Graphic Facilitation

What is Graphic Facilitation?

Graphic facilitation (GF) is the use of rapid drawing to communicate ideas visually to a group of people or to record ideas that a group of people are creating in a visual form. What makes visual communication superior is that it sticks to the mind more strongly, packs a lot of information into one single entity that can be absorbed by the mind in one go and that it creates connections between elements easily and clearly. Using drawings also makes concepts much clearer and reduces ambiguity.

Coffee Making Process

When I attended a 3-day graphic facilitation workshop the trainers asked each of us to draw the process of making coffee on an A3 piece of paper. After completing this activity we found out that each of us had a different view of the coffee making process. It meant something different to each one of us. From this simple activity we realized that such a simple concept as coffee making could have a different meaning to each of us. Putting it in drawing helped us realize that. Similarly, when graphic facilitation is used in meetings it helps clarify what the speaker means by his words instead of having each attendee in the meeting interpreting those words in a different way which can cause misunderstanding resulting in bad communication.

GF During Workshops

Likewise, graphic facilitation can also be used during workshops to boost communication, improve retention and enhance engagement. The trainer or facilitator uses rapid drawing while he is explaining concepts in order to make them clearer and easier to digest. The trainer may even encourage participants to use drawings themselves during activities such as group work presentations.

Graphic facilitation can also be used during conferences or unconferences to keep a visual record of what is being said during the conference sessions.

Visual Language

Wh-questions

Graphic facilitation has its own visual language which is composed of a number of elements. Those elements attempt to answer the 5 basic wh-questions: who; where/ when; what ; how and why. Each of those questions has a specific set of drawings to answer it.

Icons

In addition to those 5 basic sets of drawings which answer the 5 main wh-questions, graphic facilitation also employs icons heavily. Again icons are drawn rapidly in order to communicate universal things such as “cell phone,” “laptop,” “Internet,” “Wi-Fi” and even abstract concepts such as “peace,” and “love.”

Metaphor

Moreover, visual metaphor can also be used in a drawing in order to enhance communication of meaning instantly as one takes a first look at the drawing. Finally, graphic facilitation employs the use of templates in order to make graphic recording faster and easier.

Conclusion

Graphic facilitation and graphic recording are techniques that can help boost communication among people during meetings, conferences and training workshops. If graphic facilitation was to spread among people and businesses a lot of deep problems that are rooted into bad communication would be greatly reduced.

Where else do you think graphic facilitation can be used?

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Design Thinking

Yesterday I attended an introductory session about design thinking at icecairo facilitated by Daniela Marzavan from Design Thinking at HTW-Berlin. The session was incredibly amazing! It blew my mind away. I realized how deeply experienced and competent the facilitator was and how amazing design thinking was within the first few minutes of the session.

Shuffled Name Tags

As we entered the training room we were given name tags. The interesting part is that name tags were shuffled on purpose and each participant taped a name tag of another colleague on his/her shirt! I was puzzled by this at the beginning but only realized the reason behind it when later during the training each participant was asked to speak to the person who has his/her name tag glued to his/her shirt.

Equilateral Triangles

Another interesting activity was when Daniela asked each of us to mentally pick to other colleagues. She then asked us to all stand up and try to silently form an equilateral triangle with those two other participants we had silently picked. We kept moving and moving without being able to achieve this. Reflecting upon this experiential exercise we discovered that the reasons behind its not working were: lack of communication and hidden goals among others. We were not working together as a harmonious orchestra but rather as isolated entities. It was also interesting to find out that one of the participants admittedly changed the two participants he had silently picked during the activity in an attempt to make the equilateral triage goal achievable!

Participatory Approach

Daniela also pointed out that design thinking favors a participatory approach where participants get to speak and participate rather than having a public speaker taking charge of the session and controlling it as that would lead to a loss of most of the talent of participants. Daniela kept relating interesting stories she experienced herself about this and other principles she was relating.

Materials Fostering Creativity

Another interesting concept Daniela mentioned was how the use of new materials can foster creative thinking and help us think out of the box. For instance, participants can be given Plasticine, Lego or other fun material to use in order to help them think in more creative ways. This helps them tap into their childhood creativity and is quite fun at the same time.

Team, Place and Process

Daniela mentioned that in order to undergo successful design thinking there are 3 elements to it, namely: an amazing team, the place and artifacts and the process. She spoke about each of these 3 elements in some detail.

Place

As for the place, Daniela gave two interesting examples. She said that a productive meeting can take place while walking! Another interesting example she gave was holding a meeting while lying down! This arrangement would make participants not able to see one another and therefore listen more attentively to each other as we generally tend not to listen to one another well.

Idea Ownership?

I really liked the concept of “no individual ownership of ideas” that Daniela mentioned. This is a really tough concept to implement as we have been brought up in our traditional competitive education to try and hold tight to our own ideas and ask for credit for such ideas. In design thinking, ideas are owned by the whole group and not by a single individual. Ideas are continually built upon by team members.

Ask “Why?”

A really interesting concept Daniela mentioned was that in design thinking we ask “why” rather than just asking “what”. For instance, if I client asks us to design a shelter, we don’t just go about asking him what type of shelter he wants but rather ask him why he wants to build such a shelter. I really appreciated such a concept as at resonates with my idea about designing training programs where I find it much more effective to ask the client on why he wants that particular training program rather than just asking him about what wants to have in the training.

Feasible, Viable and Desirable

As a reality check, Daniela mentioned that what we aim to achieve through design thinking should be feasible, viable and desirable. A ‘solution’ that is not technically feasible is certainly not one we should be pursuing. A prohibitively expensive solution that is way over budget is also not one to go for. And of course the solution we come up with must be one that is desirable by the client.

Development of Design Thinking

Daniela told us that design thinking went through 3 phases. During the first phase design was concerned with designing a better product such as for instance a better mouse that would be more usable. The second phase was more comprehensive and advanced and was concerned with the design of total experience. Designing a museum for instance lent itself nicely to such kind of total experience design. As for the third even more advanced and more comprehensive phase it is transformation design. In transnational design one focuses on changing mindset to effect change in a large ecosystem such as a supermarket chain or a whole city by placing interventions at specific points. Such change would take long to materialize and should be sought in small steps.

Desired Outcome

Another activity we did was pairing up with a partner, exchanging introductions to know more about our partners and then listening to one thing our partner is not happy about and the desired outcome he or she wishes for. Each pair were then asked to stand up ‘on stage’ and introduce one another and the mention the problem and desired outcome of each other.

Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking Process

The session yesterday was just amazing. It made me really appreciate what design thinking has to offer for us. It sounded like a practical down to earth system for finding solutions and coming up with effective practical designs.