Thoughts on the deterioration of a powerful metaphor.
The first time I heard someone say "out of the box thinking", I was riveted by the image. So was everyone else it turns out. And now, some fifteen years later, people pepper conversations with it. It has become a cliche. I get the same feeling when I hear that we should "brainstorm" about a pesky problem that has come up for the upteenth time in a meeting. Did you know that a true brainstorm is defined as a temporary fit of insanity. It takes courage and discipline to conduct one effectively. But, usually the casual meeting request is followed by the same old predictable stream of consciousness chatter. And, having appeased our minds with an homage to creativity, we return to the predictable.
The cartoon above came from my sketchbook. It's a product of my wandering mind and pen. People seem to like it, especially the orange box on the right. They single it out as the one that works for them. This has surprised me because I see it as part of a sequence. Singling it out is understandable; it carries some of the power of the original utterance*. But preferring it after all these years is like singling out a word at the end of a sentence for praise. As I drew the five box series I was mulling over how metaphors lose their power as we use them unconsciously. Need some innovation? Push the "think out of the box" button.
One way to retrieve that power is with a picture. My doodle had that unintended consequence: a pleasing recovery. Now, I wonder what we have to do to spark our next inclination to brainstorm?
A side note: the colorizing of the drawing came later on my iPod touch, of all things. I had been showing people the sketch. And in yet another peripatetic moment, I re'-worked it in Sketchbook-mobile, a $3 app from Autodesk! Makes me want an iPad. The colors re-invigorated the metaphor. They put a visual exponent on it!
* I wonder if anyone knows who said, "out of the box thinking" first?
Working with your hands is inherently satisfying. For many people doodling or fiddling with whatever is at hand staves off boredom during long meetings and workshops . You can take charge of this simple fact by leaving some "holy scrap"
on the table. Encourage people to play with your offerings; but it is best not to attach ANY significance to them. Many will begin to play with them as soon as their attention to the front of the room action fades. And some people will never touch the stuff.
It can be argued that the unconscious manipulators are processing information and thoughts kinesthetically. Many facilitators notice that there is a more benign energy in the room. And frequently there are some wonderful products.HOLY SCRAP is any combination of simple things such as pipe cleaners, play dough, wire, colored paper, tape etc that will entice people to pick them up and play with them. I stick with ordinary stuff that is not branded. People project more of themselves onto things that are not already carrying a big message.
I have documented this ambient phenomenon informally for a number of years now. Enjoy the photos.
Learn to use KM in your practice. This workshop is geared to facilitators, coaches, and consultants. In one day you will experience the process, learn what makes it tick and become familiar with how to facilitate KM with your clients. Julie Gieseke, a Bay Area coach and facilitator is presenting with me. She's an experienced KM user and teacher. The session is graphically facilitated. You will receive copies of all photos, session graphics and the latest version of the "KM Facilitator's Guide. It will be held in San Francisco or Sausalito. The fee is $250. Attendance is limited to 20 participants.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: There are half a dozen posts on this blog that explain the process and its uses. Scenes and information from last year's workshop can be found it the post called COACHES use Kinesthetic Modeling To register contact me, John Ward, with a comment below.
“More than anything else in his life, Charles Darwin liked to look at things. He liked to look at things the way the way an artist likes to draw, the way a composer likes to play the piano, the way a cook likes to chop onions: it is the simple root physical activity that makes the other, higher order acts not just possible but pleasurable.”
Tania Von Allmen picked up the basics of Kinesthetic Modeling last year at the IFVP (International Forum of Visual Practitioners) Conference in Chicago where I spoke last August. Here is her description of how KM gets her clients to the heart of the matter, the imagery they hold beneath their day to day business preoccupations.
"My method for designing logos has been to have a client sit down and review a list of words I give them. We narrow down the list together and create a vision statement of 3 core words. We use the words as a benchmark for whether we are on track with the logo design. The challenge with this is going from this very left-brain mode into the symbolic realm. A logo is really a visual representation of a vibration that has a feeling at the core of it.
Kinesthetic modeling gives me the tools to get a client right to the feeling and often to the symbol itself. That doesn't mean that if someone selects a rubber duck on the model to represent their feeling of childlike delight in the work they do, that I make a rubber duck their new logo. It does mean that we can have a discussion about how childlike delight is what they bring to their work and how they invite their customers to participate in and enjoy that experience with them. We would then explore visually other ways of expressing the feeling and experience of "childlike delight" and maybe end up with a symbol that is playful. whimsical, colorful, etc.
Also, KM helps my clients shift into right brain mode very naturally and this is a challenge for people who do not see themselves as "creative" and would like to put everything on me to "dress them up". I like that it completely breaks their pattern. They have no idea how to do it "right" and usually they just surrender into going with it and tapping in to resources they didn't know they had.
Finally, KM is the best way I know to deal with weird group dynamics and power structures. It really does level the playing field and allow people to express themselves and their ideas in a way that often doesn't come out in a stuffy meeting. It gives the heart a voice because of its kinesthetic nature. The results are always very authentic, deep, and transparent.
The bottom line is KM helps shorten the distance between a client's vision and the visual representation of that vision. For that reason, it is a tremendous tool in my toolbox."
Tania Von Allman's links: Tania@LuminosityStudio.com www.LuminosityStudio.com
I have lost track of the number of Leadership Challenge workshops I have captured graphically over the past six years. I am always refreshing my understanding of this powerful program developed by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Recently, in a session with a group of government executives the big picture came together nicely under pressure. We had too little time to share the gist of the program with executives who were about to receive their 360 LPI (Leadership Profile Index) evaluations. The LPI is the statistical tool that is the umbrella for the TLC program. I say "umbrella" because everyone's best practices are at the heart of The Leadership Challenge and the 30 behaviors surveyed by the LPI extend to the perimeter of each person's working territory. Take a look at this 35,000 foot view that I sketched up for the occasion. It's about 3' across.
REAL TIME VISUAL CAPTURE of important ideas, conversations and decisions boosts the productivity of any group."We help 'at-risk' urban kids refurbish donated airplanes. Then THEY fly them to the customer". Lyn Freeman of Build-a-Plane in LA explains his revolutionary educational program to a conference convened in San Diego by The Big Picture Company. John Ward captures his ideas in the drawing shown below.
The Kinesthetic Modeling (KM) session Monday at VizThink was a sellout. Tuesday, many conferees were asking for an encore. That evening after dinner a second group got together. They were intrigued to experience how simple kinesthetic activity liberates visual expression and original thinking.
For more pictures and all of the meeting graphics associated with these sessions, click the "VizThink09" slideshow link in the right column of this blog.
Be sure to check out David Sibbet's perceptive post about the evening session at http://www.davidsibbet.com/david_sibbet/2009/03/kinesthetic-modeling-whole-body-vizthink.html