I participated in a meeting with a client yesterday where our Directors Liz Robson and Ishan Angra used the Drawing Together exercise from Liberating Structures to help open up a leadership team’s thinking related to their organization’s structure. This was such a successful activity, and there are so many reasons why I love incorporating Drawing Together into my facilitations. I thought I’d share a few highlights:
Drawing Together helps your group think differently. Think about your ten most recent meetings. How did you ask individuals to participate? For many organizations the answer to this question is verbally and sometimes in written formats. We do the majority of our work using these two methods. The methods with which work impact the way we think. Verbal and written formats can lead to linear thinking. Asking participants to express their thoughts visually, through drawing, can open up new and different ways of thinking. This activity also provides a new method for people who do not always excel verbally or in written format to participate fully. I saw this happen so beautifully in today’s meeting. This activity allowed everyone to reflect individually and to document their own ideas visually. When they presented their drawings back to the group, there was so much diversity of thought and innovation that the group had not previously uncovered through their traditional meeting tactics. This resulted in some great discussion.
There is power in a picture. The old cliché is true, a picture is worth a thousand words. Drawing Together is so powerful because the visual presentation of ideas allows the group to easily express complex ideas, and uncover similarities and differences among ideas. I saw this play out with today’s group. Although each leader came with their own perspective on what the organizational structure should be, this exercise helped the group uncover similar themes (e.g. integration, leadership) and specific components of an organizational structure that were important to all group members. It also sparked really interesting conversations about the differences and helped the group better understand each other’s points of view.
It’s just plain fun. This exercise may seem a bit unorthodox to you, and it is! That’s what’s so great about it. This exercise is facilitated with a playful spirit, and it often pushes a group outside of its comfort zone. This makes it a great bonding opportunity for a group - the opportunity to face a challenge together, to complain about it a bit maybe, and to support each other through it. Once the group gets together to share their visuals, we usually witness big smiles, laughter, and compliments as each member appreciates the visuals that are shared. We saw that with the group we facilitated today.
The next time you feel like your group has been circling and having the same conversation over and over, consider trying out Drawing Together as a way to help your group think differently.
P.s.- we did this virtually and it worked perfectly. Each leader developed their own drawing - some drew by hand on paper or whiteboards, others used power point or other techy options. Those that drew by hand took pictures and emailed them to our facilitator. We then went into breakout rooms so that each person could share their drawing (using screen sharing) with one other person to explore rationale, similarities and differences. Then we came back together in the main virtual room as a full group to review all drawings (displayed by our facilitator on the screen), ask questions of each other, and discuss similarities and differences as a group. I'm sure there are lots of ways this can be done virtually, but this worked for us.