My takeaway from conversations that I captured visually
Our brain has great difficulty understanding a complex system with only words. A visual can bring clarity about the complexity and eventually show that what appears to be complex is just complicated.
Over 200 colleagues from across the JRC, the European Commission’s science and knowledge department, met for the launch of their future new transversal working structures, the JRC scientific portfolios. The goal was to engage and discuss around the journey they are about to embark upon together. As with any departure, there was excitement but also some fear sometimes in the face of the unknown.
During a large World Café exercise, colleagues discussed the many outstanding issues, roles and responsibilities, collaboration, resources, to name but a few. At the end, each conversation table shared their main conclusions with everyone. The large number of points, open questions, as well as the numerous interlinkages, made it difficult not to qualify the portfolios system as complex.
My task was to take visual notes of the conclusions, the typical graphic harvesting of a World Café. Because it was too much, too dense and fast, I just noted on post-its the key words and few arrows. Afterwards I put on a large paper a first draft of all of that. Only then did I reorder the points and the connections to create a mind-map on my iPad.
In his report after the event in which he used my visuals, Stephen Quest, the JRC Director-General, said “the portfolios must not become another layer of complexity. Rather, we need to use them to help navigate our complexity.” I am happy and proud to have been able to bring clarity to this apparent complexity with my visual, and I hope I have reduced it to something only complicated.
Two other graphic recordings of the presentations the day before:
And the video to illustrate my visual thinking process in three steps: post-its > draft on large paper > mind map on iPad.
On 5 May, Amy Lenzo (*) gave an online masterclass on “Hosting and harvesting online VS physical” to the community of practitioners of the Art of Hosting at the European Commission (**). My takeaways (actually apply to any online session):
“It’s not a question of technology, it’s a question of relationships”
90% of your experience, skills, practice as organiser of physical events can be transposed into online events. Reassuring, isn’t it?
The quality of your presence, trust and how you hold space, are just as important online as in the physical world
Never host alone an online session, be part of an hosting team
The hosting team must consist of at least one process host and one tech host (for all technical aspects) or more for large groups
The use of the camera is mandatory for speakers, and highly recommended for all participants (with muted mikes)
To keep participants’ attention, speakers can only use the visible/audible part of their body language: their face and their voice. Then, it’s crucial to smile with the whole face and to have a catchy tone and rhythm of voice
Keep in mind that everything is amplified online: your voice, your unconscious bias, space and time.
This was also my first live graphic recording using the Procreate app (***). Only a few days after installing it on my tablet (it’s crazy, I know, but I like these challenges). My first learnings to start with Procreate:
Many years of experience with layers on Photoshop has helped me a lot. If you’re not familiar with layers, take time to learn how they work and to play with them
Select your fave brushes in advance. You can waste precious time looking for what you need during a live event. Mine were Technical pen, Acrylic and Wet Acrylic, and Hard Airbrush (I still have to learn how to have them available in one click)
Select your fave colours in advance for the same reason as for the tools (I still have to learn how to create my colour palette in advance)
I was invited once again by my colleagues of DG REGIO, European Commission, to visually record the two-day meeting of the European funds communicators (the so-called INFORM-INIO networks). More than 250 communicators from across Europe gathered in the magnificent Augustinian cloister in Ghent, Belgium, to discuss the future of Cohesion Policy, learn and share the best practices to communicate the benefits of the EU funds to citizens.
I thank my colleagues for inviting me to each of the biannual meetings since 2017.
Since this first time we noticed, in the results of the after-event survey, that the graphic recording has become one of the most appreciated elements by participants. The many positive feedback I receive from them during the two days only confirm these results. It proves to me that hand-made visuals have a noticeable impact on people, combining emotions and information.
That all those who took the time to come and talk to me are also thanked.
What a great experience it was to be graphic recorder at the “EU interinstitutional workshop on data visualisation” organised by Publications Office of the European Union on 13 November 2019 in Luxembourg. With Célia Pessaud, Catherine Focant, and Vincent Henin, we lively scribed the parallel sessions of the conference.
It was exciting to visually scribe workshops and talks on data visualisation. We – graphic recorders and data visualisers – speak the same visual language, use the same visual grammar, rely on the same conviction that visuals are one of the most powerful mean to explain complex ideas. As as said to some speakers:
We find that there are many similarities between our practice of graphic recording and yours of data visualisation. If the raw data that you visualise is often – if not always – numbers, and more and more big data, for us, raw data is what is said and what is happening in the conference room. Both can be complex and be meaningless at first glance. Our common goal is then to make sense with what does not seem to have any, to offer this sense/meaning to our clients so that they can make good use of it, so that they can benefit from this knowledge unveiled with more clarity. One difference that I see between our practices is that while during the process of DataViz there is time to test and adapt the final visualisation (and it’s recommended by the speakers here), in the graphic recording process everything is done live on the spot: listening, then filtering, then summarising, then translation to the visual language. Without opportunity to test and adapt.
There are certainly synergies that can be established between our two communities to learn from each other’s.
The day ended with a fascinating session on how #dataviz helps us to better “see” black holes. Big thanks to Barthélémy von Haller and Jeremi Niedziela from CERN and Oliver James from DNEG. They guided us through this wonderful journey from the smallest elements of quantum physics to the black holes and their representation in the Interstellar movie. Magnificent presentation that shows that synergies between science and art can increase our knowledge about the unknown.
On 16/09/2019, more than 300 colleagues from DG REGIO and DG EMPL were in an away-day to reflect on “how to better navigate to the future” for beautiful operational programmes. I was asked to prepare the templates, or canvasses, to harvest the ideas and conclusions from the discussions. There is nothing better than canvasses to put participants in another mental state conducive to better conversations and exchanges.
I was not asked for that, but I can not help but capturing the essence of the day with visuals. Inspired by the energy in the room, a tent to be exact, I mixed sketchnotes and scrapbooking.