Albert Einstein often said words failed to describe images in his head. While Thomas Edison explained his thought process as, “I have numerous machines in my mind now which I continue to illustrate day by day.”
Along with these two famous inventors, it’s estimated up to 65% of the general population are visual thinkers. That is, we process words as a series of pictures and learn through visual means. It doesn’t mean you have to be great at drawing and designing.
As a visual thinker it can be hard to communicate what you’re thinking to other people, and sometimes words fail to capture the image in your mind. So you turn to visual thinking aids such as drawings, sketches or flow charts.
But as our offices become more distributed, verbal communication often replaces visual communication. So in order to ensure we are communicating effectively, it’s important to understand the role visual thinking tools plays in ideation, workflow and collaboration.
A virtual collaborative whiteboard such as Conceptboard can help facilitate visual thinking in your distributed team.
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What are the benefits of visual thinking?
Visual thinking can be beneficial on both sides of the equation. It can help visual thinkers get ideas out of their head as well as helping others understand complex problems through visualization.
Whether you’re running a remote team meeting, brainstorming session, product showcase or online client meeting, there will be moments when you want to be able to explain something visually, instead of verbalising it.
This is where a virtual whiteboard comes in handy. By using a by using a virtual whiteboard as the backdrop to your remote meetings, it can help you get the message across, while also reaping the following benefits:
1. Think bigger
Big picture thinking refers to the way someone looks at problems, opportunities and solutions. Big picture thinkers are full of dreams, ideas and creative solutions to possible problems. These attributes are essential for companies to grow and innovate. Conceptboard’s online whiteboard has limitless space to capture and share big ideas, as well as a range of icons, graphics and tools that can be used to explain big ideas, draw models or flow charts or design styles.
2. Get creative
Visual thinking tools can help spark imagination, extend creativity and boost innovation. “Imagination doesn’t just happen on an individual level. Ideas evolve and spread by being able to skip between minds. Companies need to facilitate collective imagination,” writes the Harvard Business Review. One of the best ways to do this is through Brainwriting. Brainwriting is a quieter way of brainstorming that involves writing down ideas, then passing them on so other team members can extend or deviate on them. Mind mapping is another great way to think creatively, whether alone or in a team.
3. Boost engagement
We’re often told to keep the text to a minimum during presentations. This is partly because too much text makes it hard to read, but also because text-heavy presentations are boring. Replacing text with visuals- whether it be photos, graphs or flow charts can really boost the engagement and attentiveness during meetings and workshops. To really boost engagement, include activities that actively encourage participation in the meeting. Something as simple as asking participants to use a stinky note to add their name to the attendees list can help people feel more committed and engaged.
“Even if we’re in a virtual world, there’s no reason we need to have blank walls,” says Remote meeting expert Mike Clargo. So create a visually virtual meeting space by using a template such as this Remote Meeting Canvas that is visually eye-catching while serving to guide the meeting.
4. Improve memory and action with visual thinking tools
There’s no denying that seeing your name in bold next to an action item is more likely to inspire you to respond than verbally agreeing to something during a meeting. That’s why visual project tracking tools such as graphic templates, customer empathy maps and Kanban boards are great ways to track group project progress. As many visual learners also have photographic memories, seeing action plans and roadmaps can also work as memory aids.
“Visuals create a group memory that supports implementation and action. This latter aspect is critical to project management, which is largely about getting actions to align and integrate over time,” says
David Sibbet author of Visual Leaders: New Tools for Visioning, Management, and Organization Change.
5. Embrace design thinking
Design thinking encourages teams to flip problems on their head and look at new ways to solve them through the lens of design. That means at every stage of the process, you should be focusing on the humans behind the problem, and what they need and want. From customer empathy mapping through to prototyping, the entire process is highly visual and collaborative. In remote teams, Conceptboard can serve as the workspace to facilitate this type of visual collaboration. We’ve even got a whole set of ready-to-use templates that will help guide the process: Customer Journey Map, Problem Statement, Idea Prioritization, Moodboard and Retrospective Canvas.
As you can see, visual thinking is not about drawing skills or amazing designs, it’s about utilising visual elements to bring ideas to life, collaborate and look at problems from a new perspective. Check out Conceptboard’s infinite online whiteboard and see how it can help bring your ideas to life visually. Get started now! If you want to learn more about visual design elements, remote work or virtual workshops read more on our blog, or this article on how to use visual communication.