Visual thinking strategies are being used more broadly in education, particularly in the lower grades where how one thinks matures and becomes a pattern for later in life. This work is imbedding in schools, museums and support facilities for young people with disabilities, particularly autism and related conditions.
It seems to me that expanding visual thinking into corporations, charities, not-for-profits, and governmental agencies is a no-brainer. As youngsters grow into adulthood and take on roles in society visual thinking will become more critical as a skill to be continually development and used. Visual thinking in meetings then becomes a critical and necessary process. Some folks do this naturally because it is fairly accepted that around 65% of adults are visual learners.
Spotting the visual thinkers amongst us
The question becomes who are the visual thinkers and how do we nurture their innate skills. Spotting the visual thinkers is challenging unless you have a conversation about it. And do tasks in meetings using visual tools. But here are a few non-scientifically tested clues to watch for:
- Does the person take notes during meetings and how detailed and structured are the notes
- Does the person doodle inside of notes or as a matter of course
- Does the person speak in metaphors, i.e., “our goal is to build a bridge” or “I see us climbing to the top of a mountain and shouting our success.”
- Does the person turn more abstract ideas into simpler to digest graphic elements, i.e., creating a grid of concepts for comparison, taking ideas and creating a diagram or flow chart, or drawing a picture and placing ideas within the picture
I am sure science has more examples that have been tested and studied. (I know this is true regarding autism, for instance.) But we don’t have to wait for science to test our meeting participants to know that visual thinking adds huge value to our conversations and interactions. We see it all the time when we are graphic recording in meetings or graphic facilitating group process. Participants light up when they can interact and express their thoughts visually.