New rebellion in the office: from strategy to visual
This blog is about me, a new rebel at Business Model Inc. Two months ago, I began my journey here as a visual strategy (creative) designer. The team welcomed me with excellent champagne and a big smile. I think BMI is remarkable for the freedom we have as employees to express ourselves because everyone is always open to new ideas, and there is an eagerness to learn from each other. Together, we work very hard, but we also have lots of fun!
It is very amusing to work together with strategy and business designers as a visual thinker because working visually boosts the creative process. As a result of this experience, I would like to share some key insights into my first months at BMI.
From remaining on the bookshelf to taking action
Clients come to us because they want to change. Within an organization, having a shared understanding is essential to make a change. If we stick to only “blah blah,” it is hard to become concrete and define the next steps. A strategic report is often limited to text, which is challenging to understand immediately. At BMI, we like to work visually, so everyone follows a common goal and has an overview at a glance; this creates tranquility. A bigger picture helps create a common language about the new strategy, so it translates to the entire organization. Visuals help bring strategy from the bookshelf to the wall next to the coffee machine, which reminds employees every day of the shared goal.
It is about the act of sketching
Visual thinking is not only about making strategy look neat and fascinating. It helps to accelerate the creative process and clarifies complex issues. During my first months, I have learned that visuals support a strategic process in three different stages: preparing the process, during the process, and after the process.
Visuals help designers to prepare a strategic process more efficiently: what is the bigger picture we want to create, and what do we need to do to achieve this? What does the future of the world look like, and which steps do we need to take? A sketch outlines the questions to answer during a strategic session. During the meeting, participants are challenged to fill in the bigger picture. This process clarifies what is already concrete and what is still abstract. After a strategic session, the results need to be communicated to the rest of the company. A bigger picture helps to engage other employees in the story of organizational change.
What does change mean to us?
Change is scary and feels uncomfortable within an organization. What are the factors that make us feel uncomfortable? What do we worry about, and which steps do we need to take to overcome this? Working visually helps to uncover how everyone thinks about change.
An example: during an offsite, we talked about how the client feels about the growth they want to make. First, we visualized it as jumping in a bathtub without knowing if there is water inside or not. Not everyone agreed with this. It feels more like standing on a high springboard as a nervous little boy, afraid to jump, which shows the described nervous feeling was more significant than we thought. This example shows that visuals give an extra dimension to strategic discussions. It reveals how we collectively feel about the change, what growth means to us, and which capabilities and resources we need to overcome this.
Therefore, sketching metaphors helps ask sharp questions. The more atypical an item is, like the bathtub, the more specific people start talking about certain topics. Designers at BMI are rebels with impact on a scale, but being rebellious is also in the details ;).
In all cases, sketching is about creating a connection and designing together. A visual also contains elements that are typical for the organization, like inside jokes or metaphors. I have learned that the more personal a visual is for an organization, the livelier the stories become, and the more team members feel connected with the shared vision and each other.
Beyond the paper
I have learned that being a creative designer at BMI means challenging clients to go beyond the known. It is about time traveling, getting out of the building, and talking to people, the crazier the better. We activate people to go beyond the sketch paper and go from dreaming to doing. And this counts for me, too, because there are many other forms of creativity to bring the future to the present, like designing cover stories and quick prototypes to make it tangible. At BMI, I believe that many exciting challenges, uncertainties and adventures are waiting for me, and I am looking forward to embracing them!
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