Updated: Aug 14, 2018

My experience collaborating with people using visuals for all the reasons portrayed above has convinced me that visuals have the power to shift our worlds at work, at home and in our bodies. When our understanding of something changes, we change. Wait, visuals? What do I mean by visuals? There are many ways to think about visuals: from fine art (be it photography, painting, or drawing) to crafting (hello collagers and quilt makers) to doodling on the scribbled cafe napkin (or drawing on a whiteboard at work) where one colleague describes a problem with drawn images. While these are all valid and help to open our lens of knowing, I'll focus on the last - hand-drawn work to convey something clearly or as a mode of problem-solving. Drawing things out can be the next big skill you take on! My goal is not to have you creating beautiful images. (Although that may happen.) In our modern societies we believe that drawing should be left to the experts with years of art training and experience. Noooooo!!! This activity belongs to every one of us. The value of drawing can be had with the goal you give it - you draw to explain an idea, to find the kink in a process, to add more context to what you mean, or to solve a big, daunting challenge. Opportunity arises when you are in the middle of drawing or discussing a drawing and someone says, 'I don't get it!' or 'It's not clear to me.' These are the best possible responses to hear. They bring the conversation alive letting you know to try another angle and ask more about how they see it. Then you're on your way to true dialogue instead of a mind numbing download of what’s in your mind. You move into a new social space and start to talk without misguided assumptions that you understand each other instantaneously. I invite you to try drawing your next big idea or the next challenge you come across. Draw it out! While you draw it out, think about the environment and what surrounds the idea/challenge as well as all the players and what's at the core! Notice what happens.

#visualthinking #drawing #sketching #communication #whyvisuals #drawntounderstand #dialogue #assumptions #bigchallenges #visualsolutions

A phone call. Hello's. Inquiries and intentions. Philosophies and questions. Honest answers. Curiosity. More questions. Laughter. Perspectives.

A decision to go for it. A tight time frame. Jumping in....

On a second call, sensing a frustration with the immensity of the task and how to go about it, I asked, 'Have you thought of drawing out your overall vision - literally?'


'It's not about creating something beautiful, it's about seeing your own point staring back at you. I find it really helps to make some marks on a page that help me see connections and the space in between, especially when doing a strategic planning initiative like you're jumping into. It can be a great place to start. Then we can make your thoughts into illustrations you can use to share your ideas.'

"I never thought about it that way. I think I'll try it.... "

These were some of the illustrations we created together, as we thought and talked strategically about shifts toward real-world experiences needed in education.

What we really need to learn (as students + teachers +...) is active citizenship!

It's incredible when someone else takes what feels like a risk (hello vulnerability!) and draws out what they are thinking. You can literally see and feel the way visuals can support us through the struggle of thinking something through! To run with the power of visuals is to have the ability to unlock new information - literally. I'm always humbled by visuals as I see this happen over and over!

In my client's words, "The images allowed me to be me and share with my energy and personality. Using visuals removed the barrier that written words can be during presentations. Ahead of the session, the illustrations pushed me to clarify the concepts and feelings I wanted to convey because I knew that there would be no words to prompt me. I think preparing in this way helped me to practice more effectively and convince my listeners that I create impact in my work. The illustrations also made me feel like there was an element in what I was sharing that set me apart, so, they boosted my confidence too."

THANKS for being such an awesome client and sharing your story with me! I love to hear stories of how visuals worked (or didn't!) for you. Reach out and share your story with me.

ALSO, I am excited to be building a longer term program to support deeper visual practice and learning. I plan to launch after the May DRAW it OUT workshop, and the May workshop (or another in person workshop) will be a part of the course (which will have a 3 month, 6 month and 9 month option). We'll see how it unfolds! Stay tuned!

We've all had that moment in school when a well intentioned teacher suggested our drawing wasn't good enough since it didn't fit the assignment or a parent asked 'What is that?' of our dinosaur scene or a peer made fun of our artistic choice of figures and their shapes. If you're like me, that moment hit you hard and you've felt vulnerable around making art ever since. At some point 'art' became synonymous with 'beauty.' You may have even decided, 'I'm not an artist,' and haven't drawn since. That moment was probably one of the moments you began to decide 'good' from 'bad' - absolute judgmental categories for each thing that you do. (Categories on a spectrum where only two options exist.)

I've since learned that experiences are not always so black and white, rather there's lots of middle ground and context. I hold workshops to explore how art can best serve many kinds of businesses and work. So often when you bring up the idea of 'art' in a business setting people cringe and instantly become skeptical. Yet, after some time learning techniques to use art and drawing and listening to further their own work, people say, "Wow. That was me [skeptical believing I'm a bad artist. And now that I've reframed the way I think about it, I feel so free!"

Others jump straight into application, "Ooooo. I know the exact conversation at work where I will draw. She [unnamed colleague or boss] is going to love this." Not all art needs to be beautiful and we do ourselves and our colleagues, communities and families a disservice when we only believe in beautiful art. The creative process in itself is a journey worth taking regardless of the outcome - I always learn things along the way. 

I invite you to let go of those art scar moments and feel free to use art for business.

Many of us have been holding on to them for years and years. What if you could let go of that insecurity and instead use art as a tool at work or at home? What would it allow you to do? If we use art in a way that's accessible to everyone it just might allow us to connect deeply to each other, our content and our context. I often talk about drawing as a fabulous (and cheap) way to start. All you need is a pen and some paper to go for it! What might come when you let go of the 'good artist' or 'bad artist' label? How can visuals help you work better? Maybe find a learning partner (someone who would be open to the idea that it's not always about creating a beautiful finished product) to see how art can best serve you! 

An exercise if you're interested in taking this idea one step further:

Draw out your dream or use drawing to explain a work process to a colleague. Figure out 2 things from your drawing. First, what assumptions did I make in drawing this or what is missing in my explanation? Second, what's one small step forward I want to take today? Third, share it with a supportive colleague or friend.

As always, reach out if you would like a partner or guide for your art exploration!


© 2020 by Amanda Lyons

drawings + photos by Amanda Lyons

(unless stated otherwise)

ask permission to use!

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