We will find meaning in this global pandemic

There are articles that teach you things about yourself and others that explain the thoughts that you have confused in your mind. Scott Berinato’s interview with grief expert David Kessler in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) brought me both things.

Although like everyone else, I can feel anger or sadness during this global coronavirus pandemic, I feel deep inside me the need to stay as much as possible in the present moment. And surely avoid projecting myself into an improbable future due to the current uncertainty. “Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures” as David says.

David Kessler tells us how to behave to deal with grief during these exceptional times:

  • Find balance in the things you’re thinking: best images and worst scenarios
  • Let go what you can’t control
  • Focus on what is in your control
  • Breath
  • Stock up on compassion
  • Feel your feelings and they move through you
  • Let yourself feel the grief and keep going
  • Realise that nothing you’ve anticipated has happened
  • Think about what you feel
  • Name what’s inside of you
  • Name this a grief. “There is something powerful about naming this as grief” Kessler says.

The practice of meditation or mindfulness can greatly help us “To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.”.

David also talks about the sixth stage to grief that come after the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ classic five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, acceptance): meaning. He concludes by:

I believe we will find meaning in it

David Kessler

My illustration of David Kessler’s interview:

Sketchnote: That discomfort you are feeling is grief

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Sketchnotes of the Sonja Blignaut’s 10 tips for facilitating emergent processes

During the end of year break, I read this article of Sonja Blignaut (@sonjabl on Twitter) where she gives her “Ten tips for facilitating emergent processes”. As Sonja says so well:

Facilitating emergent group processes requires a different kind of facilitation. When you’re not working towards a pre-determined outcome, following a pre-designed agenda, the following principles are helpful to keep in mind.

Sonja’s tips resonate with my humble little experience as facilitator of this kind of processes. She has the merit of having expressed them clearly in black on white. This is invaluable help for all practitioners who are still on their learning journey like me.

I highly recommend the Sonja’s article if you are a facilitator too, of emergent processes or not. In order to give you an overview of what it contains, here are my visual notes of it:

Sketchnotes of the Sonja Blignaut’s 10 tips for facilitating emergent processes
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What is visual thinking and what are its benefits

In this post, I explain what is a visual thinker and the benefits of using the visual approach for individuals, groups and managers. Originally, it was a document that I shared with my superiors and colleagues to help them better understand. Then I thought that everyone could benefit from it.

What do I mean by visual thinker?

Visual Thinking

As a visual thinker, I use a visual approach mainly during live events to allow you and your participants to anchor information, find patterns, make your ideas visible, establish connections and relationships between your ideas, and to ultimately make sense out of chaos or complexity. It also activates the emotional intelligence of people, not just the rational one. It consists mainly of combining hand-made graphic elements with texts and visual metaphors. Different techniques allow me to meet different needs and obtain different results.

What are my visual techniques?

Visual Thinking: visual practices

Graphic Facilitation and Graphic Co-creation

I use Graphic Facilitation and Graphic Co-creation as thinking tools for better discussions due to a different meeting setup. Both help people to find solutions, to innovate, to brainstorm, to reach consensus, to make decisions. Compared to the other techniques described below, the level of involvement of participants is high to very high in these two first techniques.

Example where researchers have had difficulty to agree on what is the meaning of “innovation”. Thanks to the visual elements they created with me on the paper they were able to “see” this difficulty. This awareness allowed them to redirect their discussion in a more constructive and clear way:

Graphic facilitation of a workshop on future of Innovation

Example of using a hand-made visual template (also called canvas or harvesting sheet) to put participants in a different mental state and mood, conducive to better conversations and exchanges:

Graphic Recording and Sketchnotes

I use Graphic Recording to visually capture live the main message of conferences, meetings, or training. This helps participants to “see” their thoughts, to consider the topic being presented and discussed from another angle, and to better retain information and learning. Depending on the circumstances, I work on a large mural or on flip-charts.

The use of sketchnotes is quite similar to graphic recording in the sense that I also visually capture live what happens during an event. The difference lies in the paper size which is that of my notebook. Here participants don’t see my visuals directly (unless a camera projects my work on a big screen). I also use sketchnotes on many other occasions “just for me”, at work and at home. Whether it’s to organise my thoughts, to sketch a work planning or a process, for a to-do list or a grocery list, to plan my vacation, etc. Anyone can benefit from the practice of sketchnotes, and I guide those who wish during small learning sessions.

Linked data course skecthnotes

Visual communication

I use Visual Communication with hand-drawn illustrations to attract people’s attention incredibly. It gives more impact to your message, which is better understood and memorised by your audience. This is the technique with the lowest involvement level of the participants.

Example of visual communication with the story of the EC’s DG HR represented as a river. The handmade visual supported the Director-General’s speech and captured the attention of her audience.

Visual support to the EC DG HR Away Day

Visuals as a Working tool

On a smaller scale, I use visuals in my daily routine as a working tool to offer more efficiency to my colleagues. It helps to clearly represent complex processes, workflows, etc; to capture, modelize and structure association of ideas, also for problem solving and project management.

What are the benefits of visual thinking?

I’m not going to review the benefits that neuroscience has long proven with hand-drawn visuals. I will simply mention the benefits that come from my direct and personal experience.

Benefits for an individual (at least for me)

  • I grasp complexity better than reading a linear text 
  • It stimulates my imagination and creativity 
  • It helps me better retain information and learning  
  • I am more present and focused 
  • It’s a pathway to heightened my self-awareness, my understanding of others, and have a deeper connection with the world around me. It opens my mind to other perspectives
  • It’s a source of well-being and a meditation channel
  • I have more fun working on serious, tedious, complex topics 

Benefits for a group or a team

  • Visual thinking brings a new energy to the room that boosts collaboration and engagement (people realise this is not an ordinary event) 
  • The large format graphic helps participants to work together more effectively because:
    • they can “see” their ideas and what others are saying too
    • everyone can contribute, feel heard
    • the process and its progress is visible
  • The large format graphic creates also a neutral space that encourages the debate about ideas while it reduces interpersonal conflicts
  • It helps the participants stay focused on the discussion (less distracted)
  • An individual can isolate himself from the group and think in front of the large format graphic
  • It brings more clarity and less ambiguity
  • It generates collective and emotional intelligence by unlocking collective creativity
  • It improves collective understanding of concepts and sharing of agreements. The group can get on the same page 
  • It transcends language barriers, eases conflicts, and dispels misunderstandings
  • It allows to achieve emotional and deeply relevant results
  • The meeting report is created on the go.
    • It will hold the participants accountable for what they have said and decided
    • It will help them to remember and share their work with others 

Benefits for managers and the organisation

  • Visual thinking is a powerful and effective tool 
  • It gives the image of a modern and positive leadership 
  • It contributes to better decision making and better shared decision making, both achieved much more effectively 
  • It enables to tap into the collective, creative and emotional intelligences of a group in order to:
    • Deal with complex issues 
    • Collect information to make informed decisions 
  • Meetings are with fewer interpersonal conflicts and more debate about ideas 
  • It leads to greater buy-in for visions, strategies, actions plans, decisions; to better commitment to these and better appropriation for a sustainable change
  • It generates greater accountability for what is said and decided 
  • It denotes a transparent communication 
  • It materialises the recognition to individual contributions and group consensus 
  • It leads to more motivated teams 
  • It brings fun into otherwise boring jobs, tasks, and meetings

Do you love stories?

A real story of disruptive and unconventional thinking that I told in an interview that is worth reading:

Some years ago, Robert Madelin was appointed  Director-General of DG INFSO and he requested major changes in the way the DG ran its intranet. To explain to him that we didn’t have enough time to apply all of them, given our available resources, I made our case to him with a quickly sketched story on paper, instead of a Powerpoint and Excel figures. Robert accepted our proposition because I was disruptive. I approached him with unconventional thinking. When I went to his office with a drawing, he said, ‘Oh my God, what is that?’ And when he looked closely, it helped him think differently about the problem. This for me was the opportunity to make my case and he accepted my explanation.

More examples

More examples of my work as visual thinker.

What others say about the benefits of visual thinking

For even more resources, please see my collection of books and online resources.

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Linked Data, Semantic web, sketchnotes and online collaboration

Recently I had the privilege of attending a course on Linked Data and Semantic technologies. It was a 2-day intensive course given by a brilliant Ivo Velitchkov to people working in the European institutions.

I cannot yet say that technologies like RDF, SPARQL, OWL or SHACL have now no secrets for me, far from it. At least I better understand their potential and possible applications. Especially now that I had the opportunity to deepen these technologies with the help of Kingsley and Margaret on social media. This is what I will share with you here below.

Of course, everything started with sketchnotes. Because I couldn’t help but take visual notes during the two days of the course.

Linked data course skecthnotes

Someone asked me if I drew these notes after the class, after having put my thoughts and ideas in order. Well not at all! First because I don’t have time after. Rather because taking visual notes live is my best way to understand what is said during the course, to assimilate and to remember later.

I usually publish my work, whether drawings or photos, on the Flickr platform. So I published this series of visual notes in a dedicated Flickr album that I tweeted.

Linked data course (sketchnotes 4/5)

On Twitter, I was quickly asked by Kingsley Uyi Idehen for the URL/URI per image. Kingsley was unknown to me until then.

Gosh…. I was forced to put into practice the concepts learned during the course!

The Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) is the string of characters that unambiguously identifies a particular resource.
The RDF Triple, or semantic triple, is the atomic data entity in the RDF data model that codifies a statement about semantic data in the form of subject–predicate–object expressions (e.g. “this image is sketchnotes”, or “this image depicts semantic web”).

Aussitôt dit, aussitôt fait! Enfin presque! (No sooner said than done! Well almost!)

Still on Twitter, Margaret Warren asked me to post my images on her imagesnippets.com platform.

ImageSnippets is a complete metadata editing interface that enables someone who knows little to nothing about RDF, OWL, ontologies, or even URIs to create descriptions for images using Linked Data (also known as structured data) which is written in RDF.

I took the challenge and added my images on the platform. I also had fun to enrich them with meta-data, RDF triples and annotations. This was a great exercise after the Ivo’ course where I put into practice what I had learned. Margaret was also unknown to me until then.

I’m proud to give you here the URI of my images on imagesnippets.com :

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Like me, you can ask what is the added value of publishing photos, or pictures, on a RDF platform such as imagesnippets.com rather than on a platform like Flickr entirely dedicated to photos.

If your goal is to organize, retrieve and look at your photos, then Flickr does the trick. If your goal is to share your photos with friends and people with the same interests as you, eventually to comment and like, then again Flickr does the trick.

But if the final goal is that your images can be semantically connected to related content on the web – be it words, paragraphs, documents, other images, people or objects – then the “RDF” approach is required. For this to be possible, your images must become nodes of the graph of Linked Data. This way both humans and machines can find them and link them to other pieces of information on the web. What I did on imagesnippets.com.

Having content, like your images, semantically connected on the so-called Semantic Web will help to create and make more sense (to current chaotic web). Is it not a noble cause to change the messy web where the search results don’t provide real answers to the questions, to a place where answers make sense?

Linked Data and the Semantic Web have of course other benefits. You can find out more by watching the first 13 minutes of this webinar :

Check out Kingsley’s thread on Twitter to see all of that in action (from a human perspective, which is not equal to the machine one):

Thank you Ivo for your support, your help to review the text, and your suggestions.

Thank you Margaret and Kingsley for these great interactions for the benefit of my understanding of the semantic web! I hope this post will help others to better understand it too.

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12 mois d’illustrations

Que vous inspire le nombre 12?
Les douze coups de minuit? Peut-être un nombre sublime en mathématiques? (peut-être pas, désolé, j’aime bien les maths). Peut-être pensez-vous au nombre de signes du zodiaque, d’étoiles sur le drapeau Européen, de disciples de Jesus, de syllabes pour un alexandrin, de côtes dans votre corps, de travaux d’Hercules? Laissez courir votre pensée autour de ce nombre. Divaguez dans les mythes et les religions où il revient souvent.

Douze, c’est aussi et plus simplement, le nombre de mois dans une année. Eh ben, me direz-vous, toute cette diversion pour en arriver à cette banalité? Oui, car j’avais besoin que votre imagination s’évade en pensant au nombre douze, afin de mieux comprendre ce qui suit.

Ca fait un an, donc douze mois, que j’ai accepté de collaborer au blog toutestpossible.be de mon amie Florence Bierlaire en illustrant ses billets mensuels. Chaque mois, Florence m’envoit le texte de son prochain billet et elle me laisse carte blanche pour l’illustrer.

La confiance aveugle de Florence me rempli d’une joie immense car elle est le signe d’un respect, d’une reconnaissance et d’une grande amitié entre nous deux. Cette relation privilégiée fertilise le terrain où mon inspiration et ma créativité peuvent s’exprimer librement.

Liberté, certes, mais comme toute liberté il faut l’assumer. C’est pour moi un défi chaque mois. J’ai le trac quand je reçois l’email de Florence qui contient le texte de son nouveau billet à illustrer. De quel sujet s’agit-il? Vais-je en comprendre le sens? Serais-je inspiré pour l’illustrer? Trouverais-je un language visuel que les lecteurs de Florence comprendrons? Qui soit respectueux du sujet, de Florence la psy, de Florence mon amie et surtout de ses lecteurs? Autant de questions, et d’autres encore, qui reviennent chaque mois.

Mes inquiétudes laissent toutefois rapidement place à l’appétit et à l’excitation.

J’entre alors dans le texte, un nouvel espace à découvrir, un autre renard à apprivoiser, une nouvelle semence à planter.  Mon procédé est pratiquement toujours le même: lire le texte, comprendre, relire, ne pas interpréter, rester dans ce qui est dit, digérer, attendre, laisser reposer, relire ça et là le texte, le butiner, garder en mémoire ou esquisser mes idées visuelles, surtout les premières qui s’avèreront souvent être les meilleures, surligner dans le texte les mots ou les phrases qui me marquent, croquer au crayon les liens mentaux entre ces idées fortes. Puis, faire le point lentement. Décanter. Méditer sur les mots, les idées, les visuels, les connexions, les couleurs, mes émotions, mes ressentis.

A la fin vient mon carnet de dessin où j’y agence mes idées en traits de crayon d’abord, en courbes, en couleurs et en ombres ensuite. Parfois simplement en noir et blanc.

Voici les 12 illustrations de l’année 2017. Vous pouvez cliquer les images pour les agrandir et le lien en dessous pour lire l’article dans son entièreté:

"Comment garder ses bonnes résolutions"
Janvier 2017: Comment instaurer de nouvelles habitudes dans votre vie?

"Comment déborder d'énergie?"
Février 2017: Comment avoir plus de jus au quotidien et déborder d’énergie?

Comment définir et identifier le burnout
Mars 2017:  Le burn out: Comment définir et identifier ce mal qui nous consume?

Comment faire des choix éclairés
Avril 2017: Comment faire des choix éclairés en 10 étapes?

Comment s'affirmer et poser des limites
Mai 2017: J’apprends à m’affirmer et à poser mes limites

Sketchnotes: Comment sortir du burnout?
Juin 2017: Le burn out: Comment en sortir, comment se reconstruire ?

Sketchnotes "La slow attitude"

Juillet 2017: Retrouver l’art de flâner et adopter la slow attitude!

Sketchnotes: Comment vivre motivé et de meilleure humeur
Août 2017: Comment vivre motivé et de meilleure humeur !

Sketchnotes "Comment se simplifier la vie?" Sketchnotes "Comment se simplifier la vie?"
Septembre 2017: Apprendre à se simplifier la vie !

Sketchnotes "Comment réveiller son charisme"
Octobre 2017: Comment réveiller le charisme naturel qui est en vous ?

Sketchnotes "Le bore out"
Novembre 2017: Le Bore Out ! Un phénomène aussi destructeur que le Burn Out?

Sketchnotes "Les fêtes, du bonheur ou un calvaire?"
Décembre 2017: Les Fêtes de fin d’année : bonheur pour les uns, calvaire pour les autres !


Illustrer les billets de Florence qui traitent de psychologie ne fut pas chose aisée, même si l’humain et ses relations avec les autres et avec lui-même sont un domaine que j’apprécie particulièrement.  Je constate, outre l’aspect purement technique du dessin, que cela m’a demandé de la concentration pour bien comprendre ce qui est dit, et juste ce qui est dit, sans extrapoler. Une juste balance entre la méditation nécessaire pour digérer le sujet et … laisser courir mon imagination autour de ce dernier. C’est cet équilibre qui aura représenté la plus grande difficulté. M’en tenir au sujet mais imaginer loin comment le visualiser.

Les douzes articles de 2017 auront été un défi où, à chaque mois, j’aurais appris quelque chose. Ce fut avant tout une très belle expérience humaine entre Florence et moi. Je suis sûr qu’elle va grandir encore lors de cette nouvelle année (retrouvez les nouvelles illustrations dans mon album Flickr). Cette collaboration m’a aussi et surtout aidé à progresser dans ma pratique de l’illustration, dans celle de la lecture attentive ainsi que dans mes autres activités où j’utilise le language visuel.

Merci Florence!

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A loop of gifts (on social networks)

Connections on Twitter have something incredible (probably on other social networks too, but Twitter is still my favorite). I am always amazed by Twitter ability to connect strangers who share the same interests, passions, and offer them this opportunity to enrich each other. The necessary condition is to work out loud. See for yourself.

One day, I read “Thinking Like a Network 2.0” Curtis Ogden’s article on the train while going to work. Each of the 10 principles resonated with me that I took my sketchbook and started to quickly illustrate each of them (despite the vibrations and discomfort). It’s my way of memorising things that matter or that I like. As per usual, I shared my sketchnotes on Twitter mentioning the article and its author:

The author, Curtis Ogden, contacted me to ask permission to post my sketchnotes. I of course gladly accepted, and “we both agree it is a wonderful example of what happens when you work out loud“.

Some weeks later, Curtis published my visual notes in a blog post of the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC), along with… a revised version of the 10 principles that I hastened to reread!

That’s the loop of gifts on social networks, and on Twitter in particular.

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