Getting the Stuff Out of Your Head!

Have you ever experienced overwhelm? You know, it’s that feeling when you have too much to do, with too little time on your hands, and you simply don’t know where or how to begin. Yes, I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another.

Just for a moment, I want you to think back to a time when you felt absolutely overwhelmed, and ask yourself:

  • What was it about that situation that overwhelmed me?
  • How did I deal with the circumstances at the time?
  • Did I successfully manage to overcome my feelings of overwhelm or not?

What you will often find, is that you managed to overcome your feelings of overwhelm because you did one or more of the following things:

How about a time when you were dealing with a difficult problem? How did you overcome it? What techniques did you use?

No matter what technique you might have used to deal with your problem or to eliminate the feelings of overwhelm, would I be wrong to assume that you were most effective when you took things out of your head and clarified them visually on paper, on a whiteboard, or on the computer?

If the answer is YES, then that is in essence where the power of visual thinking lies.

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Visual Thinking as a Conversation Tool

Once you start moving through the process of visual thinking and begin integrating it into your life, you will come to understand that visual thinking is nothing more than the idea of bringing your thoughts out of your head and into the physical world.

The process of thinking about stuff in our own heads may seem complex at first. However, it’s often quite straightforward — only seems complex because we haven’t undertaken the task of conceptualizing our thoughts by bringing them forth into physical reality.

Let’s look at the thought-process in a little more detail.

The Components that Make Up a Thought

Our thoughts are made up from a set of components or ingredients. In fact, every thought you have can be broken down into a series of ingredients that essentially create the thought you experience in your head. And what visual thinking tries to do is simply take these thought-ingredients and put them into a physical form.

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Visual Thinking Simplifies Ideas

With the increasing amount of information at our disposal, it is becoming evidently clear that the world is getting more complex by the day. There are just far too many options for us to choose from and too many problems for us to deal with. Technological breakthroughs are trying to curb these frustrations, however at the same time it seems that every technological answer just leads to further problems and confusion.

Amidst this turmoil we are secretly looking for ways to simplify things, to simplify the complexity and the chaos that surrounds us in ways that will help us regain our capacity to think and create far more effectively.

Simplicity and Associations

Imagine for a moment accidentally walking into a lecture theater where the lecturer is teaching a subject you are not familiar with.

As you sit there you try and make sense of the topic by picking out words and concepts that you are already familiar with. You link these concepts with previous knowledge and experience to try and conceptualize this information in an intelligent way. At this stage you are in association mode — trying to understand the topic by linking the current information you are studying with past information that you’re already familiar with.

However, as you continue to listen to the lecturer describe this topic you soon realize that you simply don’t have enough connections with previous knowledge and experience in order to fully grasp this topic. You therefore remain confused, bewildered and frustrated. 🙁

Your frustrations signify to you that there is a better way to try to understand this topic, and as such, your brain automatically switches to the second phase of understanding.

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The Visual Thinking Advantage

I’ve already discussed several key benefits of visual thinking in previous posts — showing you how visual thinking can be used to help enhance many different aspects of your life, career and business. There is no doubt that these are the primary benefits that drive visual thinking forward. However, there are three other key advantages of visual thinking that were left out of the discussion. I would like to focus on them here.

The three key advantages include:

  • Visual thinking enhances transparency.
  • Visual thinking allows for effortless communication across cultures.
  • Visual thinking encourages self-reflection.

Visual Thinking and Transparency

The first key advantage of visual thinking is that it enhances transparency.

Many times words alone can hide or mask our true meaning, purpose and intentions. This leads to confusion, misunderstanding and ultimately problems that could’ve easily been avoided.

Visual thinking allows for transparency because the combination of words, pictures, charts and other elements you use to present your thoughts on paper allow you to lay out ideas and scenarios from every conceivable angle and perspective. This naturally helps you to build authenticity and trust with your audience, group or team.

Visual thinking also enables you to lay down all your cards on the table for open-ended discussion and sharing of ideas, which ultimately minimizes confusion, misunderstandings and problems, while at the same time enhancing your ability to generate worthwhile solutions to critical challenges you may be facing.

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A Visual Thinking Parable

If by now you’re still not convinced about the benefits of visual thinking and how it can help you to think more critically and creatively, then I would like you to take a little time now to read a bedtime story, and present you with a visual thinking parable. 😉

Dreaming of a Hut on the Hill

Imagine for a moment two wonderful and hardworking cartoon characters. Each of them has a dream and vision to build a hut on top of a hill. The problem is that they have to figure out how to carry all those super heavy rocks up that big old hill.

Caveman Sam begins in early January by hauling rocks using planks of wood and a rope up the steep hill. He works hard but struggles every day to squeeze every ounce of energy he can from his muscular frame. He has chosen this particular strategy of hauling rocks because this is how he was taught by his parents and teachers while growing up in the town of Bedrock. 😉 He doesn’t even consider that there are other possibilities.

Six months later Sam has made a lot of progress, however he still has plenty more rocks to carry up this steep hill before he can finish building his hut.

Having observed Sam struggle all this time slaving away to haul the rocks up the hill, VizThinkman Vince realizes that he’ll never achieve his dream of living in a hut on top of the hill because he simply doesn’t have the muscle mass or strength to haul rocks.

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