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Youth Summit at Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies

 While the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honored people contributing to peace on today’s Earth, a group of young people joined in with their vision for peace in the future world. Twenty-five students and social entrepreneurs chosen for the Telenor Youth Summit imagined innovative ways to bring safety, health, community and lifelong learning to diverse geographies.  Bringing perspectives from 13 different countries, they came up with practical solutions to overwhelming challenges, including female empowerment, education, health & quality of life, digital responsibility, democracy and equality. They presented their cross-cultural solutions to global leaders of government, business and education at a reception before the Nobel Peace Prize Concert.  

I had the honor of visually supporting and accompanying these future leaders as they engaged in a World Café and other think tank exercises to develop their vision with specific projects, then presented them at the Nobel Peace Prize event to world leaders who could help bring their ideas to fruition. We were all fortunate to have as facilitator Jan Taug, CMO in Telenor Business Internet services, whose Ph.D. work helped develop the innovative World Cafe methodology.  Graphic recording is a key part of World Cafe process. The young people rotated tables and created visual notes to help them capture emergent ideas in a co-creative process, while I created murals and borrowed more than a few of their visual metaphors.   Words and images together captured the smart, savvy and heartfelt ideas generated by these citizens of Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Denmark, Russia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Hungary, Malaysia and Serbia. 

TelenorYouth@PeaceCenterInvited to the Oslo City Hall for the Nobel Prize ceremony, then hosted for luncheon across the street at the Nobel Peace Prize Center (photo) these global voices for the millennial generation were later center stage at a reception concert, where they shared their vision for the future before enjoying performances by Mary J. Blige, James Blunt, Morrissey, Timbuktu, Jake Bugg with Claire Danes and Aaron Eckhart as hosts–all accompanied by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. I was expecting Mozart and Beethoven, but this was a rock concert extraordinaire.

Each venue gave the Youth Summit participants a platform to be heard, to know that their ideas mattered, and to find support for their real-world-future-oriented solutions for humanity and the planet.

Chosen through a competition hosted by Telenor, Norway’s 150-year-old telecommunications company, all of the young leaders had developed organizations or apps designed to empower social and economic change. One, for example, was an app enabling women to instantly call 30 people for help if they were in danger. Another was an incentive system for recycling in a country lagging behind in environmental laws.  Check out this video where the participants articulate their philosophies, global concerns and particular worries about their countries. They also demonstrated joy of community, bonding quickly, beginning with a frolick in Oslo’s first snow of the season, some experiencing snow for the first time.

I enjoyed each and every one of them so much, and felt great hope for the future of our planet being in their presence. In the mural below, I captured their vision:  “A vision of the Future as a Society that Has a Sense of Global Community” (the sun).  The enabler of this vision will be “Education and Mindset Driving Democracy” (the world tree). And the gap between possibilities and reality comes about through seeds planted in government and policies (the globe).

Helping them hone their vision was Ola Jo Tandre, Director of Business Sustainability for Telenor.  Meanwhile, head of Telenor’s cultural programme Randi Enebakk-Due and project manager Nina Koren choreographed their experience to maximize innovation, comfort and connection among the group. The hosts seemed deeply attuned to the subtle aspects of community-building, while nudging these young social entrepreneurs to stretch their thinking and their creativity. 

It seemed fitting that the first Telenor Youth Summit coincided with a rare Nobel Prize given to an organization rather than an individual.  The 2013 Nobel Prize went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international organization behind the phrase we hear so often in the news, “Chemical weapons inspectors went into….”  One of the themes of the youths’ discussions was that problems cannot be solved by individuals but only through collaboration between people, families, communities and nations.

In the mural below, I sought to capture the essence of their belief in the potential for technology to create peace-keeping connectivity, including apps for crowdfunding, helping the environment, and providing safety (in the form of support and transparency) for women, supporting healthful lifestyles with apps and information, and enhancing learning with apps for different learning styles and geographies. But, as one of the participants said in the video, “technology is a double edged sword,” threatening credibility of information and individuals’ privacy (the cliff).

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 10.53.05 AMFrom this, a central theme emerged:  To enable the transparency and connectivity that can enable learning for all, restore safety for women, support civil governments, empower communities, incubate innovative ideas, promote collaboration and bring health to the daily lives of people, we first need. Digital Responsibility.  (Mural below). In order to convince a rural farmer to use mobile technology support healthful habits and to gain practical knowledge toward a better life, that farmer needs to know privacy is protected and information can be trusted.  The youths called upon global business, government, and nonprofit organizations to work together to develop protocols and policies that will rebuild trust in the Internet. This was a call to action for their hosts at Telenor, to take a leadership role in a global effort to promote integrity in the digital world.

Telenor final vision mural

We will continue to follow their work individually and as a community of future leaders, and I will never forget this amazing time when the seeds for a better future were firmly planted on fertile soil in an atmosphere of peace and joy. 

ooOoo

SNAPSHOTS from the Nobel Peace Prize events and the Youth Summit 

 Telenor-Group@concert 

TelenorReceptionFood

 

snow frolicking

snow frolicking

TelenorInFrontofMural

TelenorMeWorking 

 

 

‘Just Picture It’ TV Show Featuring Visual Insight’s Eileen Clegg

Visual Insight’s Eileen Clegg recently participated in Silicon Valley-based web TV show ‘Just Picture It’ and created this mural for the show. The episode is a fascinating look at visual communication and its importance as more and more information comes into our daily lives. Watch the entire episode below.

Visual Insight Tweet Chat: “Language of Imagination”

We at Visual Insight have been researching how imagery affects imagination in the subtlest yet most profound ways. Even though words are not fit to describe the “alternative language” of visuals, we enjoy the challenge. We also enjoy an engaging conversation, and we’re eager to hear what the folks in our network have to say on this topic. So, we have decided to convene a tweet chat, and we would be honored if you joined us on Tuesday, August 20th, from 10-11am (Pacific Standard Time) to discuss the “Language of Imagination.”

Please RSVP at this link.

What is a Tweet Chat? A Tweet Chat, or Twitter Chat, brings a group of interested people together at a set time using Twitter as their communication platform. Using the hashtag #VIchat, @VisualInsight will pose a series of questions during a one-hour timeframe, which will be answered by participants also using the hashtag #VIchat. Questions will be labeled Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and corresponding answers will be A1, A2, A3, etc.

The series of tweets forming a conversation can be followed on http://twubs.com/VIchat or when clicking on #VIchat through Twitter’s site. Users will retweet or respond to others’ answers using the #VIchat hashtag. We look forward to a compelling dialogue among peers. We’ll learn a lot from each other and meet others with similar interests from all over the world. For more background on Tweet Chats please visit this link.

Tweet Chat Topic Questions

How do you feel group dynamics change when ideas are turned into pictures?

Visual communicators illustrate the ideas of groups. What if group members were to draw the ideas themselves?

Is it part of a visual communicator’s job to help those of us who don’t self-identify as “artists” express ourselves visually?

Is it becoming more or less natural for us to express ourselves with visuals in a collaborative setting?

Our Vision

I have been involved in an M.A. program in Depth Psychology specifically to understand what we are beginning to call the “imaginal” function of the human mind, and how that creative force works collectively. I know leaders among leaders who encourage the use of visuals for people to share their stories with one another in order to create stronger teams. I am thus certain that this type of visual communication is future-oriented communication, and I am curious about how diffuse it is as a practice.

In my experience as a graphic recorder, it is my belief that visuals connect people on a deeper psychic level, enabling them to imagine possibilities together in a way that cannot happen with words alone. Visual communication is somewhere between reality and dreams. When the images come from the heart, they can help shape our thinking, our feeling, and our reality. In groups, this can be a powerful mover of energy.

Graphic recorders—or as we call ourselves, “visual journalists,” because we are scribes as well as artists—are often brought into meetings as a novel approach to capturing content. But our function is broader than that. We are creating the Big Picture—a story that has coherence not only on a logical level, but also on an emotional and imaginal plane.

– Eileen Clegg, Visual Insight Founder/Principal

Visual Insight Co-Creativity Cards

At Visual Insight, we have had the privilege to be the “fly on the wall” in rooms with some of the best and the brightest thinkers in the world. The organizations that continue to astonish us with innovations seem to be those with a knack for empowering people. Watching great facilitators and leaders, we have noticed that the most effective are those who are attentive to roles. These individuals might switch between roles, but they cover all the bases and are clear with one another.

Even the best sometimes end up wasting time by being overly nice (“you first,” “I don’t want to be the one to say something negative,” etc.) or overly confrontational (someone dominating, criticizing others).  To help people avoid group-think and embrace collective imagination, we at Visual Insight developed a set of cards to help people in meetings remember to cover all necessary roles.

We use the “decks” that Eileen developed last year as part of our Co-Creativity Toolkit. We wanted to share them with everyone to catalyze creativity in our meetings.

The cards themselves tell the story!

Co-Creativity, As We See It: Visuals and Co-Creativity

You know it’s not going to be your average business meeting when you walk into a conference room and the first thing you notice is that several walls are covered with big, white, blank sheets of paper. The reason for the meeting could be as familiar as ever—“team/leadership building,” “product/service development,” “strategic visioning”—yet this time around, the experience will be different. It will be more inclusive, more memorable, more inspiring.

In this meeting, participants’ verbally communicated thoughts will gradually take shape on these pieces of paper in real time, which, by the end, will have become a colorful, intriguing, idea-rich series of murals. The result? Not only will everyone in the room be able to see—literally see—what one another have been thinking, they will also be able to visualize how their ideas fit together…a perfect breeding ground for co-creativity.

Connecting Words and Ideas

So, you’ve walked into this room with big pieces of paper taped to the walls and joined your colleagues who are seated around the long table in the center of the room, or on chairs in a meeting hall. Pleasantries are exchanged until the announcement that it’s time to begin. The room gets quiet.

The leader explains the reason for the meeting, and the hoped-for outcomes. Cue the visual journalist. Colored markers (and maybe a few pastels) in hand, she introduces herself as the person who will be drawing everyone’s ideas: “I am here to capture the emerging ‘big picture’ that you will be co-creating in the process of your meeting. I’ll capture a little of what’s in between the lines, and how your thoughts fit together. We’ll look at the murals together from time to time during the day, and please let me know of anything I missed!”

Once people begin to talk, she begins to draw. Perhaps the topic at hand is the company’s vision or mission statement, which takes the shape of a brilliant sun at the top of the mural—each vibrant yellow ray containing a word or phrase that represents a core ideal of the company, and each ray is streaming down from a like-colored orb labeled, “Company Vision.” The words and ideas on the mural are solely those uttered by the participants, whereas the visuals are the visual journalist’s interpretation of the connection between those words and ideas.

(We’ll check back in on this scene later on.)

Summoning the Group’s Muse

In our last blog post, we defined co-creativity as we understand it and, in this one, we’re going to delve into the importance of visuals—what we call “visual journalism”—in the cultivation of co-creativity. Since the last post, it dawned on me that although we at Visual Insight talk frequently and at great length about co-creativity, we have yet to explain why it’s a big part of our business.

Co-creativity is the central goal of Visual Insight. It is the ideal end result of muralling the ideas of a group. Or, to put it another way, we believe that the ultimate purpose of muralling a group’s ideas is to facilitate co-creativity.

Visuals are the perpetual catalyst for a co-creative environment: The more ideas there are, the more visuals there are, the more cohesiveness there is among the group, the more leading-edge thinking there is among the group, the more ideas there are, the more visuals there are…and so on. (Think “spiral growing outward and upward.”) Moreover, the muse is omnipresent in a co-creative environment, and the act of muralling can either capture or summon the muse of the group, and thus reveal the group’s collective vision.

Symbolizing Concepts

The meeting is well underway. Group members are present and engaged—leaning forward, making eye contact, nodding emphatically, feeding off of each other’s energy—while the visual journalist waves pastels and markers across the now-not-so-blank paper spread across the walls, illustrating their thoughts. You glance up at the mural…

An array of scenes are present, in close proximity to one another, each consisting of symbolic drawings accompanied by thematic quotes and phrases: Roots beneath a lush garden intertwined with the words, “Potential for Company Growth,” while the plants in the garden, budding with flowers that have yet to bear fruit, read, “New Products,” “New Talent,” or “New Strategy.” On the opposite side of the paper, a building that is under construction with a distinctly different shape than the otherwise uniform, dense metropolitan skyline in which it is located, is headed by the phrase, “Renovation Through Innovation.” Whether or not it was consciously intended, the various shapes, color schemes, and scale of the visuals are all full of meaning.

But reflection comes later. Right now, everyone is in the moment, reverberating in the eye of a collective brainstorm.

Lighting Up Ideas

Like a fingerprint or personality, each individual has his own unique muse. The effectiveness of muralling sessions, however, reveals that visuals have the power to activate the muse of each individual, or at least depict the results of each individual’s muse at work. It is a pinball game of creativity. The pinball represents inspiration, each time the ball bounces off of a bumper represents a participant’s expression of a new thought, and any time the pinball machine lights up with a congratulatory sound effect represents when a new visual is drawn. And then there’s the machine itself, which represents co-creativity. The point tally display represents innovation. Meanwhile, the collective muse is at the helm, controlling the “flippers” at the bottom of the machine and keeping the ball in play.

Imagine bright blinking lights along with a triumphant jingling sound ringing out every time an intellectual connection is realized within a group by way of muralling. So appropriate! Intellectual connections lead to inspiration, which leads to co-creativity, which ultimately leads to innovation, and thus the next big idea.

That creative connections yield inspiration illustrates that the nature of creative inspiration is receptive and inclusive. Consider this: “Inspiration” is a synonym for “inhalation.” This suggests that inspiration results from taking in something—something that Eileen refers to as the creative spirit.

Since one could dedicate a lifetime to studying and defining the source and nature of the creative spirit, as many have, I’ll only go so far as to put it in the context of the aforementioned concept of the “muse”: The muse is the channel between consciousness and creative spirit.  It is what enables one to become inspired. And it’s great for organizations.

Telling a Visual Story

The papers on the wall are now fully developed murals and the brainstorming portion of the meeting has come to a close. It is now time to reflect. The group leader announces that the visual journalist is going to explain the flow of the mural in what is known as a gallery walk.

Participants’ eyes fixate on the walls covered in art inspired by their thoughts as she begins to tell the story of the day. She walks along the multi-paneled visual journal and explains the ideas that the visuals represent, why she chose to depict them as such, and how they all contribute to the “big picture”—the overarching theme of the story of the day.

The murals reflect the tone of conversation on each topic—thoughts and emotions. For example, if participants became passionate and animated when discussing a new business direction for the company, then that dynamic is reflected in the visuals with, say, bright colors and dramatic shapes. Or, if the mural is of a heartfelt and thoughtful talk given by an individual, then key quotes of the talk can be seen interwoven with one another in a fluid, wave-like design, streaming down from a central theme shaded by warm colors.

Valuing Imagination

Up until now, we’ve stayed mostly in the artistic realm, but since we do art for the sake of bettering organizations, it’s time to look at visual journalism and co-creativity from a business-minded perspective. When we first started our visual journalism practice more than ten years ago, some business people were worried about the ROI (return on investment). It was a challenge to explain the intangible value. How do you calculate the ROI for an activity as esoteric as muralling, anyway?

Over the years, the practice proved itself by the results. After all, top leaders of organizations are often the people who attend these workday-long visualization exercises, which means that they are not at work (in the traditional sense, at least) during that time, yet still on the clock. Their time is valuable and every moment counts. Even number-crunchers began to see that muralling accelerates and deepens the conversations, making the most of everyone’s time together. The ROI conversation has been put to rest. I mean, hey, can you really put a price on discovering the next big idea?

From cognitive neuroscience to Jungian psychology, we have plenty of evidence that visuals are the interface between action and imagination, between the inner and outer worlds. They capture not only the content, but the context of communication. To repeat a brilliant quote from our colleague Bonnie DeVarco that we cited in one of our blog posts from last year, “Words capture ideas—images free them.”

The potential of visual communication to powerfully impact our consciousness, perception, and imagination is, quite literally, beyond words. The combination of symbolic images and written words in a mural act as a record of the stream of consciousness of a group—a record that both documents and stimulates imaginative thinking. Today, the field of visual communication is growing and expanding with many practitioners. And together we are fine-tuning processes that enable visuals to unlock co-creativity, the eye-opening transformation that takes place in the mind of each participant, as well as the group as a whole.

Visual Insight’s mission is to both advocate for and cultivate co-creativity in great organizations. In what we have referred to as our “ever-evolving quest” to capture the elusive and essential qualities of co-creativity, the expanding field of visual communication is supporting the new paradigm—that we need more than words to make it happen.