Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar

As member of the JRC and as visual thinker, I was invited to capture visually the main insights of the JRC senior management seminar. During two days, I listened to a few hundred managers taking stock after one year of the launch of an innovative way of working in transversal modes in our organisation, the so-called JRC portfolios. The program was a fair balance between keynotes, informative presentations, exchanges, and conversations in world café mode. My challenge was to create the graphic recording of all this in order to provide a visual but also emotional memory that would be useful to the participants and those who were not present.

Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar

On the substance

Overall, the results after one year are positive. There is a deeper understanding among the managers of the benefits of collaborating and working together on cross-cutting themes to “do even better science to support EU policies”. There are of course issues to resolve, while navigating a complex organisation and world, but by working together, everyone agreed that we would be able to overcome it all.

Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar

How I worked

Aware that I would not have been able to capture the essence of extremely technical, dense and tense conversations over two days, I put together a small team of volunteers to help me. They were instructed to write down points and insights that were important to them on post-its (when they wanted and if they could) and bring them to me. This is how dozens of post-its arrived at me at the end of each intervention. Thanks to them I was able to refine my live visual notes by confirming or correcting my own notes, or by covering what I had missed.

Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar

Personal take-aways

The intensity of the program spread over three days, and the exhausting trips to and from the hotel which was very far away, should not have impacted my concentration and my ability to listen. So I relied on a few small moments of meditation during the days, whether it’s a walk outside the conference center or stacking stones in balance inside. This is really what allowed me to keep my concentration and manage my mental fatigue.

Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar

I was moved when some of the colleagues who helped me with the harvesting said at the end that they had listened to the speeches with much deeper attention than usual. They experienced the basics of harvesting, this technique in the art of hosting which first consists of listening at different levels. Without them I would not have been able to create such rich and deep visual notes. Harvesting important events can only be done correctly with and as a team.

I want to express them my gratitude and to the other colleagues with whom I had the privilege of working closely, for their support, their help, their kindness, for the coffees brought, their smiles, for their comforting looks, for who they are. Beautiful people.

Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar Graphic recording of the JRC senior management seminar

This blog post is available on Linkedin as well

Share on:

StartSketch, the very first Sketchnoting course in the European Commission

The importance of harnessing the power and benefits of visual thinking has never been more evident. It’s a valuable skill for enhancing our listening abilities, concentration, memory retention, and visually reimagining information processing by summarising and filtering it. As a colleague told me recently, “you do knowledge synthesis in its most practical form!“. Moreover, visual thinking is a critical tool for gaining clarity in the face of complexity, helping us tackle intricate subjects.

It had been over a decade since Catherine Focant and I rekindled our discussion on introducing visual thinking and sketchnoting within the European institutions. In October 2023, we achieved a significant milestone by delivering the first-ever internally offered course on sketchnoting and visual thinking at the European Commission. The initial 20 spots filled up rapidly, and we were pleasantly surprised to find the waiting list for future sessions grow daily, eventually reaching over 350 eager colleagues.


For the enthusiastic participants, it was a transformative journey. Many of them began with the misconception that “I cannot draw“, but they left the course with newfound confidence, now able to create simple visuals combined with lettering. They also discovered that drawing skills are closely linked to active and deep listening.

Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

The overwhelmingly positive feedback and their commitment to practicing visual thinking were the most cherished gifts for us. Starting tomorrow, we invite them to join a newly established community of practice on Sketchnoting within the European institutions, and we encourage them to explore the global community of practitioners worldwide. If our motto is “Draw and share,” I genuinely believe that I received far more from them than what I imparted during the course.


This blog post is available on Linkedin as well.

Share on:

How can meditation help decision makers?

I had the immense privilege of listening to two prestigious experts in their field, with a common research object and practice, meditation. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche who is a Tibetan Buddhist master and meditation teacher, and Dr Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry who is well known for his research on the brain and meditation, and is a friend of the Dalai Lama.

They talked us about meditation, how it can help decision makers. The conference was a pleasant dance between teachings about meditation, small meditation exercises, and scientific facts that confirm the importance of the meditation practice for more awareness for better decision-making. My visual notes:

Sketchnotes of “how meditation can help decision makers”
Conference “how meditation can help decision makers”
Conference “how meditation can help decision makers”

Big thank you to my colleagues Carles Blas Chloé Dengis who invited these two persons and organised the conference so well.

Share on:

Words and visuals are complementary

The JRC Month of Coaching ended with an inspiring talk by Steve Neale, from the Limbic Performance System. As usual, I took visual notes to remind myself of Steve’s main messages. At the same time and without us concerted, my colleague Alexandra Balahur took written notes and wrote a superb article.

With her permission, I publish below our two summaries of the same talk. As further proof that words and visuals are complementary. They support each other to allow readers to have a deeper understanding of the subject by using more cognitive functions.

The Alexandra’s article (originally published on an internal platform of the EC) and below my sketchnotes:

One universal choice

All choices we make boil down to only one: the choice between love and fear. Love is coming back to the birthplace of “I am enough”, of self-worth, of “I value, accept and like myself fully” (in full awareness of all my good and my less good), while fear is the opposite of all that – questioning one’s self worth, comparing oneself with others, judging oneself and others, always feeling “not enough”. Love makes good leaders and coaches, fear is a sign that EGO and its never fully met needs are standing in the way of our reaching our highest potential. Limiting beliefs, past negative experience – learned or lived -, conditioning become the interference from “enough” to “not enough”. This was the powerful message that closed the JRC Month of Coaching in an inspiring talk delivered by Steve Neale.

The Rider and their Elephant

As a Psychologist, Executive Coach, Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, Psychodynamic Therapist and International Author & Speaker, Steve Neale is the Creator of the Limbic Performance System for Outstanding Leadership and Teams and the author of the Emotional Intelligence Coaching book that inspires leadership coaches and leaders worldwide. The metaphor he uses at the basis of EI Coaching – that of the rider and the elephant, signifies the relationship between our rational ‘brain’ and our emotional ‘brain’. Coaching is seen as a process of aligning the two – the rider and the elephant – by gaining awareness of the interactions between our thoughts, feelings and actions and how these interactions lead to our behaviour and eventually performance.

What makes a good leader is the same as what makes a good coach

Steve’s closing talk focused on leadership and coaching – how to be or become a good leader and a good coach. In his view, reaching our own highest potential is becoming an effective leader of ourselves and our relationships. According to our speaker, being a good leader implies:
First: Getting over your own ego and returning to your birth place of “I am enough” (Awareness of your ego and its never met needs)
Then: Helping others become the best version of themselves

How to help others become the best versions of themselves? Leader vs. Coach

In a similar way as a coach supports a coachee in the journey to becoming the best version of themselves, leaders support those in their team do the same. According to Steve Neale, both achieve this by being truly present, using full spectrum listening (intuitive and emotional), asking great, challenging and growth-focused questions, reframing situations, giving the person in front a safe space to be heard, felt, not judged and to grow. And this can only be done if their own EGO does not stand in the way – i.e., judging (good or bad), needing to “fix”, needing to help, not being present for the other, leading with questions to a specific answer, comparing themselves with the other, wanting power, praise or recognition. In a nutshell, by choosing love over fear and supporting the person in front to do the same.

“Know Thyself”

The only choice we ever make is between love and fear, but each and every one of us is different and thus what the choice will look like in practice is different, as well. Understanding our full potential and eliminating our fears requires gaining knowledge and awareness about ourselves: our values, needs, emotions, our thoughts and thought processes, our beliefs – both positive and limiting, our fears and what lies beneath them, etc. Coaching is about this process of gaining self-knowledge and self-understanding, empowering us to choose love – i.e. make choices that are truly in alignment with who we are, what we stand for and what we believe in, beyond fear (of not being enough, of being less than X, of what others will say or think, etc.). What does that look like in practice? Here are five sentences Steve Neale proposed in his talk.

When I have a healthy respect for myself I….
When I feel really good about who I am I…
When I know and value my own worth I…
When I feel attractive and at ease with my look and body I…
When I don’t worry about what others think of me I…

What will you choose?

Closing session of the JRC month of coaching, sketchnotes

(Click the image to enlarge it on Flickr)

Share on:

Visuals bring clarity about the complexity

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.

Graphic recording at the JRC portfolios launch event

Two other graphic recordings of the presentations the day before:

Graphic recording at the JRC portfolios launch event Graphic recording at the JRC portfolios launch event

And the video to illustrate my visual thinking process in three steps: post-its > draft on large paper > mind map on iPad.

Share on:

How to reduce workload?

Who has never wondered how to reduce their workload? But who has never found a solution to the question, which is not episodic or ridiculous in terms of real benefits?

My colleague Oliver Kozak brought his scientific and systemic approach to present how continuous improvement can help us to really reduce worlkload.

The objective is to free up enough time to be able to start improving, in order to free up even more time up to 40% to be able to improve continuously and ultimately create much more value at work (by moving from the Spend-It-All team model to the Time-Investor team model). How to get there concretely? By improving in three areas: (your) work processes, team efficiency, and organisation development. Important: you have to go slowly, step by step, with persistence day after day, be patient, and get support.

My visual notes of Oliver’s presentation.

How to reduce workload? sketchnotes
Share on:

Three models of change

I read in the train this Leandro Herrero’s article on the three models of change and to better remember it I sketched it.

In a nutshell, the article rightly says that traditional change management, the destination model, is often just a one–off. The journey model is about learning and experience. And the building model is about creating a long term culture with change-ability in the organisation DNA.

Three models of change, sketchnotes
Share on: