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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #2: Build In Reflection Time

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe thatgraphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device.

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collectiverepertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights.

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #2: Build In Reflection Time

In order to get the most value from graphic recording, it’s important that you schedule time for participants to look back at the maps to leverage them as effective thinking tools.

The participant experience needs to feel like working visually got us somewhere. By reflecting, people can see how each piece moves the process along. ~ Nevada Lane – Lane Change Consulting –

When organizations go to the expense of holding a “special” (non-routine) meeting, they usually pack the agenda with as much information as possible. In the end, the schedule becomes a constant outpouring of presentations and discussions, without any space where people can personally integrate the information they’re receiving.

As we were quoted in Dana Wright’s recently published, “We’ve Got to START Meeting Like This,” “Participants can be listening to a speaker, or making meaning, but not at the same time.” So, you want to create an agenda that ebbs and flows to allow your meeting participants to fully process the material.

Working Visually is a Process, Not Just a Product 

If you are using graphic recording in a meeting, but not building in time for participants to look back at the maps, you are reducing the tool to a mere recording device (PRODUCT) when it has substantially more to offer.

Designing experiences where participants process the information on the map to arrive at new insights is the gateway to accessing the depth of graphic recording as a PROCESS tool.

Graphics need to be integrated throughout the meeting in ways that allow participants to reflect on them for the purposes of gleaning new, higher-level insights as a result of having viewed the information visually.

The content captured on the chart serves like a mirror for the group. When you stop periodically to reflect or “look in the mirror”, it allows people to actively construct and integrate individual/shared meaning. It gives people a chance to ask, “What does this tell us?”

David Sibbet explains in his book “Visual Leaders” that, “We value maps because they orient us, but they don’t tell us where to go.” However, he includes that they “have limited utility if you aren’t looking to find something on the map.” That’s why, if we want to discover what the visuals have to offer us, we need more conversation after the map is created .

Reflection questions and activities result in people looking at the chart not only to remember or understand the information better but also to process it so that they make further meaning.

Encourage your participants to find:

  • Connections – What new relationships do we see between ideas?
  • Oversights – What’s missing in our conversation? Whose voice/perspective have we not considered?
  • Need for Further Inquiry – Where do we need to drill deeper to clarify/understand better?
  • Shared Thinking – Where is our thinking aligned? Where does the energy spark?
  • Priority – What ideas/actions are most important?
  • Emergent Meaning – What themes are apparent? What’s receiving emphasis? What collective wisdom is emerging? What can we infer about next steps?
  • Synthesis – How can we summarize? What lessons can we take forward from this conversation?
  • Group Dynamics – What does this map reveal about how we communicate and participate in a group dialogue? 

Remember: Every single person viewing the map is having an individual experience with it (they have personal feelings and associations with the information on the map). The Facilitator and the GR, as collaborators, are responsible for structuring a situation that exposes those individual interiors for the sake of moving the group forward. The only way to expose participants’ interiors is to ask them something about what they see on the map and give them the opportunity to talk and make meaning of the information.

Here are 5 ways to get the most out of reflection time in your meeting:

1. Have a strategic purpose for the reflection.

What realizations could the group have that would support the overall purpose and objectives of the meeting? What kind of thinking are you aiming to encourage in this meeting? (Depth? Breadth? Respect for multiple points of view? Crystalizing a new story/message? Engaging a wider circle of people?)

What kind of reflective experience would encourage your participants to get to what the meeting is REALLY about? When you stop to reflect, what insights might participants have that could enrich the next step in the meeting process? Think about what would be helpful for people to have fresh in their minds for the following segment of your conversation.

2. Create a “pull” in the reflection experience.

You have to do more than just ask people to read the content on the chart, as that merely “pushes” the information back at them. You have to create the “pull” by offering participants a 2-way interaction with the chart. Give people a compelling question to consider as they view the chart. That will give them focus so they process the information on the map for a specific purpose. Actively processing the visual chart is what allows people to connect to the information and develop real understanding.

3. Compel people to higher-level thinking with your reflection question.

If you want people to arrive at new insights, the reflection experience must move them beyond simply remembering or understanding the information, to applying it, analyzing it, evaluating it, or creating something new with it.

Bloom’s taxonomy, a classification of levels of intellectual behavior and thinking, shows us that as you move from knowledge and comprehension into application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, you begin to process information in ways that lead to new insights. That is the objective you want to strive for with your reflection.

Blooms Taxonomy

4. Capture the deeper insights.

It takes time to reflect and harvest insights that emerge from participants as they interact with the maps, but this is where the gold lies. Taking the next step into “thinking about the thinking” is invaluable because it not only reinforces the learning from the meeting, but also shows your participants the merits of processing information visually.

When participants share back their new insights, make sure your GR captures them for the group so you capture the intelligence.

5. Mix it up and make the reflection experiences fun. Get creative with the ways you engage participants and encourage interaction. 

Here are a few ideas you could try:

  • Have silent individual reflection followed by a voluntary report back
  • Ask individuals to view the map and engage in a brain writing exercise
  • Invite talking partners to photograph the map with their phone and head off for a coffee to view, reflect and discuss
  • Ask individuals or small groups to reflect and capture their new insights into a personal-sized visual template
  • Ask your GR to leave an invitational space on the map and have participants write their insights graffiti style, directly on the map
  • Ask people to draw and caption their biggest insight then post them in gallery fashion for the group to see

Your GR partner should be able to help you design reflective experiences into your meeting that allow people to see what is recorded on the map, as well as theso what or the now what that moves them to their next steps.

People support what they create; it’s a change principle. After the meeting, it’s the people who will need to carry out action to create desired change, so the more participants contribute to and interact with the charts, the more they’ll own them and the actions on them. ~ Amanda Fenton –

During meeting design calls, a good GR will ask when you will be reflecting on the maps. They’ll offer guidance and ideas to make sure your graphics are highly connected to the meeting process and participants have the opportunity to use the maps as a thinking tool to arrive at new insights.

The ability for groups to produce new insight literally from looking at the information is exactly the power of visual meetings. Building in reflection time to allow that to happen is exactly how you elevate graphic recording from a product to a powerful thinking process.