#ULab – calling for shifts in our thinking

So, the question is, how do we get there? How do we create space for ourselves to be open to these incredible paradigm shifts in thinking? Theory U provides some ideas. Liberating structures provide some, as can visual thinking methodologies! I’m excited about what happens when we begin to look at these 3 together!

Let’s start with a story (based in Theory U) that Otto Scharmer shared about a room of Physicians looking at not only what they do but how they think about what they do. He suggests 4 levels here, and that background scribble – it’s an iceberg…

Physician as mechanic (fix it), as instructor (behavior), as coach (thoughts), and all physicians as ‘midwife’ bringing in the new (transformation). Since the first 3 so often create results we don’t want, why do we keep doing them?

How do we begin to see ourselves as part of the system rather than seeing the system as something that is being done to us? WHOA.

the middle of the #ULab journey – wordy reflections

Whoosh & 3 weeks has gone by in #ULab. I sit, thinking about my listening, and how attentive I’ve been in different moments (or not) and it’s somehow peaceful to take a perspective that’s outside of myself, if you will. There’s something greatly comforting in the idea that I am not my pain. I am not my job. I am not my ______ (insert a label that exists in your life here). There’s more to it than that. Otto Scharmer and others into Presencing work might refer to the field, and speak about energy. Brene Brown talks about Vulnerability and allowing ourselves to be real & not beat ourselves up for it.

While walking through the NYC subway and listening to a podcast on mindfulness, you might run into Pantene ads of epic non-proportions. If you’re stuck in your ears listening internally, you might walk right by. Me, I stood staring, gaping really at the incredibly tall (I mean entire ad/entire poll/entire space tall) and incredibly skinny (no, not thin – skinny literally like a pencil) women with BIG hair. My insides began bumbling (a combination between bubbling and bumping into each other) as I tried to listen to my reaction.

‘Holy hell, I thought. Is that, are they for real? Seriously, feminists and respectable humans alike would have issues with these ads and the messages they put out there.’ Staring back at me were about 2 or 3 big billboard type ads on the wall and 4 or so plastered to square polls in the middle of the wide walkway.

I tried to allow myself to consider another viewpoint… I let the artist in me out.

‘Whoa, they are phenomenal lines, curvy in places and tall. Their hair is so big. Drawn lines they seem to be.’ From my outside perspective, I let words tumble through my mind, ‘…voluptuous, flowing and carefree yet meticulously cared for…’ while simultaneously I noticed my stomach literally turning summersaults.

How to hold this inner conflict? What to do with it? Oh, it seems political to say anything in the public world. What other considerations have I not made? If I were to tweet my thoughts was that getting political? I didn’t want to put my opinion out there at the time since I was heated…. Now, after some reflection, I still feel strongly and I’m thinking perhaps it’s a question to start the conversation. Rather, to continue the conversation I once started in a middle school project (where I looked at magazine ads and debunked their realities doing my best to allow myself to both get seduced by the lipsticked figures but keeping up my front of stubbornness to be who I am and not try for what they suggest I supposed to want to be…). That’s my next move. To ask:

What do you see and feel when you look at this person in the ad underground?


#ULab journaling exercise

Journaling is a powerful tool for people of all ages and mind frames. It allows us to think deeply outside of our routine lives. The second live session of #ULab walked us through a powerful journaling and visioning exercise. You can join ULab to watch it yourself, or there’s another great and very similar tool that Otto Scharmer has put out in pdf form for anyone to use. Check it out here.

#ULab week 2 – sketchnotes on listening

Week 2 of #ULab was all about co-sensing or deep listening. How are you listening?

Otto Scharmer describes 4 levels of listening and urges us to listen authentically in order to create a better future. It’s going beyond realizing that you’re part of a huge system and being able to reflect upon yourself from an ‘outside point of view’, and finding ways to ‘hold the space’ for great things to happen.

Graphic Recording training coming up on Feb 7!

We had so much fun drawing on the walls at the New York Peace Institute that we’re partnering again for DRAW IT OUT!

FEBRUARY 7, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY


Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015
210 Joralemon Street, Suite 618 Brooklyn, NY 11201

This program is aimed at beginners and intermediates. No drawing skills necessary.


Here’s what you can expect to get from the workshop:

  • See graphic recording in action
  • Learn concrete skills to build your visual library
  • Participate in visual exercises that you can take back to work and use with colleagues
  • Practice listening & filtering a conversation to pick out the content to graphically record
  • Practice graphic recording in real-time
  • Receive feedback about your graphic recording (optional) (time permitting)
  • Learn logistical tips and tricks for setting up your space to do graphic recording (time permitting)

QUESTIONS? Contact Christina Dizon at: cdizon@nypeace.org

LINKS to a few blog posts that capture past trainings!




#connectionmade at Connectorcon – visuals connecting people

Connectorcon = a one day event in NYC hosted by the amazing Michael Roderick of Small Pond Enterprises. Here’s a glimpse into my experience & takeaways: Connectorcon drawn

We started with Michael’s welcome and challenges to make an impact on one person’s day! Next we jumped into How to Increase your Energy & Alleviate Performance Stress with Lara Ann Riggio (@theLaraTouch). Thanks for the brilliant tools to help us literally tap into our energy, Lara! (I’ve been walking around tapping on myself for a while now – ha!)

Ultimately this day-long experience is all about creating meaningful connections and adding to your own connector’s toolbox. There are panels, workshops, lectures and you can volunteer to help out as well. the day is full of all kinds of good ideas, conversations and CONNECTIONS with amazing people! (Proposals for workshops, etc., are currently being accepted! Check out the website for details!)

Crowdsourcing: Leveraging your Network with Jason Gardner (@JGardnerPhoto). Your photographs are amazing, Jason!!


Mastering your Inner Obstacles with Christina Salerno (@livingquirky). Thanks for sharing your stories, Christina!

 Connection & Improv with Chizzy Igbokwe & Chris Griswold (@chrisgriswold) was fun as we learned to laugh and think about the stuff around us that helps define our personal brand. Thanks for such a fun session, Chizzy & Chris! (Larger image coming soon! Here are two close ups.)


Networking Ninja Skills with Kim Nicol (@kiminicol) was a great session full of ideas for those feeling introverted & still wanting & needing to connect! Thanks for rephrasing push-ups for me, Kim! They’ll be easier forever!

It’s funny when you end up at something called Connectorcon and feel like you’re rambling on about connections…. The synergy in what Connectorcon is all about and why I do what I do surprised me at first. People ask me, why do you do what you do? I believe that using visuals in unconventional ways (whether seeing our ideas captured in images, drawing out our own ideas or drawing to gain understanding between people) bring us together. They create connections between each other and content. It’s amazing to me how color and movement make an incredible difference in our conversations, understanding of context and somehow often ask us to show up, get beyond the polite formalities and be real with each other.

My favorite talk to capture piqued my interest based on complexity undertones and painting pictures of reality that we don’t always acknowledge:

Don’t Just Connect: Coach with Tahl Raz (@tahlraz). THANKS Tahl, for making my brain spin and my markers fly in the best way possible!

I had a fun day graphically recording at the event in between making connections! There were so many amazing people there!

A HUGE SHOUT OUT and MANY THANKS to Michael, Norah (who is the rock start organizer behind the scenes!), Jeremy & others at Convene (what great space)!


ConnectorCon Speaker Profiles & linkshttp://www.connectorcon.com/#!speakerleaders-2014/c173p

ConnectorCon website & twitter (@connectorcon)


#ULab beginnings – reflections & sketchnotes

#ULab: Transforming Business, Society, & Self = an online experience with 25,000 people tuning in / participating from 192 countries…

The experience is hosted by Otto Scharmer & team through a partnership with MITx / edX & the Presencing Institute.

SKETCHNOTES drawn by @amanda_lyons of VISUALS for CHANGE

We’ve already broken the Presencing Institute website, ha! The first session brought up a few questions for me. How will our facilitators cultivate experiences for us and hold safe space? In such a large community – what does that even mean? How can we avoid jargon to help us actually get beyond what’s normal and into real conversations and positive actions?

The thing that stuck with me is the power of turning our perspective back on ourselves to ask questions and reflect. What do we see? What do I see? The video that they used to illustrate this point brought visuals & humanity to the idea in a way that worked well. Check it out here.

I appreciate that the interactions & conversation via Twitter (#ULab) is open & part of the bigger world. Hashtags used in combination with #ULab: #ending, #emerging, and #intention harvest global thoughts – literally. It’s great to give everyone a voice. Next can we give them a marker/chalk/pen/…? Perhaps we can start a #ULabdrawn?

@kelvy_bird brings visual elements to the #ULab team! Rock on Kelvy!


thoughts on a Liberating Structures workshop from the Spring!

I attended a Liberating Structures (LS) workshop this past Spring. I am excited to have LS in my toolbox!

I will say that I’m often skeptical when I come across a facilitation technique that I don’t know. I’ve always been one for using unconventional structures as I have a lot of experience in Experiential Education (i.e. facilitating leadership and life lessons – often in the woods or other potentially ‘out of your comfort zone’ spaces), etc…. Something amazing happens when true learning finds its way into the present moment. Yet, in order for that to happen we have to get beyond the boxes and labels and assumptions that are out there and in us – we have to show up as our selves, be truthful, open and see what emerges.

Often times this means radical shifts in thought and energy, inner dialogue that our work culture (or other practices) tells us is not ok and especially not ok to share, and allowing ourselves to step into space where we’re vulnerable. That can be scary. It takes guts. And it’s one of the things I love to ask people to do – find the edge of your comfort zone and check in with your guts!

The thing I’m learning to love about Liberating Structures is how they ask people to truly show up and be their best selves.


They create opportunities that normal ‘meeting’ structures don’t… something shifts in the room.

Liberating Structures are based on complexity theory. They are microstructures that work as things work in ecosystems. There’s science behind this stuff, and although I’m only at the beginning of exploring this science, I’ve checked in with my gut and I’m onboard. There’s something here!


1) Learn more online at LiberatingStructures.com

2) Find (or Create) User Groups! I am excited to be co-hosting LS user groups in both Philly, PA and NYC! Both groups include other visual thinking & methodologies as well, but are open communities. Join us!

- Philly LS user group: Yes, and…Philly!  Find us at www.yesandphilly.com

- NYC LS user group: ping me via email (amanda at visualsforchange dot com) or twitter (@amanda_lyons) if you’d like to receive invitations!

3) Sketchnotes from the workshop (click to enlarge):




Whoops – just found this blog post drafted and waiting to be posted!!

A huge THANKS to those who participated in my online course this past November!! I’m so excited for you to continue exploring visual thinking. Stay tuned for what’s next – a Visual Learning Journey Program is coming out this Winter or Spring!! Also, check in for lots of classes & workshops in NYC or Philly this Winter! Woohoo!

Yes, and… Philly is happening!