Three Reasons to Use Stickpeople as Strategists

Why make such a big deal out of simple sketches? What’s up? And how on earth can stickpeople transform my culture at work?

Simple. In theory, that is. In practice, it kinda hurts your brain, but it’s worth it.

Reason #1:

If you can co-create and talk through ideas, thinking and sketching, sketching and thinking, then you’re going to find clarity, not only in your outcome, but also your processes, each person’s role(s), and next steps.

Reason #2:

When you’re sketching and thinking, chances are pretty solid that you’re innovating and trying new ideas. Rather than criticize someone for a crazy idea, the sketch allows you to sit with the idea and use it as a focal point. When everyone has the opportunity to wield a marker, sketching and making thinking visible leads to a culture of “what if…” instead of stultifying silence and compliance.

Reason #3:

Drill that mess down. Rather than talk AT your team for an hour, sketching out ideas helps you drill down to the absolute essence and crystallize takeaways for your audience. When planning your meeting / talk/ presentation, sketch it out first. (And yes, stickpeople are your best friends!). Once that’s hammered out, what do you truly want others to walk away knowing? How will you know they know it?

What are you waiting for? Get your markers flowing and put those stickpeople to work!

One-Pager on Visual Thinking

Ever need to explain the value of your product or service for others? Consider using simple visuals to create a single-page summary that makes your organization, product or service stand out from a bulleted list or otherwise text-heavy promotion. Hand-drawn images are still, despite their “simplicity”, a powerful messaging tool that appeals to the human side of business and understanding, while fueling your behind-the-scenes processes with new intention.  

Co-creating this type of visual summary is an unparalleled discussion and filtering activity. Ask others in your team or organization what THEY think the value is, and what THEY think are the key points that others need to know in order to choose what you have to offer. It is sobering to realize how many different ideas and perceptions are floating around among team members when you believe everyone is on the same page.

Creating a one-page visual summary literally and tangibly ensures everyone’s thinking is on the same page. In turn, this thinking becomes shareable, and malleable or customizable for different viewers. Obviously your values won’t change, but the way you present them for your different clients or audiences can shift. Change colors to match a client’s brand, or substitute a couple of words/phrases with an organization’s specific synonyms for even more rapid alignment. Perhaps you can include some visuals the target audiences rely upon to build out thinking from their standpoint.

Don’t get too attached to your first idea(s) or implementation as you create this type of visual. Make sure to include feedback loops and open communication lines, and be ready to pivot or completely change if required. It does need to capture value along with the core content, aka, the “short story” of your organization/service.

How can your summary connect your high-level concepts to your client’s/audience’s day-to-day decision-making? How can your summary serve as a tool to help influence organization, communication and the implementation of new thinking? How can you leverage the potent combination of a creative and structured approach to sharing your business/organizational value with the world?

3 Ways to Introduce Visual Thinking into Meetings

Psst…hey. Leading a meeting anytime soon? Here are 3 ways to introduce visuals into your meetings.

Paint done. Be crystal clear about what “done” looks like. This phrase and concept come from Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead and is an antidote to clarifying expectations. We’ve all been there, where we have expectations that are crystal clear in our own mind, yet we’ve never voiced them to others. Maybe it was a personal situation, maybe professional. Inevitably, frustration ensued and most likely the required expectation(s) were never achieved.

When you ask someone to Paint Done, however, you are asking to see a picture of what success looks like in a holistic view. It invites thinking from others who will be involved in the work, giving them the opportunity to make sure they have what they need to do what is being asked of them.

Reality check, space to tackle tough conversations, and authentic collaboration? Check.

Provide a central image, whether it is of your customer, ideal client, employee, or even the competition. It does not have to be fancy and in fact, you might be amazed at the power of your stick figures to finesse conversations. Using an image recalibrates your thinking by tapping into the visual brain. The central figure serves as a neutral anchor for everyone’s focus, and your group can use it in multiple ways, even virtually.

In practice, you can use breakout rooms for groups to respond to your prompt. Let’s say you’re reconfiguring your ideal customer during times of COVID19. Rather than elicit ideas from a huge group, smaller groups can converse then you can see where the overlapping ideas among teams exist and where disparities reside. Enter greater thought diversity.

Alternatively, a second idea is to ask teams to annotate directly onto the screen using the text feature, typing out descriptive phrases. The anonymity of this feature may be a comfortable boost to those who want to speak against the tide, allowing you to gain real feedback you wouldn’t otherwise glean from a larger, inhibited “public” group.

Co-create a visual library. Choose 10 icons or simple sketches to represent concepts you are continually discussing, challenges you are facing, aspects you are celebrating, and more. The co-creation piece can be done within set organizational teams, OR among different teams that don’t typically work together for cross-pollination of ideas.

Once you have those common shared images, they can be used as shortcuts in meetings, on organizational material (newsletters, memos, PR materials, etc.), during mentor/ mentee meetings, as building blocks to spur greater creativity or to enhance communication among different departments. The resultant shared understanding enlivens conversations, clarifies information, specifies requests for action, and illuminates processes, all because the focus is more tangible when seeing our words on paper or screen.

In other words, use simple visuals to help you drill down to the essence of your meeting by helping you clarify what you want to say, connect the dots, prioritize topics and ideas, and specify next steps.

Warning: once you use visuals to get clear, focused and action-imminent, you’ll never go back. Prepare thyself.