Yes, and… Philly is happening!

exploring Liberating Structures via a User Group in NYC

NYC drawn by me… inspired by our upcoming event!

I’m co-hosting. It’s going to be fun! Let me know if you can join us on Tues, Dec 16, 2014 for OUR FIRST MONTHLY GATHERING of the NYC Liberating Structures User Group!! 

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We aim to combine liberating structures with other innovation approaches — such as visual thinking, and….
We encourage you to bring friends/family/colleagues who might appreciate liberating structures as well as your stories of impact, healthy hesitation/skepticism, curiosity/questions and more! No previous experience or knowledge is needed to be a part of the group.
We intend to meet monthly-ish and to be available when needed for facilitation guidance.
DETAILS
NYC Liberating Structures User Group – DECEMBER
a monthly learning lab
Tuesday December 16, 2014
from 6.30 – 8.30 pm
at City Hunt
(4 West 38th St, 6th Floor, Manhattan, NY)
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Be well,
Amanda
PS.  What are Liberating Structures and who else is using them? 
Liberating Structures are microstructures or frameworks that make it possible for people and organizations to create and do new things, or find new ways to work, play or live better together. People all over the world are finding them relevant… we’ll let them speak for themselves. Check out the (LiberatingStructures.com) site to learn more about those behind the Structures and other user groups starting up all over!

a VISUALS for CHANGE interview in Neuland Magazine

I’m incredibly humbled and grateful to be interviewed AND translated AND published in the Fall issue of neulandMagazin. I need to learn German so I can read the article and see how my answers translate! If you read German, check out pages 16 & 17 via this link. If you are an English speaker, I’ve included the written interview below.

THANKS to Conny Wetter-Schwegler for all the kind words, and for sharing stories and laughing with me over coffee in NYC!

INTERVIEW

Amanda Lyons is an educator, facilitator, consultant, artist, visual thinker and team player based in Brooklyn, NY and is always ready to travel. She facilitates workshops, courses and trainings on visual note-taking (known as sketchnoting), conducts classroom presentations (sometimes via Skype) and also serves as a graphic recorder (visually capturing ideas from group meetings). For more bio (which they did print in the magazine), click on this link.

Conny: At first I will ask you, the question you ask your customers: What are you thinking? Are you thinking visually?

Amanda: Ha! I love that you asked me that question. Lately I’m thinking about the change of the seasons and since Fall is my favorite season where, in Brooklyn, NY, the leaves on the trees turn color before falling to the ground and the temperature drops. I’m reminded to take notice of nature and find ways to appreciate the incredible system in which we live, from a complexity point of a view. I appreciate the inter and inner connectedness. Yes, I’m seeing my thoughts visually, watching the wind move leaves in my mind. Sometimes I even think as though my hand is drawing each visual image I think….

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C: How long has Graphic Facilitation and Graphic Recording existed in USA?

A: Graphic recording and graphic facilitation have in some ways been around since people were drawing in caves to communicate. In that sense, it’s not a new thing at all and we need not be scared of it. As far as the more recent emergence of a field that is still growing today, the story goes that these practices came out of facilitators, architects and computer designers doing group work in California in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There are now practitioners worldwide. (I will also add, that if you have the opportunity to chat with someone who might be considered an Elder of the field, listen tight. The stories they have to tell light smiles and laughter, and their realizations are packed with life lessons and quite inspiring.)

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C: How long have you been practicing visualisation and what do you exactly do? Graphic facilitation and Graphic Recording or Sketching? Where do you do what you do? NY? Every where in USA? Europe?

A: I’ve been practicing visualisation in terms of using art to ask questions and push the boundaries of how we understand content basically my whole life. I do consider myself an artist as well, although a lot of people, who do what I do, do not consider themselves artists. I do not consider all of my graphic recording work artwork. Perhaps some of this seems like a battle of semantics. Yet, I feel people have assumptions about ‘art’ and easily put ‘artwork’ in a particular ‘box’ in their heads. For me, the work that I do as a visual practitioner (working with people to use visual thinking techniques, such as graphic recording, graphic facilitation, sketchnoting, visual exercises, etc) is about connecting people to each other and to the content in the room. It’s not about making beautiful art. That might happen as a side effect of the work we do together, and by all means don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing when it does. Yet, I don’t set out with that as my goal and I do the best I can to help those in the room and beyond understand the process behind graphic recording (or facilitation) and why we are using these visual techniques so that we can together meet it on a deeper level. I could go on and on….

So, to get back to your question, I started my own business revolving around change in organizations and using visualisation techniques about 4 years ago. It’s called VISUALS for CHANGE. I do some graphic recording and I also do graphic facilitation and workshop design where I help people integrate visual thinking exercises into their events. I love educating people about visual thinking. I  believe when everyone in the room is drawing we can move mountains. I love to help people see that they don’t have to be some acclaimed artist to use visuals or even draw in a boardroom! I’m also currently building a Visual Learning Journey which will be a 9 month online program where someone sets their own visualisation goal and work toward it. I’m so excited about it as I’m piloting it now and it has been a great experience so far! The beta version will be out in January 2015.

As you gathered from all my chatter, some of my work I do from my home office in Brooklyn, NY and then I go wherever the gig takes me! I love to travel and am always up for adding a few days of exploring to my work trips, especially if it is somewhere I haven’t been. A lot of my work currently happens around New York City and on the east coast of the United States but I love to travel and am happy to work anywhere else I’m invited!

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C: Did you already love visualisation when you were a child in school or at home?

A: YES! I have always loved creating, and color! Reading, drawing and painting were always part of my life in school and at home.

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C: What are people saying in the USA about visualisation? Does everybody know it or are they surprised?

A: When I first started my business 4 years ago, any conversation about my work began with me explaining or showing what it was I do. I even wrote a blog post about that conversation (http://www.visualsforchange.com/blog/2014/01/07/wait-what-do-i-do-again/). I still do a lot of explaining or showing… but more people have heard of visual thinking, and even seen graphic recording at a conference or meeting.

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C: Are there certain themes that come up throughout your work or specific content areas that you tend to focus on?

A: There are a few content areas that I do particularly like, but I also like to learn new things! I love working within education both in the formal and informal sense as well as within organizations and/or communities going through change. I enjoy work that allows me to bring together complexity theory, team building and design thinking.

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C: How do you create an environment that allows people to engage with each other and the content on a deeper level than they generally do?

A: I believe it’s really important to think about and acknowledge the people in the room.  Sometimes I use simple exercises involving movement or small group work – anything to create a new and different experience from the group’s normal. Often the simple act of drawing is something different for most people in the room so a drawing exercise often works as well! It’s amazing how people come together when asked to be part of a team and draw together.

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C: How do you see the future of  Graphic Facilitation and Graphic Recording in USA and all over the world?

A: I think in the future people will not only appreciate visual thinking as a legitimate field, but they will also know about graphic facilitation and graphic recording. Practitioners won’t have to do so much describing what it is because people will know about it already. It will be more about distinguishing yourself from the crowd. I dream that we are slowly starting to see how important visual literacy is to our learning. Then again, there are schools that are getting rid of their art classes and recess time… and that just makes me hold my breath.

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C: How was your experience at EuViz 2014 in Berlin?

A: I had a fabulous time at EuViz in Berlin and have many stories to tell about my personal experience and professional experience. For instance, I got around in flip flops because I managed to break a toe prior to my trip (and no shoe would fit over my swollen toe). I appreciated getting to know fellow colleagues who practice in Europe and don’t often make it to the US conferences. Two of my favorite parts of the conference were the opportunity to hear from the Elders of the field and how everyone participated in Open Space (a particular exercise where anyone in the room can propose and host a conversation).

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C: What was the big thing over there? What stood out to you at EuViz in Berlin? And what Impressions did you have about this event in Berlin?

A: As for what stood out to me: the design of the EuViz conference was phenomenal. As an organization development consultant and someone interested in design of meetings (and as a participant), the folks who organized EuViz did a stellar job! As I mentioned above, the sessions were cultivated in a way that allowed everyone to get something out of the conference, from the newbie to the veteran. I was struck by the incredible job the hosts did to make us feel at home – they even curated potential Berlin sights and eats in a unique, friendly and engaging way. As for Berlin itself – whoa! What a city! The variety of art everywhere is inspiring!

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C: If you had one wish, what would you wish for the World of Visualisation?

A: I wish that the World of Visualisation find its way into the work and play of many people, helping them to better connect with each other and the work that they do, thereby deepening their experiences and helping them to lead inspiring lives with stronger communities.

And, that’s me! Thanks!!

 

a graphic recording training at the NY Peace Institute

The walls of the NY Peace Institute mediation rooms are white with orange and pink accent walls to match their logo. Rooms where people bring their conflicts and mediators ‘get in the middle’ with the hopes to help people reach an agreement, even a compromise or space where people can agree to disagree. They aim to leave the room in a better mental state then when they entered.

        

I enter carrying loads of markers, big paper and a huge smile. In some ways, I’m hoping to ‘get in the middle’ of people’s fear of drawing (assumptions that all drawing needs to be beautiful) and their innate human ability to listen well while engaging their creative visual thinking abilities. I facilitate a workshop (open to all) where the aim is to enter the classroom a little unsure of ‘this graphic recording thing’, really engage with color with as many hands-on exercises as possible so that we can all leave feeling tired from so much learning but energized from the skill building and so much amazing color! These practices open us to a way of communicating that can be extremely efficient and all us to get to deeper understanding.

 

Together, we take over the white, orange and pink walls taping up paper, grabbing markers and finding our own styles. It’s space where it’s safe to make a mistake, to try out visual thinking with some likeminded folks looking to find ways to also play at work! We learn where we are and where we each want to go with our visual thinking skills. We zero in on graphic recording and sketchnoting, learning more about the process as a place to start.

           

It takes courage to step up to a blank piece of paper on the wall and capture what’s happening in the room in both images and words. A HUGE THANKS and congrats to those in the last group who joined me at the wall!!! Together we explored our own visual libraries, getting into the flow of a presentation, and lots of other tips and tricks for practicing.

ROCK ON VISUAL THINKERS! May we meet again, markers in hand near a blank wall!

Thanks for having the courage to draw!!

NEXT UP will be DRAW IT OUT, again! Module 2 of this program! Stay tuned for dates!

Interested in hosting a workshop or bringing graphic recording to your work place? Inquire away at amanda(at)visualsforchange.com!!

sitting with Buddha and my pen in Tokyo

It’s always amazing to be somewhere new. You take things in differently. We’re able to see with perspective that can be hard to cultivate at home. Then there are some places that just amaze. At the beginning of September I got to meet the second biggest Buddha in Japan, Great Buddha or Daibutsu, on a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo. We started out by meandering through many buddhist temples and hiked through a park to meet Buddha. The hike was enlightening – I was seeing new and different plants, trees and animals. I carried a little journal and pen and so this happened:

What you can’t see in this picture is that I was looking only at buddha and not at my paper, an exercise I always loved from high school art class. The space was so peaceful and adding a little drawing felt just right!

As I was drawing, I let go of ‘what I thought buddha was supposed to look like’ and simply allowed myself to draw and pay attention to the different details in the statue. It made me think about how much we try to please our partners and bosses and co-workers based on what we assume we’re supposed to be doing as opposed to sometimes truly feeling out the moment in a moment or meeting or project and navigating from what we think is best for all.

Drawing in thought,

Amanda

 

neurocognition & graphic recording via Barb Siegel at EuViz 2014

Neurocognition. Graphic recording. Meet Barb Siegel, of look2listen.com, my friend and colleague who has spent many years researching neuroscience and is currently a graphic recorder in the Washington DC area. Her session at EuViz 2014 in Berlin, Germany this summer blew my mind (see below for her words & some harvested photos). Her research reminds me that what I do works! Visuals help people better understand and connect with content and each other! Woohoo! Check out my messy sketchnotes (and yes please notice how messy they are – messy is sometimes what sketchnotes must be)!

THANK YOU BARBARA for sharing the thoughts, knowledge and learning with us! Serious shout out to you! This session was incredibly enlightening!

HARVESTED FROM Day 2 – thoughts from Barb & photos from attendees via the EuViz website (http://www.euviz.com/harvesting-day-2/)

Barbara Siegel: What they think when we draw: Neurocognition and Graphic Recording

The purpose of this session was to give graphic recorders/facilitators an understanding of current research on the brain and models of how we think. My hope as a presenter was to provide a basic vocabulary and understanding so that we can make better choices in how to lay-out our charts based on intent. In particular, I focused on brainstorming sessions and how to encourage whole brain thinking.

Cognition models I presented were: left/right brain (still has validity just it’s more subtle than people used to think of it) upstairs/downstairs (from Dan Siegel, no relation), and system one/two (discussed in Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow). I suggested that in order to facilitate whole brain thinking we can try to move the eyes in a horizontal eight (infinity) pattern. We had a brief discussion of white space (in general we don’t provide enough) and the difference between recording for a conversation about ideas (infinity pattern) and commitment to change (leading the eye from left to right and off the chart). For me personally, and for my charts, these are aspirational ideas – often in the heat of recording I focus at the level of content and sometimes can’t keep to the intended template.

Participants seemed to be most impressed that we place an emotional tag on everything we see before we know we’ve seen it – the image goes through an older part of the brain (the ‘reptile brain’) before we reassemble the neurological signals into an image we consciously recognize. I also think people responded to the physical exercises I had them do: ‘gut body’ from Janet Willie and ‘lazy eight’ from BrainGym. People were also impressed by the idea that there are different types of memories and how we access them – especially how the memories change depending on the type it is and how we recall them.

This presentation was an experiment for me – while I am not credentialed in this field, life has required that I learn a lot about it. I was pleased to have my knowledge respected and to share it. I hope to write a white paper so that graphic recorders can share with clients brain based reasons for why visual culture works.

I close this comment with how I began my talk: neurology should make sense, and everything that we know from experience with visual culture should be reflected in what is being found out about the brain – if the neurology doesn’t make sense, it’s probably wrong. On the other hand, it’s nice for us to have language and research that confirms what we do know.

Barb

“In 90 minutes I got more info on the brain than in years of study.  Thank you – this will really impact my work.”  Michelle Boos-Stone

 

art in Berlin, mostly on walls

Whoa! There are so many amazing walls of color and movement in Berlin… spending a week there and attending the EuViz 2014 conference this summer was a seriously rocking experience. Take a walk around Berlin with me:

Those between the wall plaques are part of ‘the wall’ as was this one once:

And this is one of my absolute favorites:

EuViz 2014, a conference in Berlin

EuViz 2014 happened this summer on the Rhine River in the heart of Berlin. I can’t think of a better place to bring together a global community to listen, draw, chat and push boundaries (of visual thinking).

The conference design was fabulous, including various organization development structures and strategies for allowing people to show up authentically and have real conversations rather than polite ones. Don’t get me wrong, people were still kind and open to sharing their perspectives. Check out the conference via tweets or via harvesting (on harvesting webpage navigate on right to other days of the conference). Here are my highlights (a few from the conference and a few from around Berlin):

HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights for me include getting to meet everyone including some of the industry Elders (photo below!), a session on Neuroscience (needs a whole blog post – Barb Siegel rocked it!) and just walking around Berlin and experiencing life! (There’s art everywhere!)

Berlin is an amazing city & I had a great time there! One of my favorite things about the city was the incredible street art everywhere! Kudos and shout outs to all the artists out there! I wish I knew you and could give credit! Here are a few amazing pieces I stumbled upon while walking around Berlin:

Stay tuned for more murals in the next blog post!

SHOUT OUTS

Loud shout outs to Kommunikationslotsen and to Neuland and all the other companies who made it possible!! To Holger Scholz & Guido Neuland for their amazing vision & sharing that with us! To Lynn Carruthers & all the IFVP people who did behind the scenes work in partnership with the EuViz team! To Mary Alice Arthur for an amazing job storytelling, harvesting & facilitating us throughout the experience. To EVERYONE who helped in some way with the conference – forgive me for not including your name, whether you facilitated a session, designed a room, provided coffee, … you matter! THANKS!

PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

My personal takeaways are to hang out with my elders more, to draw only when my heart is in it, and to show up authentically trusting that something great will happen!

swiss cheese walls in your classroom

Swiss cheese as a concept is brilliant. Rock the metaphor!

drawn by Amanda Lyons

From organization development and leadership frameworks such as Chris McGoff’s “Dynamic Incompleteness” prime which urges leaders to allow the swiss cheese rule to apply to their ideas and goals that guide their teams and organizations, to wishes from a conversation with David Preston and Josh Ostini where together we imagined that schools had swiss cheese walls and learning happened all throughout and beyond the classroom walls, the idea of a metaphor helps us humans grasp ideas (i.e. a visual in our minds helps ideas stick)!

The mentioned conversation inspired the drawing you see above. What if our classrooms could be made of swiss cheese? Seriously, the seeing, sharing and collaborating that would happen would blow away teachers, inspire learners and create something huge. It’s about creating the right atmosphere to allow such things to happen.

Which walls in your classroom or office or home are metaphorically swiss cheese?

open source learning school district

What I have learned from David Preston (@prestonlearning), his colleagues & his students… where to start? I think it makes sense to start experientially. How about with some sketchnotes from his session on Open Source Learning at the DML (Digital Media & Learning) conference in Boston last Spring? He & Josh Ostini, a fellow teacher, (with his principal John Davis and a classroom full of students via the digital world) shared philosophies and practices & showed us that it is possible to educate differently. The session was called, “Moving Beyond What If?”

Disrupt & document that it not only works but it works well! Rock on amazing open source educators!

“Poking holes in walls so students can get out” was one of my favorite lines from this session… we even took it to a new level in our conversation afterwards & I happened to have a marker in hand (…foreshadowing – for the next blog post!).