Tag Archives: “visual models”

Working with 3D, Physical Models

If we think of common business concepts as models (eg. financial models, organization charts, strategies, etc.) then those models can be represented/displayed/constructed. They can be represented in a spreadsheet, a Visio diagram or a PowerPoint slide. By their very nature, models contain less information than the things they represent. That is, in fact, the definition of a model.

Part of what I do in my line of work is to get people to compare models and surface the assumptions that went into the creation of their models. When the model was created SOME assumptions had to be made. Sometimes those assumptions are explicit, sometimes not. By learning about what other people are thinking and what makes their perspective unique, greater understanding of the models can occur, changes can be made and ideally two or more models can be combined in novel, innovative ways.

All of that to say…by having people create physical (3d) representations of their models, such as having them build a representation of a supply chain out of pipe cleaners and Styrofoam balls, more information about the model and its underlying assumptions begin to emerge. There can literally be different perspectives on the 3d model as you’ll have people clustered around a table and they each see it slightly differently as its constructed. As well, people tend to learn and retain more effectively when they are actually moving parts and pieces around. This process of co-creation and retention can result in what is commonly known as “buy in”. Actually, I would go so far as to say that this process of co-creation goes beyond “buy in” and moves into the realm of “believe in”. Believing in something is much more powerful than simply agreeing to it.

When I was leading a workshop at the VizThink conference in San Francisco I had the group quickly go through an exercise where they built 3d models of some basic business processes. Here are some photos from that workshop.


Introducing the Global Collaboration Cue Card Project

I had an opportunity to present for 60 minutes as part of the Council for Communication Management conference in Toronto on May 1st. The CCM brings communication professionals together to brainstorm, share best practices, network, etc. I think I stretched some of the participants’ minds a little bit, talking about Wicked Problems, Collaborative Event Design, Graphic Facilitation. My presentation was a bit off the beaten path but I hope that it was engaging for most of the crowd.

The way in which I started my presentation was to give each person in the room (about 60) a blank, unruled cue card and asked them to illustrate, without the use of words, how they would communicate the notion of “collaboration” to a person who couldn’t speak their language. I gave them a minute to do that and when they were done, asked them to find a partner and on a third cue card create an illustration that combined each partner’s work.

I then dissected the exercise a little bit and talked about how words are in fact models that are loaded with assumptions and values and how communicating with graphics is an effective method for conveying underlying and unspoken meaning.

The Global Collaboration Cue Card Project

As a result of this exercise, I am now endeavoring to spearhead….drumroll please…The Global Collaboration Cue Card Project. With the length of this title and all of the capital letters, I feel as though I should be announcing this at TED or some such conference. It’s not that impressive. All I’m doing is posting all of the cue cards that I get on a Flickr group and I hope that others will copy the activity and add to the set. It would be very cool to see how many different interpretations of collaboration can be created and what common visual themes exist. And it’s all done without words!