Rich-Picture Visioning

Raise your hand if you believe you understand how passion works!

Perhaps not?

Passion is strange thing – immensely powerful in its impact, but confusingly subtle in its makeup – and yet for many of us it is the fundamental difference between living life, and simply existing within it.

Psychology has determined that we use different hemispheres of our brain for rational understanding and for emotion, and so, as the image from Mercedes illustrates, the very concept of understanding passion in any sort of rational way is going to be difficult.

This dichotomy is fine in our personal lives, but can be a problem in our working lives. We recognise the importance of passion to our performance in terms of creativity, perseverance and fulfilment, but so much of our work is about numbers, process and analysis.

The issue becomes most prevalent when we are called to determine a ‘vision’ for our organisation. Visions are intended to inspire, enthuse and engage people – to fire them up. But we often construct them in the form of numbers and logic: things we can understand, but which generally leave us ‘cold’ or at best ‘luke-warm’.

Rich picture visions work on the right-side of the brain, and are a way of engaging people in dialogue about what is on their heart, rather than what is on their mind. But before we explain how they work, let us offer up a two words of warning – firstly, we are dealing with the right-brain here, so don’t expect to understand how they work in terms of a clear logical rationale – just accept that they do. And please don’t expect that what will come out of the exercise will immediately integrate into your existing processes – just accept that it will bear fruit. Secondly, if you are already feeling cynical about the first warning, then everything else on this page is likely to prove counterproductive for you at this point – so please pass on this and do something ‘useful’.

If however you are still with us, then here is how you develop a rich vision:

  1. Start by thinking about the question your vision will be answering. Perhaps it is: “What will this organisation feel like in 5 years time?” or “What difference will it be making?” or “What do I want to invest the best 5 years of my life in creating?” or any combination of these.
  2. Feel free to write it up large, or to write different aspects of the question on cards stuck around the room.
  3. Then pick a sunny day, and find somewhere with a good view of it, and gather around you: a large piece of paper (flipchart size); some multi-coloured pens, scissors and glue; pictures and quotes that inspire you for some reason; some uplifting music of your own choosing; and a beverage – ideally extravagant and alcoholic. If smells work for you, throw some of those in too.
  4. Then pick up your pen, and begin to DRAW your answer. Only draw.
  5. When it is finished, stick it up somewhere.

No matter how poor an artist you consider yourself to be, do not write any text whatsoever – just draw. By all means augment your drawing with a collage of pictures where relevant – but no text. We are seeking to engage the right-brain over a pre-dominant and habitual left brain, and we don’t want to do anything to frighten it away. Let it speak through your pen strokes, suspending all judgement (which is left-brain again) and simply seeing what emerges. Think of it as a gift you are giving your right-brain – some uninterrupted quality time to listen really carefully to yourself. Strive to create an image that represents where you want to be working in 5 years’ time, but don’t be anxious about the outcome: If you draw things that don’t look right, see if you can reinterpret them into something that does. Allow yourself to be take on a journey by what emerges.

There is something about our right-brain and our sub-conscious that sees things that our conscious and our left-brain often overlooks, and this is a way to bring it out.

Take time to ponder your rich-picture on occasion. Live in it in your imagination, and see what might be behind things that are not immediately obvious. And then, after a period of time, have a go at another picture.

Over time, you will develop the language that will allow you to integrate your rich picture into the written vision for your organisation; into phrases which better capture the imagination of those around you.

Though you might not immediately be able to resolve your picture into business decisions, it will quietly influence things, emerging at appropriate times to make connections and encourage insight.

Rich picture visions can also be done as a group exercise, and can be very powerful in creating empathy and relationships within a group. They tend to create a bit of resistance when they are first proposed, but people quickly warm to them, and the shared explanations of each picture prove far more memorable than a set of words and explanations.

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