visual facilitation

theory U

theory u copy


it’s been a couple of inspirational years now that i’ve worked based on theory U. preparing a sample workshop for an IT customer i discovered yet a new aspect of it.

the very core of the theory is the trinity of open: mind-heart-will. it is only based on them all that true innovation can be born. each of them is guided by dragon: open mind has the voice of judgement protecting the access, open heart is shielded by the voice of cynicism and open will is safe with voice of fear at the gates. working with project managers we were wondering how can one support your team members if you loose them to one of the beasts. as you can see in the very centre of the visual, it is with listening, love and courage. honestly i have to admit, that this bit never resonated with me that much. it seemed too…what shall i say? i mean “love”? in business context? seriously? but then. in the evening of the sample day i had a situation with one of my relatives. they were unhappy, felt under-appreciated and were very annoyed with everyone and everything. i gave it a shot. i thought: which is the voice speaking now? what does it block? what does it need? and you know what, this very simple equation was actually helpful. cynicism needs love and it blocks open heart. no rocket science, but sometimes emotions have this internal gravity which makes me loose the ground under my feet. this one gave it back.


curious to talk to the project managers next time and check if they had a chance of prototyping in their corner.

illustrating a book

the first book i illustrated is out. printed on real paper, available in real book-stores. a whole new chapter starts with this step.i am being called an “illustrator” now as well.

here you can read me writing about the process.

i am very pleased with the result. the drawings look neat and simple. those two are my favourite ones:


III copy



XIII copy

but you know me, i am a results person, definitely, but with a great passion for process. and how did the process look like? honestly – many more nights at the desk than i assumed. drafting, prototyping, drawing, redrawing, correcting, changing, consulting. the cycle of creative processes of:

this is great! –> something’s fishy –> this sucks! –> i suck! –> this is not so bad –> this is great!

i went through oh so many times. the toughest one was simon. i just couldn’t get his story. it seemed like the text said, he fell into a crevasse, while climbing a glacier, because his line broke. me myself, a glacier climber, thought i was on the safe side, so i drew:

simon 1


turned out i was almost right.




i have been almost right probably 10 more times.the people at the publishing house i though are gonna come after me at night with their dogs :) but they didn’t. they were nice and supportive.





noname copy

finally i got it and we were all satisfied.


II copy


i have always been a person who though of herself “i cannot draw”. school & co. definitely supported my conviction. but then surprisingly in my mid-thirties with visual thinking i have found a way around me not knowing how to draw. still if you ask me to draw a cow or a shoe you might see me running away. but with a lot of practice and a lot of passion i have found my style. i became a very curious observer – copying, searching, appreciating shapes and their representations. i always carry a sketch book on me. i draw whenever i wait, i travel, i have nothing to do. i draw all that is around me. i learn how to draw if you hold the belief you cannot really draw. this is what visual thinking opens up for me. and you know what – there are people who enjoy my style.

i guess what i am saying to myself and all of you reading this – do not let yourself be discouraged. this notion of “no matter what you want you can become it” is getting bigger and bigger in the world. i believe you can become (almost) all you choose to. so choose bravely. and choose wisely.


visual facilitation

visual facilitation is not about only drawing. it is not a modern name for making a comic based on a situation. it is way more. it means working with a powerful combination of words, shapes and colours for recording and organising the communication and creation flows in conversations inside an organisation, a group or even in one’s own note-making for a deeper understanding and a more participatory access.



i use visual facilitation for example when developing a concept with our customers and planning an event together. visual notes take good care that all details are transparent and we are all on the same page of what needs to be done during which of the steps of large group events.




i also find visual facilitation helpful for preparing instructions for people in a large group, in small groups or even individually. this gives them something to check with, whether they understood the instructions and what the consecutive steps should be and allows participants to relax deeper into the participation in an actual dialogue.



visual facilitation allows you to put many things that belong together on one piece of paper, in a neat and clean way. below the example of a training schedule for a five-day event, including the every-day structure, topics addressed during each day, the two major focus forces and a symbol, explaining the dynamics of what the training refers to, in this case: increasing creativity in teams.




second example is a schedule of a one day event on mindfulness, including the WHAT, the HOW and the WHY of the session.


turbo koncentracja przy totalnym luzie


sharing my practice: what i use to organise my notes is a frame with two boxes: the lower, outer edge box includes the date, the upper inside box the setting (customer / event / theme). this helps me find in my notes what i am looking for easily.





if you want to see more examples of really diverse visual facilitation styles and some works of truly great visual practitioners, join me on a sentimental journey back to this july in berlin, on EUVIZ – european conference for visual thinkers, practitioners and facilitators. a rich HARVESTING archive you can find here.

now it’s your turn. just grab a pen and paper, listen to someone talk about a matter that intrigues you and – go visualise!





collective learning with a large group

in july 2013 the city of leipzig was organising a 10 day residential for 100 young artists from 10 countries. i was invited to design the scenarios and implement collective sense-making sessions of their shared experiences as well as to facilitate the intercultural learning in the group.

we used world-cafe to have people start engaging and connecting based on topics that matter for them.


world cafe flip


world cafe 2


i introduced the claes janssen’s “four rooms of change” model at the very beginning of the gathering, hoping it would support people in going through rough times keeping a learner’s attitude and curiousity. i have been approached a number of times during the residential by the participants saying how helpful it was.


four rooms


at the end of the event we used it to evaluate where the group was in their forming stages during the time they co-created.





later in the project we run (for me by now the largest) BARANGA session with 100 participants playing cards on 25 tables. BARANGA is a cultural role-playing game which gives you a first-hand experience of the confusion we are a subject of when not understanding that we do not understand the rules and believing we are communicating clearly and following a common sense. the participants did get upset and even close to mad during the experience. this provided a great basis for rich learning in the debriefing phase…




this was the longest continuous intervention i ever facilitated with a large group. i have to admit it felt great and right in so many ways. i would enjoy the chance to facilitate more large-group events supporting collective learning, deep dialogue and creativity.