Getting started with Visual Harvesting


Template for strategy workshop

Template for strategy workshop

Because we receive more and more information these days, we need to optimize how to get, filter, process and store this information somehow. In this blog we’ll introduce a technique called Visual Harvesting or Visual Recording.

Acquiring interesting information is already described in a previous blog, ‘How to keep up. Social apps that boost your creativity‘. This blog will focus on a better way to process and store the information. I am talking about a new trend in our business landscape, called Visual Harvesting or aka. Visual Recording.

Visual Harvesting

Visual Harvesting is a method of processing and storing information using visuals combined with text instead of text only. Visual Harvesting can be used on various occasions:

  • Capturing notes during a meeting,
  • Making a summary,
  • Making a mindmap,
  • Facilitating a workshop,
  • Making a book summary,
  • Visualizing strategy,
  • As side animation next to a speaker,
  • etc.

The technique is promising because of the picture superiority effect you can save up to six times more than with text. Also because of the visualisation you will increase the group memory.

What skills do you need?

You need some very basic drawing, let’s call it doodling, skills to get you started. It’s actually an advantage if your drawings skills aren’t that good, because you’ll be focussed on drawing instead of facilitating and capturing.

If you prepare yourself a set of template drawings, you can save some timing and increase your reflexes.

Also, you need some fast visualizing skills. I say “target”, you’ll draw …? I say “project document”, you’ll draw …?

Is it possible to facilitate and draw at the same time?

Yes. But you’ll have to be gifted to do it. A very important part to visual harvesting is not drawing, but listening. Listen to what they are saying and translated it into a comprehensible drawing.

If you do need to facilitate and visual harvest at the same time, it’s best to create some sort of template framework up front. For example, for a strategy workshop, you can draw a landscape and a journey from the old situation, to the new one. The content and details can be filled in later.

How about mixing harvesting and participation? Is the role of harvester is typically for an outsider?

For me it’s the same as when facilitating other workshops like Root Cause Analysis (RCA) or Value Stream Mapping (VSM): if you participate in the discussion it’s hard to stay focused on guiding the process and not diving into the content. You might loose yourself in the discussion and end-up with nothing on paper.

How do you know if you did a successful visual harvest?

It’s a pitfall to make the most beautiful drawing of a workshop you attended… and end up afterwards with something nobody can understand. You made a successful visual harvest if at the end you delivered something that your customers understand and can use to recapitulate or elaborate.

Pitfalls

Some of the pitfalls when doing visual recording are:

  • Ending up with a result nobody can understand afterwards (only pictures).
  • Not listening.
  • Recording too many details.
  • Creating very nice and almost perfect drawings.
  • Making corrections to previous drawings.
  • Writing/drawing other things than being said. It’s best to stay neutral and only record.

Remark: because you’re in the situation of a professional drawing a picture in a workshop full of professionals, you might raise some eyebrows in the audience, but ignore them and focus on the end result. Afterward the participants will be convinced and proud on the result. Ignoring them will also easy because you’re busy like hell!

Examples

Some examples of where Visual Recording was applied:

Where can you get trained?

I got the “Visual Changemaking” training by Manuel and Martine, two gifted visual harvesting facilitators respectively from Modelminds.nl and VisualHarvesting.com. Both have experience in many business domains and are very enthusiastic about this technique and it’s possibilities.

They share two guides:

What will I do with it?

I plan to use the technique mostly in change management and strategy workshops. At the time of writing I have created two frameworks and facilitated one workshop. Further, I used the technique for my contribution in a yearly evaluation session of our team and ourself. The technique of visualisation was also apllied in a Future Search exercise on leading trends for creating a timeline, but pictures were used instead of drawings.

I also tried the technique while reviewing a book, but quitted after the first chapter. If you don’t have a clear goal about what you’re going to do with the end result, I experience it like a lot of work.

So you may wonder: “Why is this summary in text and not visual?”. Good question, I’ll be working on it.

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