and beneficial option in the near future. I will bet you a pad of paper, a whiteboard, and some colored markers.
From the news office of MIT: "It is not just about communicating ideas to others. It is also about communicating with ourselves."
Image credit: pikaluk at flickr
Note (added April 29, 2008, 12:17 PM Mountain): An epidemic level of focus on the visual and/or images seems to have ensued since this post. Two entries from Nancy Hudgins: Visual Aids: Show, Don't Tell and Q & A With Southern California Mediator Victoria Pynchon. From Vickie Pynchon: Negotiating Happiness with Mind Maps. From Christopher Annunziata: The Effective Use of Visual Aids in Mediation. From Garr Reynolds: The Story of Stuff (and the stuff of story) and Simple & Visual: Using paper and digital video to bring clarity to complexity. From Jerry Lazar: Flip Chart Fundamentals (be sure to read the last paragraph of his post).
I was very excited to learn yesterday about the process of graphic recording in which people draw pictures to memorialize events. Click to see some graphic recordings from the Dalai Lama conference in Seattle earlier this month.
The spirit of Seeds of Compassion is captured in a fascinating visual format. Graphic Recorders used flip charts, large mural size sheets of paper, and electronic tablets to create a visual synthesis of what they saw and heard during key events.
The images serve as a powerful reminder of the experience and will help chart the path forward in 2008-09.
- Graphic recording of SXSW
- Another use of graphic recording
- Graphic recordings of 2005 Pegasus Conference
- How they are created
- The concept of visual practitioner.
Review of The Back of the Napkin here (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Note (added September 5, 2010): The Best Sites For Learning About Graphic Recording (Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day). And a post about Gamestorming, a book that looks at the value of visual thinking.
Note (added April 30, 2012): "Doodling for Dollars: Firms Try to Get Gadget-Obsessed Workers to Look Up—and Sketch Ideas" (Wall Street Journal).
- Video: Dan Roam - Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work [Authors at Google]-posted on YouTube in April, 2012
- Slides: Visual Thinking Presentation for UnitedHealth Innovation Day (See #26 about drawing as if you have returned to your 6-year-old self, also here)-posted at slideshare in May, 2012-via
Visual Thinking Skills – Getting Them in Shape with Letters and Shapes (Brainzooming™)
- Very good notes summarizing a workshop in graphic recording at Reality Bites (posted May 27, 2012)-Photos of the event