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Cave Paintings, Pie Charts and Restroom Signs

March 10, 2011 by Amy Gilburg

What do these things have to do with working productively and innovatively?

The answer lies in how our brain works best— but unfortunately it isn’t how we actually work. To truly harness the power of our craniums, integrating the capabilities of our left and right hemispheres is the answer. 

As a society, we are well trained in using our left lobe. School has taught us well in numbers, words, lines, logic and lists but what has gotten little in the way of a work-out at work is our right lobe, which is responsible for making meaning, detecting color, synthesis, rhythm, imagination, day dreaming and seeing the whole picture.  Cave paintings, pie charts and restroom signs use images and visual cues to tell a story, inform, and make meaning of often complex information and all in the blink of an eye!

Given that three quarters of the neurons in our brain have something to do with our vision and over half the population are visual learners why is our work so lacking in imagery? If the problems we face are overwhelmingly complex, why aren’t we turning to pictures and visual aides to help us?

In recent years the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is being taken seriously and a whole field of “Visual Thinking” is emerging.

Thanks to Dan Roam’s book, Back of the Napkin, using pictures to solve problems and sell ideas can be part of anyone’s tool kit. Below is a short video of Dan talking about: What is visual thinking?

In addition, you can purchase a mind mapping software program that allows you to ‘map out’ a complex interaction/process. This is a highly effective method for getting information in and out of your brain, combining creativity and logic in ways words alone could never do.

The field of graphic recording/facilitation is exploding. Instead of providing a work group with several pages of notes from a retreat, we can now offer a PDF of a visual record. In a quick glance, participants recall conversations and are reminded of the value of the experience.

From software to stick figures, all of these visual mediums allow us to see connections, make meaning, and think creatively in a way that talk and text just can’t achieve. Our left and right lobes are designed to work together. Why would you leave half your brain at home?