Why write about Graphic Facilitation when everything we need is a drawing? Indeed, I could have made an illustration to explain how to animate your meetings and present the advantages of this practice, but since Google has not yet introduced SEO for pictures, I will write down a bit around the drawings.
Graphic Facilitation is intriguing to a lot of people, but I also often hear : “I’m bad at drawing…” or “Drawing lacks details, no?” Actually, think again! No need to be an expert drawer to properly convey ideas, you only need to be precise and to the point. All you need is for the intention to be transmitted.
If you compare the two following illustrations, the difference is obvious. One is detailed and made by a professional, whereas the other is much simpler and was drawn by me! Having tested it with my colleagues, the meaning seems to be well understood : the discovery of the Americas. The intention is there, the primary idea stays at the forefront, so the message is clear.
When you want to illustrate a team objective, a project you are trying to implement or even a new strategy to adopt, illustrate the stakeholders, highlight the objective and define how to get there : what will be on your way or the steps to achieve it. You are trying to create a story, an adventure…
A metaphor can make the imagery more attractive and alive. Let’s say for example that climbing to the summit of a mountain represents the objective we want to reach. The ultimate goal (completing the project) will therefore be the summit of the mountain. The path we will take (the climb) will be studded with different steps or obstacles that the team will meet along the way. And why not give ourselves a team name to reinforce the sense of belonging and have everyone’s involvement! Thus, all of this becomes more inspiring for the people involved and clearly more interesting and aesthetical when displayed on a wall, to be referred to or to be a source of motivation during the execution of the project.
An image is worth a thousand words
Drawings are universal and an image stays easy to understand. Graphic Facilitation allows you to put into images, with a common language, the main lines of a communication in order to have everyone understand the same thing.
Alone or with the team, we can determine a few general pictograms and thus create this common language, like explanatory captions. Everybody will be on the same level, or rather on the same image! Including an explanation will also facilitate the execution for the person drawing. She will not lose time wondering which icon to draw in order to express a word, an action, and avoid getting stuck.
Here are a few examples :
Several techniques can be added as you are practising. For instance, a standardized calligraphy to maintain uniformity and readability, frames and colours to emphasize certain words or actions, etc.
Graphic Facilitation has to stay simple and efficient. It’s important not to get lost in detail, especially when doing the exercise while the discussions are taking place (what is called “scribing”1). It can be difficult to remember everything and draw as the exchange is happening, but people see the progression of the discussions being illustrated on the wall and you can even get their feedback in real time.
Obviously nothing is perfect, but you will be rid of lengthy texts, boring lists of bullet points, one-way presentations…
This playful approach allows everyone to be part of the discussion and even to participate and add their touch to the mural. We want participants to be inspired, during the creation as much as when the final result is displayed and they endorse it.
If you start covering your walls with inspiring graphics, don’t be surprised to see a few others appear coming from the teams around you. You will see that this technique interests people and often creates a buzz.
I have to admit that it needs courage to present this technique to your team and explain that you want to try something new and finally start using it during future meetings. You might want to start during a retro or to introduce a new attitude for the team to adopt, but don’t complicate matters, just jump in! And don’t forget that nothing is perfect and that there is aways room for improvement…
1 Scribing is a graphic modelling technique conducted in real time during a discussion. Also called Graphic Recording or Discussion Mapping, it aims at facilitating the exchange in progress while allowing the group to give feedback to the facilitator and vice versa.