Sunni Brown, M.P.A., is owner of BrightSpot I.D., a company specializing in visual thinking to support problem-solving in business. Sunni believes in the power of visual language in the workplace. She creates large-scale, live content visualizations and is also the author of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Rule-breakers, Innovators and Changemakers. Read below about how visuals can transform your business practice.
According to Sunni Brown, people don’t share the exact same mental models. If you want someone to see what you see, you have to show it to them. Information graphics get people looking at the same page so they can start talking about a shared reality – not just the one in their heads.
Curt-I’ve taken a mind mapping class before and it seems your work is similar to mind mapping. How is what you’re doing different than mind mapping?
Sunni-What you are referring to is actually graphic recording and it is different structurally than mind mapping. Mind mapping is a trademark term invented by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. A mind map deliberately has a center of focus and then everything radiates outward from that focus. Mind maps are fantastic, but graphic recording has a lot more flexibility in the structure and the dynamic since it happens live. In other words, you have to track auditory content while you are creating the structure and it happens on a very large scale. It’s radically different in terms of the cognitive requirement of mind mapping. I’m a big fan of Tony Buvan’s but that’s an important distinction.
Curt-So your concept is to record what’s going on in a meeting, not so much organizing around a central theme, correct?
Sunni-Yes. When I visually record a meeting, I use a very large space so that people can see it happening as it is happening. You’re not just affecting your capacity for learning but you’re impacting the learning of anyone who watches it unfold. It’s mind mapping on steroids in a seriously exponential way. I can nerd out about all of the distinctions.
My book Gamestorming —which is a best-selling business book on Amazon and has been for several weeks now --is about innovation and creative problem solving using visual thinking techniques in business.
Recording meetings visually was the first big bang that made my business successful. Since then, I’ve accumulated partners and have a network of people all over the world that work with me and for me. The Gamestorming approach is a mashup of game principles, game mechanics and work. Gamestorming is taking over graphic recording as our primary bread winning service. It is a technique that requires no artistic talent whatsoever in order to engage and use visualization techniques to map systems and processes and figure out how groups can align. All of these techniques can be and are used in a wide variety of business settings.
For example, let’s say one of your goals is to figure out where your company is most profitable so that you can prioritize your initiatives for the next five years. I then design a series of games that I conduct with your team. These games are participant-oriented and very engaging. It’s not like a traditional meeting. The gaming session can go from two hours to two days, going through a series of visual thinking games that will get your team to an outcome you’re looking for.
It’s a structured way to help people solve any number of problems that you’re dealing with, but it’s not traditional so you get many different kinds of thinking. Most of the time when you’re tackling a problem, you get the people who work at the company and they end up with the same ideas or get caught up in the politics of the meeting. Essentially, your team isn’t brainstorming as effectively as they could be. Gamestorming is a way of depersonalizing and a way of systematizing innovation. There’s no business that can’t use it.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview where Sunni describes what kind of meeting creates innovation instead of yawning employees.