If you’ve been following our video series, you may want to know more about the Oregon Coast and why it makes for a great place to get unplugged.
Jalene and Christine talk a little bit about the Oregon Coast in this last video.
If you haven’t checked out the Women Unplugged retreat page, please do, it gives all kinds of details about the retreat. This is a one time opportunity to get Christine and Jalene together to help you unplug, get creative and have fun in a relaxing and restorative setting.
If you are anything like me… you probably have some really cool projects and hobbies. My office is filled with journals and sketch books, moleskines and pastels, watercolor paper and charcoal, photos and cameras, colored pens and pencils and yes, in the corner a guitar.
My partner’s desk is filled with electronic parts and little robots, drafting paper and sketch pads, catalogs and books.
Our creative endeavors are different to be sure, but the one thing they have in common… dust.
When I do think about working on “arting” up a photo or playing with some pastels the pile of invoices on my desk reminds me that I have bills to pay, inventory to buy, calls to make and, well, work to do.
The worst part is this, as long as I’m near my desk, 24 hours a day, weekends included – the work pulls me in and keeps me from those real pleasures.
We all need away time. The closer we are to our work space the harder it is to get that away time.
Imagine a few days of reconnecting with your inner you… Having time to remember the stuff you really love to do and do it. Maybe just reflecting on how to incorporate it more fully. Maybe just figure out a way to make it a bigger part of the day. And what about all those new ideas that you jot down and never get to? What if you had time for those?
You do. You can. It’s what the Women Unplugged Retreat is all about. It’s about connecting with you, the most important person around.
Join Christine and Jalene for a weekend of reconnecting you won’t forget.
Now… just to figure out how to get the guitar and pastels in the suitcase…
In reading the new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, I was struck by a story about an incurable brain disease.
And, like someone was trying to send me a message, the next day I listened to a Radiolab podcast with Jonah Lehrer as a guest talking about the same disease.
I was destined to write about it.
In brief, the stories in both the book and the podcast talk about a woman, “a brilliant biologist” who one day decides to quit her work as a biologist and, instead, become an artist… full-time. Of course, her husband found it odd. The biologist hadn’t studied art or trained or even had any experience, just a strong and sudden need to create.
She painted and painted and painted more, up to 10 hours a day in her studio.
She got better. She began getting some high-profile commissions. She began to get some gallery showing and had her work featured in exhibitions. She painted for the next 15 years until she died of the very disease that unlocked her creativity.
It’s called frontotemporal dementia. The disease destroys the prefrontal cortex. According to Jonah, “As a result, nothing is repressed: the raw perceptions processed in the right temporal lobe of the cortex… are suddenly unleashed into the stream of consciousness.”
In the case of individuals with frontotemporal dementia, the disease creates an irreversible decline that starts with the need to… create.
What’s interesting is that we all experience, the shutting down of the prefrontal cortex, every night once we fall asleep.
Of course no one wants to shut down his or her prefrontal cortex just to create, but here’s the thing…
It debunks the long-lasting myth that only some people are creative and others are not.
Story after story about sufferers of frontotemporal dementia show regular non-artistic folks becoming highly creative and becoming good at it.
What Does this Mean?
Well from my perspective, it means everyone has the capacity to be creative. That means you, me and all of the people we work with.
The idea that one must be creative to appreciate new things like using images to facilitate is simply wrong.
We all have the capacity to use creative tools, to enjoy creative things, to express creatively and to simply be creative. The problem is suppression.
Once we practice suppressing self-expression and inhibit our impulses we stop those natural creative abilities.
This means we need to be more active in the practice of letting ourselves go. We need to make it safe to express. We need to make it okay to let others express. We need to be okay with expressing ourselves as well.
The next time someone says they aren’t creative or that they don’t understand creative things, tell them the story of the biologist turned accomplished painter.
One of the long time myths about creativity is this idea that creativity = art. Not so.
Here’s another, only right-brained people are creative. Also, not so.
Lefties and Righties are equally creative the only difference is the expression of that creativity.
That means that creativity is not all about art, many times it is about process.
The process of creating can be just about anything. Of course it can be as obvious as writing, painting and composing music.
And yet there’s a forgotten side we many times overlook like just the act of throwing paint on paper no matter the outcome, maybe it’s a walk on the beach and reflecting, it could be meditation, yoga, running or journaling. It doesn’t matter if there is a tangible outcome because what matters most is the process. That is what leads to creativity and the practice of process can have huge implications on all those other things we do all day long that don’t feel creative.
Let’s hear Christine and Jalene talk about what creativity means to them:
There aren’t many ways to truly unplug from the here and now which is why we long for it.
But it’s not just about getting away from work, responsibilities or life.
Unplugging has important implications. In his book Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind, author Guy Claxton made popular the idea that most of our best “thinking” takes place in the unconscious mind. And the unconscious mind has a hard time working unless we make an effort to slow down and unplug.
In the below video, your retreat hosts, Christine Martell and Jalene Case talk about why they created Women Unplugged and what it means to them.
If you are looking to reconnect to your inner self, to rejuvenate your tired spirits or just want some time to remember what you love, the Women Unplugged retreat is for you.
You’ll unplug from the here and now and plug into you. The Women Unplugged retreat is about Relaxing, Remembering, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting and Restarting. With the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop you’ll be refreshed and more importantly ready to restart!
It’s one of the biggest barriers to growing a business, organization, team or department. We want to keep much of what we know, our expertise, close to the vest.
But failure to share means failure to expand and move beyond what exists right now into what could be.
Innovation and growth are the fruits of sharing what we know with others so that we can affect more people in more places.
You might be wondering why I’m bringing up this topic of fear.
It’s because I see the fear in the reluctance of facilitators, coaches, consultants, organizations, etc. to leave the deck behind.
VisualsSpeak tools are strategically designed to be left behind. Whether you facilitate a group of 1 or 20 using individual decks for each participant, the deck is designed to be left with the participant. And yet this practice rarely happens.
Busting the Myths
One reason is fear and it’s a big one. You might be thinking a couple of different things like:
If I leave the deck behind they won’t need me anymore.
If I leave the deck behind they will know my secrets.
If I leave the deck behind I’ll be spending more money replacing them.
These few thoughts give you some insight into the fear we might feel about leaving part of our work behind.
But these are all myths.
A VisualsSpeak tool or deck is meaningless without you. You know what to do and how to use the tools to elicit responses from the people using them. On their own, users can certainly use the deck but it will not have the same impact or results in most cases because they are not trained like you are.
Your secrets are in your training, knowledge and experience. Your secrets lie in the special abilities you bring to the sessions you facilitate. Those can’t be replicated without you.
And finally, yes, you’ll have to buy more decks but the cost should always be written into the session prices you set, so the cost ultimately comes out of the client’s pocket and not yours.
Five Big Reasons to Leave the Deck Behind
So we’ve busted some of the myths surrounding leaving image decks behind with clients but what’s more important than that is why you should leave the deck behind.
There’s profit in those image decks!
1. Marketing, plain and simple. Every time an image desk surfaces after you’ve left, the users are reminded of their session with you. A deck left behind becomes a constant reminder of the benefits received when you brought the tool to the client. The power of using the image tools is that they create lasting memories for participants; that means they remember you.
2. The image decks you leave behind serve as your business card because they become great reminders of you and the work you’ve done with your clients. Always make sure that you leave a business card in the box with the deck or affix it to the outside of the box. Make sure when they pull that deck out they are reminded of you.
3. As you know, VisualsSpeak tools are creative and fun. Because clients enjoy and benefit from your use of the image decks, there will be a desire of clients to find more ways to use them. When you leave a deck behind and clients start to use them, questions will surface. That’s where you come in. Make yourself available to answer questions, suggest uses and schedule new sessions. Leaving the deck behind creates a reason for the client to call you, rather than you chasing the client.
4. But image decks cost money! Yes, and those costs should always be factored into your proposals and client costs. In the event that your cost for a deck isn’t covered, remember this, the cost of an image deck is much cheaper than an entire marketing and advertising campaign which may or may not garner one new customer.
5. Use the VisualsSpeak image decks as your own personal marketing and advertising campaign. It is much cheaper over time to keep existing customers in the loop than it is to chase down new ones. If you are working with the same clients over and over then you make the investment in leaving a deck behind only once. From a business building marketing perspective, it’s a no brainer.
Build Your Business and Client-base
Remember, it’s easier to keep existing customers coming back for more than to pay the advertising costs required acquiring a new customer.
So the next time you use the VisualsSpeak tools consider them your calling card to better and longer-lasting client engagement and leave the deck behind.
I attended the World Domination Summit last weekend. It’s about changing the world by doing good, not some ulterior motive to take over. This experience is seeping in slowly. I know it has shifted something in me, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. What I do know is what I planned on doing this past week no longer made sense. Yet, the new form isn’t quite here yet.
Brene Brown served as the opening keynote. What she said was inspiring, but her presence is what made her so effective. She’s a master at slightly leaning into the audience and conveying a sense of meeting each person where they are. Her slides were simple and well done, and complimented her presence.
Here are snippets from her talk, or at least what I heard and wrote down. Her actual words were probably slightly different. Hopefully you’ll get a sense of what she shared. If you click on them, they’ll post to your twitter account.
She also got 1000 people singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing before 10 am. Impressive.
OK, this one is too long to tweet, but was too good to leave out:
We associate vulnerability with shame, scarcity, fear, anxiety but it is really the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, hope, empathy, curiosity, innovation, creativity, gratitude, accountability and adaptability
I also attended Brene’s breakout session. She took questions from the audience, and was just as amazing as she was in her prepared keynote. She captures the essence of the human condition, and speaks it authentically. I think that is why she resonates with so many people. It’s like the essence of ourselves being spoken with kindness and compassion.
I’ve been exploring the idea of big data. Thinking about how technology can help us look at things differently. I want to be able to look at a combination of audio, video, text, and pull different threads from it. Find a series of pathways through the rich possibilities.
And I want the technology to learn. As I learn from it’s richness, or others do, I want it to get smarter.
Beyond one perspective
The most exciting thing about the idea of using technology to explore huge amounts of information is thinking about what it would be like to be able to explore patterns. To have the computer identify possibilities. To be able to to explore layering and options. Allowing the computer to do what it does best, and partnering with it to bring the human elements we can not yet replicate.
Discovering beyond search
I’m longing to get beyond searching for a word or phrase. I want to be able to discover or consider things that are around an idea. A tool that manages divergence rather than just providing convergence. I know I can go down digital rabbit holes, but what if I could see how those rabbit holes related to other groups of data?
How can data be searched multi-dimensionally, and more importantly, fed back in a way that is comprehensible? I know it has a lot to do with making it visual. Flexible. With a variety of lenses.
Skip Walter was asked to present at the Institute of Design Strategy Conference on May 9-10, 2012. The requested topic was to describe how human centered design was used in a company he had started. He had talked about the topic before, but in 2 hours not 40 minutes. We had a little over two weeks to pull the presentation deck together, but it was one where we each already had a number of things scheduled.
He liked my painting from the When Science and Art Dance post for the title slide, but asked me to put mathematical formulas on the left side instead of 1’s and 0’s.
I asked him to tell me what he liked about the painting, what details were saying something to him about his topic. We also spent several hours where he talked and took notes on a whiteboard about what he wanted to say. From there he went back to his office to outline his presentation and see what slides he had. I went to the studio to start painting the themes I heard.
A dialogue between slides and paint
The first rough cut was a mishmash of slides with pictures from a variety of places and styles, bullet lists and charts, with logos and different templates. The script had a lot of detail about what happened with who and when.
My paintings were more about the energy that emerges when words and pictures come together.
I’d talk a bit about what I was seeing as the essence of the story. He would take out a bunch of detail.
I saw a flow between the sides of science and art. He saw Design emerging from this energy in the middle. The essence of the story was coming together. Memories of other pieces that fed the core of the storyline began to emerge as the detail fell away.
Walk into your story
The story really began to shift when Skip printed out his slides and put them up on the wall. When you do that you can walk into it, toward it, and see other possibilities of sequence that are hard to discern when you are looking at them in a Powerpoint window. Once that story became clearer, I could paint to support it.
In this case, we had a scientist and an artist to play back and forth between the sides, which worked well. But you could also have two people decide to play those roles. One write a story, the other finds images that say something about the ideas. Start with really rough drafts. Talk about ideas at each stage. Allow each others work to influence you. See what emerges.
Don’t take a huge amount of time. We had to work quickly, so there wasn’t time to get attached to details or to pick on them. We kept moving, and the issues worked themselves out in the end.
I facilitated the Re-inventing University-level Learning Workshop at the University of Washington Bothell earlier this spring. Since then, a small group has continued to work toward creating programs and courses that reflect some of the ideas that came from the workshop. I was copied on an email to the group, where they were looking at images of science and art.
When I saw this image, I liked the idea of wonder emerging from the intersection, but the overlap felt too contained. It seems to be a lot more energy emerges when you bring science and art together. Almost immediately, this image popped into my head.
When science and art come together it’s more like a dance. In it’s highest expression. It takes attitudes of curiosity and wonder, and a willingness to search for the best parts of each approach. This image started an interesting project, where it spawned a series of images about this topic. I collaborated with one of our customers, Skip Walter, to uncover then design a presentation for a conference. More about that soon.
In late October we started looking at how we create content for social media. Making a list of all the places we were posting was a wake up call. It was taking a huge amount of effort, and the conversation was scattered all over the place.
As our product offers have grown we thought it would be easier to break off our newest work and put it on a separate website. I post my artwork on my own blog.
The only way I can keep up with it is if nothing happens. No unexpected things that need attention. Those weeks are rare. So I end up working way too many hours trying to keep up.
What sucks up the time?
I need to redesign the way I relate to social media. While it might be ‘better’ to have separate parts of the business with it’s own special messages and branding, I am clear I can’t keep that up. We are too small a company to sustain it.
I enjoy searching out resources and pointing them out to my networks. It can be a slippery slope. I can justify aimless internet wandering as searching for content.
I think of myself as an artist, but in reality I spend most of my time writing. Is there a way I can get more balance between the visual and verbal?
Consolidating and Restructuring
I’m restructuring how our social media and communication happens. I’ve merged newsletter lists, so I am sending out one every two weeks to everybody. We are redesigning our webpages and consolidating our blogs.
We’re deep in the design cave, so you won’t see as many posts as usual.
I’ve found myself trying to follow advice of social media and marketing experts. Only thing is when I do there is no time to do all the other things I need to do to keep the whole business operating. I’m rethinking what sustainable practices look like for MY business. Looking at the metrics. What actually drives revenue? And what are things that might feel good, but don’t help move the business forward?
We hear from facilitators all the time who are using the VisualsSpeak toolset — but usually it is from experienced practitioners. Recently, though, we heard of an experience by someone brand-new to the tools and to facilitation!
Learning by participating
He was working with a group in his organization on planning a conference, and they needed to get a clear vision. The toolset was very useful, and the company’s Chief Operating Officer happened to be in the meeting.
So the next time an issue came up — in this case, a work team that wasn’t really a “team” at all — the COO decided VisualsSpeak was the answer. Now this COO had never done facilitation before, and had only used the toolset once before as a participant. But in she dove!
Our more experienced user (who was a participant in this team intervention) said that even though the COO made some newbie mistakes, the toolset worked beautifully. It yielded great bonding for the starting-to-be-a-team, and laid a strong foundation. Or, as he put it:
It’s amazing how robust a tool it is–you can’t mess it up even if you’re new at using it!
It’s hard to know where you might make impact in your life, and how you might do it. Often it’s little things that slowly ripple out and take unexpected twists and turns.
Using images in Africa
VizPeep Mari Alexander is a therapist, physician assistant, intercultural consultant and Mom to two teenage boys. She’s also the co-founder of a grassroots nonprofit, Safe Passages to Motherhood that has been working in a rural village in Kenya. They’ve been sharing Home Based Life Saving Skills with a group in the village, and that small group has reached out and shared the information with over fifteen thousand other people.The program teaches people to recognize the signs of childbirth emergencies and to get those women to help before it is too late. Since the program has started, none of the women in the village have died in childbirth. Pretty impressive in an area of the world where 1 in 16 women die having babies.
One of the challenges of working in the developing world is really knowing what is happening and if you are actually making a real difference. This program has assessment and information tracking built in, but Mari was interested in the impacts beyond just the number of births in the clinic or attendance at programs.
Mari knew how powerful using images was in her work as a therapist and consultant, but feared the photographic images would be difficult to relate to for the people in Africa. So we worked with her to develop a set of paintings she could use instead.
Stories of Empowerment
The paintings worked exceedingly well. People easily found images to describe the impact the Safe Passage to Motherhood program had on their lives. The stories weren’t so much about saving the mothers lives as they were about how becoming a trainer and sharing this vital information was changing them. They were stories of discovering purpose, and becoming someone.
Increasing the feeling of empowerment
It was obvious this group had been changed by participating in the program. Now, to figure out how to make it sustainable after the five site visits of the Home Based Life Saving Skills program. Part of the training had been to get the community thinking about how to leverage the resources they had. The US group provided some limited funds, but wanted to make sure the group could carry on after the official part of the program ended.
The group was very motivated to find ways to keep the work going. They looked around the village for opportunities, and realized for most of the long gatherings, people sat on the ground and on benches that weren’t comfortable.
The group saved up money to buy chairs, which they rent out. From the money they made, they bought dishes. They knew they were great at feeding big groups because they did it every time they did a training. They were saving money to buy a tent to extend their new catering business into rainy season. The US based group made a donation to the tent fund, and it arrived the day after the US group left. They now have a way to support spreading their work to other villages.
They have requested their own set of images so they can use them in their training. Of course VisualsSpeak will provide them!
The last official visit
The Home Based Life Saving Skills program that Safe Passages to Motherhood uses has five visits to the community in the developing world. The last trip is focused on evaluation, and documenting the impact the program has had. We already know the group has reached over 15 thousand people, and women are being brought to the clinic in time for help to save their lives.
Safe Passages is a tiny grassroots organization. The health care workers and team who go to Africa take time off from work and volunteer their time. They are very resourceful and keep costs to a minimum. Still, it is very expensive to get them there. When they can, they purchase medical supplies to bring to the village. They have not raised all the money to fund the upcoming trip.
Any amount will help, it’s incredible how far our dollars can stretch in the developing world. Right now they are several thousand dollars away from just paying for transportation for the upcoming trip.
This program is powerful and effective. We’re seeing the impacts ripple out to make real differences.
When you’re working with a group, there are times when things just work well from the beginning — people are sharing and the dynamic is good. Then there are the other times.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where people just aren’t opening up to each other, work at engaging their curiosity. When people get curious, they naturally lower some of their barriers and dynamics change.
Ask questions like, “Could you tell me more about that image?” Or ask them how they approached the process with questions like, “What caught your attention about these images that caused you to select them?”
The trick is to start with questions that aren’t personal, so participants don’t immediately shut down. From that point, often people will allow you to open the door to a deeper conversation.
As I develop new products I grab the people around me to test everything. A couple of years ago I was vacationing in Cabo San Lucus with my parents and I asked them to try out an exercise using a prototype of the VisualsSpeak ImageSet.
Present and Future
At the time I was testing images, so I was asking everyone to make images of their present and future. I gave them 2 pieces of paper to assemble their images. Using the space between the sections to describe the transition was optional.
Using Piles of Images
My Dad did something I hadn’t seen up to that point. He created piles of images. They were spaced across the pages. When I asked him to tell the story of his image, he told me about the images on the top of the piles.
I suspected there was something more, so I asked him what was in the piles underneath.
Animals, animals, and more animals
There were all sorts of pictures of animals underneath the top of the piles. Not just any animals, mostly Alaskan animals. Turns out, my Dad had this dream of going to Alaska.
I remember my Mom turning to me with a comment about being married to him for almost 50 years and not realizing this. I know it was the first time I heard about it.
With a clear goal things become possible
In the initial conversations, the obstacles to going to Alaska were much clearer to my Dad than the possibilities. Once the dream was revealed then the challenges could be worked on with help from others.
It took several years to put all the pieces together to make this dream come true. However, on the week he turned 80, he left with my Mom for the three week dream trip to Alaska.
This is why I use visual tools
Secrets, insights, dreams, and new ways of looking at things come out all the time using visuals. While this is a story about something that is important to me personally, I have seen similar things happen in relationships, groups, and organizations.
It’s not that the tools are magic. It is the conversations that happen as a result of using them.
It’s the way the visuals activate and reveal other ways of looking at things.
It’s the way they gently tug on the subconscious and unconscious aspects and reveal them to us.
It’s the way I was able to see a part of my Dad that I didn’t know was there.
Yes, that’s right. Tell your clients to stick it. The photographs! To the wall! What did you think I meant?
When facilitating VisualsSpeak processes we recommend
you carry a couple of rolls of painter’s tape with you. These are the blue rolls of tape you can find in most hardware stores.
Painter’s tape – Its versatile and won’t ruin your images or the surfaces the images are being stuck to. It doesn’t leave a sticky residue like masking tape, and you won’t have tape welded to your photographs.
On the walls
One very successful technique we use is to have clients create a group collage on the wall. In advance, we tape a large piece of wide (white) paper on the wall. Then, as a team, people place their images on the paper by applying a piece of doubled-over tape on the back of the photos. Doing a group collage on the wall also shifts the client’s visual perspective of the work, opening up further possibilities of gaining insights.
On the ceiling or window?
I facilitated a leadership development retreat with a group of high level government executives. This is a very creative bunch. One breakout group taped their collage to the ceiling. Another created a frame out of tape on the window. And another framed their collage with tape on the wall.
Use multiple senses
Remember – One reason VisualsSpeak is such a powerful tool for group work is because it involves multiple senses: visual, verbal and kinesthetic. Using tape adds another level to the kinesthetic sense. It is tactile.
Rebellion = Fun – Don’t forget the rebellious nature of taping things to the walls. After all, didn’t your mother tell you not to stick things on the walls?