Introduction to Visual Explorer
Visual Thinking with Leadership Explorer tools (WEBINAR)
The Power of Leadership Metaphors (WEBINAR)
Explorer Tools in ActionHMC Conference, Scotland from CCL Labs
Future Scenario Creation with VE
Integration with Graphic Facilitation
Current State to Future State Visioning
Visual Explorer Videos
- About Visual Explorer
- Values Explorer for Student Leadership Development
- The DAC Framework: Creating shared direction, alignment, and commitment
- Dialogue by putting something in the middle
- Adult development (vertical) theory
- Transformations User’s Guide v1.2
- The From Here to There (FHT) Model of Human Development
- Vertical leadership development for a complex world
- About Emotions Explorer
- Young African Leaders Initiative
- Climate Change Conference, Paris, 2015
The 2015 Climate Change Conference has just concluded in Paris. As we approach the end of the year here in Philadelphia the weather is ominously summer-like.
I used Visual Explorer twice: as a framing activity for our active listening session and as a final reflection activity. You can find some pictures attached. It was a hit both times and I let each participant take their final reflection card home. Once again, I was impressed with the Visual Explorer to transcend language and cultural barriers and facilitate communication and collaboration of young professionals.”
Hannah Smith is a former CCL-Ethiopia Intern, and is currently a PhD student in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho.
We are pleased to receive this report from Dr. Harvey Chen:
Here are some pictures of Visual Explorer in China. The participants arranged the VE cards into some shapes– heart, arrow, etc. They wrote a word or two for each card, and summarized the words into one big theme. In the case of the heart, the summary title was “Creating the Future with our Heart.”
See the new set of 100 Visual Explorer™ (beta) images here.
To purchase these Visual Explorer™ (beta) print and digital images for $250 plus shipping, please contact CCL Labs, Charles J. Palus, palusc(at)ccl.org
The 2015 (beta) Visual Explorer™ allows users access to the digital version of the images. VE users are invited to use the digital images to enhance or extend the use of VE. For example, participants in a VE session can now have a digital copy of the image to take home. Collages of digital images from a VE session can be very powerful.
The Visual Explorer™ (beta) digital images are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. This license allows liberal use of the images for creative purposes related to the use and extension of Visual Explorer™ (2015 beta only). Commercial resale is prohibited. Other restrictions apply. Public domain images are subject to their own restrictions.
Source information is contained in the metadata for each image. Each image is watermarked as Visual Explorer™.
Attribution for publication is: Visual Explorer™ : CCL Labs : Center for Creative Leadership.
Charles J. Palus palusc(at)ccl.org
David Magellan Horth horthd(at)ccl.org
Design and Production by:
Stephen A. van Vuuren
Marie Stone van Vuuren
© 2015 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
By Kathy Vaughan
Center for Creative Leadership
I used Collaboration Explorer and Visual Explorer as part of a retreat for a high performing team within a multilateral agency whose work is pro-poor. The team is comprised of core staff and several consultants. The team has operated in a highly dynamic environment over the past year with large scale organizational change and with lack of formal leadership of the new overarching entity within which they sit. Over the course of the year, I have worked with them on a capacity building initiative to enhance the collective capacity of the team in the areas of communication, conflict management and negotiation. The September retreat marked the end of the engagement. The design for the retreat included both Visual Explorer and Collaboration Explorer. (more…)
Our friends at New York University, Research Center for Leadership in Action, have developed these wonderful practice notes regarding the use of visual tools in facilitation, including Visual Explorer.
Our work at RCLA often requires the facilitation of difficult conversations, building connections among diverse groups of people, and/or convening leaders concerned with critical social issues to problem-solve or address challenges. Although visual tools can be used in any setting to facilitate group processes, they are particularly valuable in situations were complex topics are at hand, or when groups have not established familiar relationships. There is a vast array of visual tools to draw on, thanks to many thought leaders who have developed these tools.
Our CCL team in Ethiopia develops leadership at all levels of society including with grassroots and community organizations. Monitoring and assessment are key to this work, and the team has invented and adapted a variety of useful methods.
Samantha Adelberg just published a three-part series of posts on this topic that I highly recommend. The first one covers the use of Visual Explorer as an interactive tool for assessing leadership challenges and capabilities. (Here is an older post that describes a similar application of VE in Afghanistan.)
An excerpt …
The video clip shows the Visual Explorer process we use. This provides the delegates an effective and easy-to-use tool to explore the concept of Purpose and Leadership Possibility. It enables people to make deep connections to big issues, even if they have had little exposure to this type of thinking before.
Thanks to RedZebra for this video of VE in action!
Our CCL campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is focused on democratizing leadership development for all parts of society. Their post below links to inspiring stories of societal impact. Notice the use of Visual Explorer, a tool that has proven useful for engaging people across different languages and cultures.
Reposted from Leadership Beyond Boundaries
Imagine you have a group of strong, committed, bright women excited by their country’s emergence from 60 long years of a military regime; add in a big measure of self-clarity and another of agency and one more of coaching & mentoring, and set them in a network of encouragement and support. Do you get national transformation? (more…)
Here’s a review of Visual Explorer, from Innovation Management:
Conclusion [full article here]
I like the Visual Explorer. The cards are of high quality, which means they should be durable tools that you and your team can use to open dialogue and explore new ideas. I like the fact that it isn’t just another card deck that helps you to generate ideas; rather, its primary focus is on facilitating discussion between people, building bridges between differing opinions and yes, even developing new ideas. And, as you may have gathered, I’m a big fan of the level of thinking, organization and presentation that went into the facilitator’s guide. A tool is only as good as the instructions that teach people how to use it. The Visual Explorer’s facilitator’s guide is first class all the way.
If you and your team are facing some difficult issues, or need to develop consensus on your organization’s future direction, or if you simply want to improve team communication and collaboration, then you may want to consider investing in this high quality toolset.”
Good news from Barcelona (below) from the European Center for Electoral Support (full story here, and here for the 2012 edition). The ECES has the strategy of supporting “dialogue and mediation for the consensual and inclusive management of political transition and the prevention and mitigation of electoral and political conflict.”
The 2013 edition of the Dealing with Electoral Violence: Leadership and Conflict Management Skills for Electoral Stakeholders took place in Barcelon on 14-18 Octber 2013.
The overall objective of this 2013 edition of the LEAD Training has been to look into ways in which representatives of electoral stakeholders can improve their leadership skills and take on board means for preventing and/or mitigating the escalation of election-related violence and conflict throughout the respective electoral cycles.
The LEAD training is jointly organized with the Center for Creative Leadership: Leadership Beyond Boundaries and the Barcelona International Peace Resource Center. (more here.)
Here’s a story from Jon: a successful conversation, with his son, on a topic difficult for both of them.
I was having some challenges with one of my sons one time and his finances weren’t in order. I was so bothered by this. I knew I didn’t want to turn him off completely but I had to get some breakthrough. I had just learned about Visual Explorer at a seminar. And so I took the cards to dinner with the two of us, not even knowing how to use them, and I said something to the effect of, ‘Michael, talk to me about your finances’ and I said, ‘Pick a picture that helps depict what’s going on.’ And it was a barn burning. From there he told me a whole story about how he felt out of control and his whole world of finances was burning. And so the VE deck provided a great enty into getting behind what was the issue.”
Here is a nice introduction to Visual Explorer by David Magellan Horth. A deeper introduction is a CCL Webinar called Visual Thinking for Effective Leadership, by David and Chuck.
What Is Visual Explorer?
Visual Explorer uses images to facilitate conversations, creating new perspectives and shared understanding. The tool consists of 216 images, available in letter-size (USA), postcard-size, and playing-card-size formats, and a facilitator’s guide.
Visual Explorer offers the most benefits when a group needs to:
• Find patterns in complex issues and making connections
• Take a variety of perspectives
• Ask new questions, uncover hidden assumptions
• Elicit stories and create metaphors
• Tap into personal experiences and passions
• Articulate what is known to the group
• Practice dialogue
Sue Wolpert, change agent in Cleveland, writes to us about the formation of a Peaceful Neighborhood Learning Circle. (More on Sue’s work with dialogue and community engagement in urban neighborhoods here.)
The Possibility People in Cleveland are moved to manifest their own aspirations for healing and peaceful neighborhoods by the stories told and spaces created by a small group of change agents who dedicate themselves to learn, celebrate, and demonstrate peaceful neighborhoods. As we discover new ways to live with ourselves, others and our physical spaces we model, with deep respect, these new ways of being.
The conversation we had was fabulous. The participants came up with so much wisdom that would never have surfaced without the cards. …
Every card opened the path for a story, every story revealed an important piece of information for our work.
This is a brief montage of a Visual Explorer session from the enormously talented and creative folks at RedZebra. Notice the journal writing step that greatly enhances the depth of a VE session.
Heather Champion, a senior faculty member with CCL’s Evaluation Center, recently completed an evaluation of Youth LINKS, a virtual cultural exchange program between youth in the United States and Afghanistan. Global Nomads Group, a U.S. nonprofit, in collaboration with the School of Leadership Afghanistan, hosted the program.
Global Nomads Group is an international NGO whose mission is to foster dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth.
The focus groups included the use of Visual Explorer, a tool developed by the Center for Creative Leadership designed to support collaborative, creative conversations in a wide variety of situations to help develop ideas and insights into useful dialogue. Nine questions were asked to assess the impact they experienced from participating in the program. Also assessed were the extent to which they discussed the program with other students, family, and other community members; what they learned about the US/Afghanistan; … and factors that supported and barriers that prevented greater impact.
Six middle and high schools from a cross the U.S. were paired with six middle and high schools in Afghanistan.
The evaluation included a survey of the students, interviews with the teachers who facilitated the program at each school and focus groups with the students in both the U.S. and Afghanistan. A local evaluator implemented the evaluation in Afghanistan. Students participated in a nine-month curriculum that focused on cultural sensitivity, media literacy and civic engagement, and included six video conferences where students could interact with each other.
A unique aspect of this evaluation was the incorporation of Visual Explorer (VE) into the focus groups. Students picked a VE card that represented the impact they experienced from participating in the program. The use of Visual Explorer was a powerful and engaging component of both the U.S. and Afghan focus groups.
There was evidence of impact in the all three of the areas targeted: cultural sensitivity, media literacy, and civic engagement. The greatest impact reported by both Afghan and US youth was greater unity and solidarity and an increase in media literacy. Additionally, Afghan youth reported being encouraged to continue their formal education (not always highly valued in Afghanistan, particularly for women), being inspired to help develop their country, an increase in confidence, and recognition of the benefits of team work. U.S. youth also reported an increase in cultural awareness and an appreciation of diverse perspectives.
We enjoy hearing from people who are intrigued by Visual Explorer and looking for ways to use it in their own work. Below is a thread of conversation with Sue Wolpert, a change maker in Cleveland (here, here, and here … ) and publisher of The Funny Times. Thanks for sharing your work and fun with us Sue.
My work is around dialogue and community engagement in urban neighborhoods in Cleveland. Even in the microcosm of a city we have so many cultures, isolated groups, enemies, possibilities. I refocused my work here in Cleveland after years of Israel Palestine peace work. After my last trip to meet and support positive change agents there, I found that many of the same issues (small minded, past-centric, distrust, power differentials, lack of spaces to bring people together across divides etc.) all of it is right here in my backyard. Cleveland is an exciting place.
Hi, Last year I had a chance to be in a large group in Belgium that used the Visual Explorer deck as an ice breaker activity. It was an enjoyable way to get a room full of strangers talking to each other. I would be interested to know what other ideas you have for using objects like a deck to help groups bring themselves forward into relationship and action.
My work is around dialogue and community engagement in urban neighborhoods in Cleveland. I would like to have a tool like the Visual Explorer as a way to loosen up peoples imagination when they gather for various reasons. I work on a grassroots level with individuals and simple associations of citizens trying to make the world a better place.
I am wondering if there is a way to get the materials (cards and facilitator booklet) at a discounted rate. [Yes education and not for profits get a 40% discount–ask for it.]
Thanks for your attention,
Wow! Thank you so much for the package full of tools which I received this morning. I opened the picture deck this morning first thing and I asked my husband, tell me how you are feeling about the pinched nerve in your neck? He picked the card of the football players crushing the guys neck. …
Today, I took the deck with me to a visit today with a couple of people that run an organization called Peace In The Hood. They do anti-violence, anti-gang, work in a very rough neighborhood of our city. They also do character development work with youth. I shared with the leadership of Peace In The Hood, the Visual Explorer deck and the Values Explorer cards. We discussed ways they might use the Visual Explorer deck to open up dialogue with stakeholders who might become donors. We also talked about how they might use the values cards with their youth as part of the character development and rites of passage work. We came up with the idea of making a wall hanging that uses the 5 values a person holds most closely.
Here is what is going on with the me and the Visual Explorer decks you shared. I used them once in a group setting (see a few pictures attached) before I took on a two year project for a wonderful local organization called Neighborhood Connections.
The event was an experimental evening, a party for local change agents (A Small Group) that combined using the Visual Explorer deck with practices from Peter Block. I have also used the deck in one on one meeting with new people as a way to take the conversation in a different direction.
My work with Neighborhood Connections gives me a great platform to bring people of Cleveland’s urban neighborhoods together. Over the next two years my assignment is to convene many events and occasions which will showcase the accomplishments of grassroots people in Cleveland. I will be creating learning circles, parties, and other kinds of fun community dialogues and learning adventures which will build connections. My work is to bridge divides and cross siloed communities, both among grassroots people, organizations that work with grassroots leaders, and in the vertical divides.
I have spent the last 2 months having conversations with people, listening for themes and for what they want to accomplish that might be possible with a groups that spans across neighborhoods, kinds of work, organization, etc. I am almost to the part where I am going to start making up the engagement process and the what kinds of groups to get going. This is where I will start using the deck.
I will keep you posted as we invent the kinds of convenings where people can slow down, and use the deck to connect and share about what is most important to them in the matter at hand.
From: Beth Dixson
To: Horth, David; Palus, Chuck
Subject: a Visual Explorer story
Recently I gave feedback to an emerging leader, a participant in the Women’s Leadership Program at the Center for Creative Leadership. (I have disguised her identity in what follows.)
She is highly regarded and experienced. Her personal stumbling block is her reluctance to speak forcefully or take the lead.
I’ve carried a small deck of Visual Explorer cards with me for years, just in case. We framed a question for her having to do with seeing herself in 6 months time, and about shifting that which blocks her.
It was late in our 3 hour session, but I spread the cards around our room and left her for a few minutes to be with the images and her thoughts quietly and privately. When I returned, she had confidently picked the card showing a single dandelion seed head silhouetted against the bright skyline.
She spoke about her certainty and attraction for this image instinctively, but could not say more. I followed up with my thoughts framed as “if this were my card, I see/I feel … .” She liked having a partner in dialogue. It seemed to be a new idea for her that she could look outside herself for a deeper identification with her inner state.
As much as picking the card, I think modeling the way of seeing it and feeling the connection was the key experience for her. A new skill, way of paying attention, bridging the inner chaos through recognizing a personal visual metaphor.
It shifted her mood greatly to a lighter, more hopeful mind set. We were able to complete our talk concretely with sketched actions to take after the workshop.
Along with the whole class experience, I think she will carry that clear image as a re-framing point to sustain her.
As small a thing as responding to an image was a significant moment with its own power and clarity when the totality of the week begins to blur. I certainly felt glad I had this compact resource at hand.
This post comes from Aaron White at Leadership Beyond Boundaries. Aaron is Deputy Regional Director based at the new Center for Creative Leadership office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here’s our virtual interview with Aaron: (More on contextualizing Visual Explorer at What is the biggest challenge that youth face in Ethiopia?)
We have been prototyping a Visual Values Explorer contextualized for Somalia. This card deck works with low-literacy pastoralist communities to talk about individual and communal values and to create deep dialogue for leadership development and conflict mitigation.
Why Visual Values Explorer ?
The Visual Values Explorer idea originated from a desire to have a card deck that could be used for low literacy populations to discuss personal and communal values and one that could also be used for dialogue creation around a framing question.
Knowing common values helps build empathy for other groups (women, other clans, etc) to empower and reduce conflict.
Why contextualize for Somali People?
Those who are working among the Somali people need tools like this to better implement programs in food security, conflict mitigation, governance, etc. I saw a great need for NGOs to have a tool like this in their work.
I have a camel given to me by a Somali ‘uncle’ –which means I’m forever connected to this group. I have enjoyed the challenges of working with nomadic Somalis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and through that experience
Roughly 5 million Ethnic Somali people live in Ethiopia, but over 12 million Somali people also cover part of Djibouti, the autonomous and rapidly developing Somaliland, the Somalia we know from piracy and war, and North Eastern province of Kenya. All sharing similar values, language, religion, and livelihoods despite being spread across 5 countries and thousands of miles. The Somali culture is very different from the majority of Ethiopia. It’s a very egalitarian society as opposed to highly hierarchal
How was it created?
CCL worked with Desert Rose Consulting whom we often turn to for contextualizing of our tools and methodology. Thomas Berger, a Swiss social anthropologist who is fluent in Somali, worked for several months to get a set of pictures that represented important, and not important values. Many focus group discussions were held among urban and rural Somalis. Pictures were tested and modified several times until a working deck of 64 values was formed.
What are the challenges?
Values are not talked about in Somali society, so it was difficult to get to the root of the culture to understand the how the values actually play out.
Low-literacy populations engaged in focus group discussions had a difficult time “reading” or interpreting abstract pictures that were being used in current Visual Explorer decks. The new cards are easier to interpret and leave less room for arguments over what the picture means.
Participants were acutely critical of seemingly minor issues in the picture. A picture of a man and two children (which was supposed to represent the value of being a father or of having children) often got the response… “why is this man with his children during the day? Is he unemployed? Why are the children not looking after the goats or in school? Is he in America?” Because of those issues, pictures had to be very carefully selected so that participants did not get distracted and start arguing over meaning. In a picture of a teacher (see below), we blurred the words on the black board to avoid arguments over the content of what the teachers is teaching.
Where to next?
A lot of development money goes unsuccessfully into Somali areas, but we believe leadership may be the lever to improve these programs. Tools like Visual Values Explorer can help NGO staff to get community buy-in or to create understanding for like values between groups.
Visual Explorer can be an effective tool for collaborative visioning. What follows is a visual case study of leaders in an organization connecting the current state to their desired future state in a series of images and actions, woven into a shared narrative. The context is a rapidly growing tech company (disguised) doing an experience-to-vision-to-action project that include the colorful vignettes below.
Excerpts from the graphic wall poster follow. The current state is heroic, with people often thinking and acting independently of each other. The future state is one of interdependence and boundary spanning.
Later the same VE images were combined with the speaker’s words in a different way, as a tool for reminding senior leaders of the key insights that emerged from the whole series of engagement conversations with employees. This next slide show is …
“… Just a 10 minute module that enabled the ‘voice of the employee’ to be in the room. First, with the lights in the room down, I played the first image, and hold just that same image in a long dramatic pause. Much longer than they are used to seeing any image. The tension rises and people shout out sometimes. Then the words layer onto the image. There are gasps; very powerful. That pause worked so well, image after image, the whole experience was wildly effective …
Moving to ‘Yes And’ Thinking and Possibilities: A Workshop
by Rabbi TZiPi Radonsky, Ph.D.
Watering the Tree Outside the Fence
It is January when individuals make promises to themselves. While being aware of the ‘competing commitments’ that Kegan and Lahey write about in Immunity to Change, and of our own experiences of having made a promise to our self that we causally left by the side of the road, as we hurried forward to some other demand on our time. We wanted to create an environment that would not abandon our yearnings.
As the founder of the Society of the Vav, whose mission is to “de-but the world”, I am fascinated by the improvisation exercise known as ‘Yes and…’ that engages people in opening minds and hearts to possibilities, in contrast to the ‘yeah buts’ we often hear or subtly tell our own self. I wanted to combine these themes and offer an opportunity to focus on personal desires for this moment.
Silver Threads Celebration is a long-standing annual event for women and their partners who are over fifty. I offered this workshop to 20 women using these elements and four questions, Visual Explorer cards and creating accountability partners.
We began by engaging in several improvisation exercises. Then I explained the ‘Yeah but’ syndrome and asked them if they would be willing to replace that phrase with a ‘Yes and.’ They all agreed. And to support their commitments, each two person randomly-created group exchanged addresses and phone numbers and agreed to stay in touch to support each other on her path.
Then the questions were read to the group and copies of the questions, placed by the Visual Explorer cards that were all face down – no one could see the pictures until they were chosen-on a table. The questions are:
- Who am I in relationship to my vision?
- What do I need to experience to make this vision happen?
- What will push or pull me across the threshold of fear or awe?
- What will I feel or who will I be when I am living my vision?
The women were asked to choose a card for each question and then to spend some time pondering their meaning in relationship to the one desire, vision, goal of their heart they wanted to focus on for our session. After some alone time, each couple found space in the room where they gathered to create the sacred space of listening and attentiveness. After one woman shared her vision and the cards, her partner offered her perspective on the cards.
The women found this process very beneficial and learned a lot about themselves, their partner and from each other. They were encouraged to have a partner on the road with them toward meeting their vision.
Rabbi TZiPi Radonsky, Ph.D. is an Associate at The Center for Creative Leadership
Here’s a wonderful update from Steadman Harrison on the United Nations LEAD program developing leadership in Portuquese speaking Africa including “Team in a Box” and Leadership Beyond Boundaries. Featured below in the slide show is the Visual Explorer portion of the program–a great sequence of what VE looks like in action. (Slides showing Values Explorer in action at LEAD are shown under the Values Explorer tab of this blog.)
Writing to you at the close of a long day of meetings in Maputo, Mozambique where I’ve been shuttled from European Union Commission to USAID to DFID to local training consultancies to talk about scaling our work through our UNDP partnership in the six Portuguese speaking countries in Africa. We now have Leadership Essentials translated into Portuguese, French, Amharic, Arabic, and some Hebrew.A few years ago we talked about the idea of trying to scale our core work out to many more people across language and culture barriers and I am simply writing to tell you that it is taking place at a rapid clip. We are on an amazing growth curve and the world is starting to take notice. These are exciting times. Global Voice of Leadership and now Leadership Beyond Boundaries is really taking off.
Team in a Box™ is a concept that Davida Sharpe and a few of our team at the Center for Creative Leadership worked on a number of years ago. With USAID funding we will be distributing hundreds of Team in a Box™ materials to Public Health teams in the southern region of Ethiopia. This is just one example of how our tools and methods can be contextualized to help grassroots facilitators change the dynamics of leadership in their own community.
Congratulations to CCL and the Leadership Beyond Boundaries team on these achievements! Special thanks to our team in Africa – Cheri Baker (intern), Rajan Singh (intern), Hannah Smith (intern), Aaron White, Moses Wawich, Teddy Tadesse, Sissay Abebe, Habtamu Gizaw, Rachel Demiessie, Desalegn Wujira, and our consultancy friends at Desert Rose Consulting in Addis!
Blessings to all of you,
Our Leadership Beyond Boundaries team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, asked this question of former street kids, now leaders-in-training, using an Ethiopian version of Visual Explorer to start the dialogue:
(From the bearded man clockwise … )
“The elders and our parents look away from us. They don’t see our value.” – Mamush
“This woman has a cow and she’s happy because she can send her children to school with the milk that it makes. But my family didn’t have that so I went to the street. If parents can’t support their children to go to school, then how can we get a job?” – Tesfaye
“These people are separating the teff (grain) by working together at the same time, but most youth don’t want to work together.” – Zerihun
“We are like these cattle walking in the desert. There is little for us to do and nothing to make us grow strong” – Abeba
“This picture represents people walking into a dark place and I don’t know what’s in there. Many youth don’t know what is in the future for us, so we are like them, walking into the dark.” – Misrak
“Youth are carrying a heavy burden… Look at this man! He is carrying a big load, but where will he go and why aren’t other people helping him?” – Hannah
Aaron White, (CCL Deputy Regional Director for Africa) gave us this report. Aaron and his colleagues are prototyping a locally contextualized version of Visual Explorer:
“We have about 60 cards that we’ve tested with youth and illiterate women, using them to facilitate conversations about leadership and challenges they face. We’ve also used them as a “visual values” explorer, helping participants sort them into important and not important values for themselves and their community. When a group of 12-15 year-old former street kids were prompted with the question, “what is the biggest challenge that youth face in Ethiopia?” they responded with these pictures … .”
Here is the background on this project from Aaron, including a partnership with Retrak, a UK based charity that works with street children in Africa.
“The barriers, discrimination, abuse and struggles that children and youth on the street face, in an environment that has not yet acknowledged their potential, is troubling. Vulnerable youth have been sidelined in the development agenda, and, increasingly, their choices are limited, and are excluded from socio-economic development. Youth leadership development complements Retrak’s urgent push to improve the situation for vulnerable youth on the street, helping them transition back into their communities, new foster families, or new opportunities.
“What is important to remember is that youth are quick learners, provide significant contributions in driving change, and have great socio-economic potential, if they are acknowledged as leaders. The value in investing in vulnerable youth is their ability: to change and quickly adapt effortlessly to new opportunities; to innovate and collaborate with others; and to bring energy and drive to society. CCL and Retrak believe that the short-term investment in youth human capital development is actually a long-term development strategy for generations to come.
“To be clear, leadership development is not a panacea for the problems street children face. However, when integrated with existing programs that focus on protection, health, education, and HIV prevention, leadership development has the potential to make meaningful and lasting change.
“This change has already been noted in a recent 3-day youth leadership pilot program hosted by CCL for current and former street children enrolled in Retrak’s program. The response from the participants, aged 11-15, was overwhelmingly positive and opened up opportunities to use contextualized tools such as Visual Explorer.”
More on contextualized Visual Explorer at Building and Testing Visual Values Explorer in Somalia.
Here’s a self-explanatory slide show from Bruce Flye illustrating his facilitation of a group exploring how to create a climate conducive to teaching, learning, and working. Notice the “visual + verbal” collaging of the images with their emergent meanings. (Use the full screen mode to get the best view of the slides.)
Konsulentgruppen Innovator from Denmark is using Visual Explorer for positive growth, leadership, learning and change management. This short video shows what a Visual Explorer™ session is like. The framing question in this case was
How do you turn the financial crisis into something positive?
Jens Fisker Carlsbæk, who helped create this video, reports back:
Visual explorer is a tool that helps you find solutions to challenges like this. Visual explorer helps you to think beyond verbal and analytic aspects and to obtain a more nuanced overview to a given problem. Thus, the tool gives you an outcome with new insights and thereby better solutions. Read more about visual explorer and tools to obtain creative/innovative thinking on http://innovator.dk/mindshop/ And participate in discussions and new tendencies on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mindshopdk/105033326251203 (in Danish).
Kristy Blackman, VP of HR at Lane Construction send us this application of Visual Explorer™ in a quick brainstorming session that ended two weeks of frustration. Notice how the card sized VE can be used on the spur of the moment using just a table top.
“I thought I would let you know that today we had a very positive outcome utilizing our Visual Explorer™.
We were trying to develop a name and URL for our new “Wellness Program” We’d been trying off and on for a couple of weeks. We had some names but they just weren’t doing it for us. There was not a collective feeling that we had found the right one.
While we were standing around I asked the group that was present today for 15 minutes to brainstorm.
I gathered them in the conference room and spread a deck of the cards face down on the table and asked each to pick one and tell how it related to wellness. We jotted down the key words and phrases that each person used. We then did a second round. We came up with 3 phrases that were better than we had so far, but neither were just right.
Using what was on the board we continued to brainstorm. We bounced some things around and asked questions and someone got a bright idea. We found the perfect program name. Project: Wellness.”
Kristy L. Blackman
Vice President, Human Resources
The Lane Construction Corporation
“In this program we had all levels of the organization, from maintenance to trainers to managers. … We wanted to do something to bring them into egalitarian unity, to recognize that everyone is a leader with gifts. We had them choose a Visual Explorer card … .”
This is a field report from our Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative, submitted by TZiPi Radonsky.
“We just did a Leadership Essentials program with 23 people in a training organization for the Jamaican government.
In this program we had all levels of the organization, from maintenance to trainers to managers. We did not know this initially, and when we figured it out, we wanted to do something to bring them into egalitarian unity, to recognize that everyone is a leader with gifts. We had them choose a Visual Explorer card that was a reflection of their essence as an effective leader. After choosing, they journaled about the card, and then talked about it with two other people. After they did this we had them line up with their pictures, and then slowly walk in front of each person, look in their eyes, and at their picture. We wanted them so see each other in a new way and they did. It was awesome to feel the shift in energy and the coming together as a group.”
Dr. Robert Barner wrote this insightful and useful article on career coaching using Visual Explorer™ as the tool for metaphorical self-construction by the coachee. His conclusion:
“In summary, visual metaphors appear to constitute an important part of a client’s narratives and may provide a useful method for helping individuals integrate emotional and symbolic aspects of their life experiences and career aspirations.”
Barner, Robert W. (2011). Applying visual metaphors to career transitions. The Journal of Career Development, February 2011, vol. 38, no. 1, 89-106.
Abstract: This article makes use of a case study involving two career professionals to show how visual metaphors can be used as an important part of a constructivist approach to career counseling. It discusses how visual metaphors can serve as an effective methodology for encouraging adults to engage in the self-review of career transitions, discusses comparative approaches to the use of visual metaphors, and explores potential applications of this methodology to career counseling.
Here is an excerpt. The full text may be obtained at SAGE Journals Online.
“Metaphors can serve as an important interpretive vehicle in helping individuals construct and make sense of their own career narratives. Peavy (1998) contends that‘‘our lives are lived out metaphorically and mythically. Deprive people of their stories and you leave them paralyzed in their actions and stuttering in their words’’ (p.31). Metaphors, which have been defined as ‘‘the understanding of one kind of thing in terms of another’’ (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, p. 5), possess several qualities that make them potent conveyers of personal and organizational experience. They are compact, enabling a single word, phrase, visual symbol, or object to convey a broad array of interrelated thoughts, feelings, and beliefs (Ortony, 1993).
“Because metaphors are incomplete, in that they merely suggest or imply rather than attempt to explain in a literal sense (Ortony 1975), they ‘‘leave room for the imagination to fill in details’’ (Trice & Beyer, 1993, p. 99). This incompleteness also draws our attention to those dominant features that are commonly associated with a given metaphor. Thus, the individual who describes herself as ‘‘caught in an ever-tightening vise’’may begin to view her career through this metaphorical lens, eliminating from viewother interpretative frameworks.
“Within the counseling process, these unique characteristics allow metaphors to serve as powerful symbolic vehicles for giving voice to clients’ life experiences (Amundson, 2005; Hoskins, 1995; Lyddon, Alison, & Sparks, 2001; Rule 1983). Through the use of metaphors, individuals may uncover tacit assumptions aboutself and world that subtly shape their views of life events and possible futures (Lenrow, 1966; Lyddon et al., 2001). Metaphors also appear to support counseling by facilitating the expression of emotional states and experiences that may otherwise difficult to convey (Carlsen, 1996; Fox, 1989; Lyddon et al., 2001; Siegelman, 1990). Similarly, McMahon (2006) contends that the use of metaphors in career counseling may serve as a vehicle to move ‘‘away from the conscious mind and prior meaning structures into uncharted territory where new meaning may be created’’ (p. 21).
“Although the focus of most metaphor research has been on the use of verbal metaphors, individuals frequently make use of such nonverbal metaphors as drawings, icons, or artifacts to give voice to their personal experiences (Fox, 1989; Stein,1994). Meyerson (1991) has proposed that visual data collection methods such as pictures or images provide several advantages over the use of more traditional diagnostic methods such as organizational interviews. These advantages include facilitating the ability of individuals to express emotionally charged issues and reducing the impact of social-desirability effects (Meyerson, 1991, pp. 263-266).
“In summary, visual metaphors appear to constitute an important part of a client’s narratives and may provide a useful method for helping individuals integrate emotional and symbolic aspects of their life experiences and career aspirations. The current study attempts to extend this area of research by using two cases to illustrate how visual metaphors can be used to help individuals construct meaning from career transitions and to envision potential opportunities that exist within those transitions.”
2010 Reprints and permission: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/0894845309359287http://jcd.sagepub.com
Dr. Robert Barner, Associate Director with the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development at Southern Methodist University, and the author of the forthcoming book, Accelerated Leadership Development (Jossey-Bass, scheduled for Q4/2010) has been applying Visual Explorer to both organizational assessment and career coaching.
“It worked! The images they picked really hit home in ways that surprised them.”
From: Carol Connolly Bruce,
To: Chuck Palus
I used Visual Explorer in my Mid-Career MBA course at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
There are evening students, most over 30 years, all with work experience. One of their assignments was to create a Life-Career Plan. So I asked them to pick an image that represents their Current Reality as part of their Life-Career Story. Picking the image helped inform their writing of the story. In preparation for the Life-Career Plan, they picked a second image that represents their vision for their life/career. In the plan, they used Robert Fritz’s concepts of Structural Tension, Current Reality and Vision/Aspiration. Then they integrated the two images, Current Reality and Vision, and the steps it will take to move from the first to the second.
Many of them didn’t think they could do it, but I encouraged them to try and just see what happened. Well, it worked! The images they picked really hit home in ways that surprised them. Their plans were very good, lots of authentic self awareness and opening up to go after things they’ve wanted to do but have pushed aside due to limiting beliefs and mental models, which they were to uncover in their life/career stories. Several are really going for it as a result of the work they did in the course, all are much clearer on what they want. They also commented on how they have a sense of renewal and less fatigue about where they are in their work and lives.
Carol Connolly Bruce
The Center for Creative Leadership
Cathy M. writes about her experience of Visual Explorer cards as introduced to her by her CCL feedback coach.This is a great illustration of using VE for one on one coaching, and also suggests a self-coaching process, in this case on the topic of burn out.
During my attendance at CCL for the Leadership Development Program, I was blessed to have TZiPi Radonsky as my feedback coach. Prior to attending CCL, I was going through a bit of professional and personal “burn out”. During my feedback session, TZiPi offered me a deck of cards that had a photograph on each card. My assignment was to file through the deck and pull out any cards with pictures that spoke to me in some way. I flipped through the deck and pulled out 7 cards that contained scenes that evoked peace, tranquility and joy in me and 1 card that represented destruction and burn out.
Two interesting things came from the experience:
1) My initial reaction to the burn out card revealed a picture of a bridge embankment that had been destroyed by a tornado or bomb. This demonstrated how I was feeling at that moment. After the empowering, feedback session with TZiPi that followed, I looked at the cards one more time and I couldn’t find the card with the destroyed embankment. I realized that the picture I originally saw as destruction was actually a beautiful bridge crossing a canal leading to a forested area. I was stunned at how being in a more peaceful, clear thinking place completely transformed the picture into something of beauty. Additionally, I never could get the picture back to the original view.
2) The second awareness I had from the card experience came about 4 weeks later. I had been working hard on my CCL goals which included getting back to a state of peace. I began noticing a sense of calm and tranquility in the following weeks and enjoyed recognizing things around me that previously gave me joy. These included:
a. Snow skiing – so I began planning a ski trip with friends this winter.
b. Music – so I purchased tickets for a Christmas concert with the symphony.
c. Nature – so I made a point to notice the sky through the Fall leaves above me on a lunchtime walk through the woods.
d. The beach – so I gathered several girlfriends and went to the beach for the weekend.
A few weeks later, I revisited the cards that I had chosen at CCL (TZiPi sent e-files of them to me) and I was amazed to discover that all of the activities I had planned and accomplished were depicted on the cards I had chosen with TZiPi.
This was quite remarkable. I was pleased to see that the things that evoke peace and joy for me are true even in times when I am in a non-positive place. And, I was impressed that visualizing things I enjoy motivated me to make them happen.
This was an exciting activity!
CCL attendee, September 2008
Global Citizen Year Fellow Ananda Day talks about imagery, metaphor, and life:
“Some people live their lives in technicolor. Others live life in misery. And still others live in ignorance, bliss, knowledge, etc. While there may not be one way to live life, it has become blatantly obvious to me that almost everyone lives their life in metaphor.”
Here’s a cool video from the 2009 Global Citizen Year Training Institute, illustrating Visual Explorer combined with an invitation to “draw your own image”:
VE is a tool for facilitating creative conversations using visual images. VE helps create meaningful dialogue around complex challenges or difficult issues. Its benefits are in bringing together multiple perspectives, and in creating new perspectives and shared understanding. It is an effective tool to use when people have been stuck in their points of view. Often it is used as a leadership tool; but VE is also useful for classroom discussions, group facilitation, coaching, problem solving, survey panels and focus groups, and in qualitative research. VE is available in a growing number of formats including letter-sized sets of 216 images, more portable playing-card and post-card sized decks.
VE can be used in a wide variety of ways depending on the context. Here are the five basic steps for using VE to facilitate a group conversation around a shared question. These steps can be altered or elaborated for particular situations as described in the VE Guidebook.
1. Choose one or two “framing questions” to frame the conversation. For example a group with a shared challenge might ask: “What is the key to this challenge we are facing?” and “What strengths do we have for solving this challenge?” >>creating effective framing questions.
2. Make the VE images available for browsing. If you are using the full-sized images, spread them around a room on the floor and on tables. Card decks can be browsed in more compact ways, such as on a table top, or simply by thumbing through the deck. Everyone silently browses the images and each person chooses an image for each framing question. “Pick an image that represents or connects to your own response to the question.” The connection of the image to the question can be literal, or it may be emotional, metaphorical, aesthetic, or intuitive (“Let the image pick you”).
3. Each person examines the images he or she has selected, and reflects on how the image connects in any ways to the framing question. “Pay attention to each image you selected. What is it? What is happening in it? What is the context? Anything surprising? How does it connect to the framing question?”
4. The group (or sub-groups) sit in a circle. One person at a time shares his or her image(s) as follows:
First: “Share the image and describe the image itself (forget about any connection to the question for a moment). What is it? What is happening? What do you notice?”
Second: “What connections do you make from the image to the question? How is the image a response to the question?”
Third: Each person in the group responds to the image(s) offered by this first person. Each response may also have two parts: “What do you see in the image? Do you see the same things that other’s see? What stands out to you? AND THEN: “What connections do you make from the image to the question?” After the first person has shared their images around the group in this way, he or she thanks the group, and the conversation moves on to the next person and their image(s). Continue until everyone has shared their images.
5. When this initial dialogue with the images is finished, a certain kind of momentum is often present, and it works well to extend the conversation in whatever direction is important to the group. Subsequently, the most significant images and metaphors can be reused in ongoing creative problem solving, invention, and communication. The images lend themselves to “cascading” to other groups in the same organization, especially in digital form.