Visual Thinking: Not Just About Pictures

While working through the process of visual thinking, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that visual thinking is predominantly about drawing pictures. While this is true to a certain degree, I would like to however broaden the idea of what a picture is — at least in terms of how it relates to visual thinking.

A picture is any type of graphical or organizational tool you use that helps you to represent your thoughts and ideas in a visual way.

When it comes to visual thinking, I have divided the concept of a picture into six distinct categories:

  1. Sketches
  2. Diagrams
  3. Charts
  4. Metaphors
  5. Tables
  6. Combos

To stay consistent with our visual thinking MAGIC metaphor, these categories are akin to potions that can help you represent your thoughts and ideas from a variety of perspectives.

When it comes to magic, ingredients are mixed together in a specific way that help us develop the potions we need to create a magical spell. Further to this, a combination of potions creates a concoction that can be used to ward off evil dragons and spirits. 😉

In terms of visual thinking, our ingredients are known as components that are used in a specific combination to create techniques (potions) that we use to solve our problems or represent our ideas visually. Individually, each of these techniques can also be defined as an element — an element of the visual thinking technique periodic table.

Just like with magic, while thinking visually you must be careful not to fall into the trap of using too many techniques (potions) at one time to try and represent your thoughts and ideas. Mixing too many potions (techniques) in a concoction can literally spell “disaster” and will tend to over-complicate your visuals.

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Visual Metaphor: Bridging the Gap

Now that you are familiar with visual thinking metaphors and analogies, today, I would like to provide you with a practical example of a visual thinking metaphor that is often used for life coaching purposes to help clients clarify their goals and objectives. In fact, it is one of the many visual thinking metaphors we will be discussing in the coming months.

Building a Visual Bridge

This visual thinking metaphor explores a number of key critical areas that are fundamental to the process of goal setting. It explores the following areas:

First of all, familiarize yourself with the blank template below and then read the brief explanation about how you can use this tool for your own purposes. Keep in mind that a visual metaphor such as this is most ideally used when sketched out on a large whiteboard — allowing you plenty of open space to work with.

Click here to download a pdf sample of this visual thinking metaphor.

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Case Study: Visualizing Your Options

Today I would like to provide you with a quick case study of how visual thinking was applied to a tough decision that one of my life coaching clients was trying to work through. Her name is Emma (not her real name), and we are going to look at how to go about visualizing your options.

Emma’s Current Reality

Emma worked at the head-office of a large food distributor earning a good living. However, Emma was at a point in her career where she felt as though things were stagnating. She wasn’t growing, didn’t feel challenged and the passion she once had for her work was no longer there. However, the job she had provided her with great financial security and stability, so-much-so that pretty much every physical possession she had in her life came as a direct result from sticking with this career path for over 15 years. In short, she was comfortable, but not very fulfilled.

Emma’s Desired Reality

She often spoke with me about her childhood dreams of owning her own restaurant and breaking free from the corporate world. She absolutely loved the idea of owning a restaurant and spent many weekends studying and researching the business. However, she never took the plunge because she understood the risks and the commitment required to make this move.

One day an opportunity came up. She started dating a guy whose sister (Michelle) had the same aspirations. Over a period of several weeks they talked about their aspirations and finally decided to take the plunge and start their own restaurant.

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