The Fountain Institute

Visual Thinking Strategies

published7 months ago
1 min read

Dear Reader,

It’s Hannah again!

What if I told you that you could strengthen your innovation and facilitative leadership skills with a piece of art?

You might say I am crazy, but I would like to introduce you to Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS).

I was introduced to VTS almost 10 years ago when I used to work in museums and fell in love with the methodology. I made it the focus of a 2-year research project where I focused on the potential benefits of elementary-age students.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was building facilitation and leadership skills that would support me indefinitely.

It’s hard to teach facilitation skills, and VTS is a proven methodology to do that.

What is Visual Thinking Strategies?

VTS is a facilitation and discussion methodology developed for art museums. A facilitator leads a group discussion around a common focus (i.e., artwork, business artifact, object) utilizing three carefully worded questions,

3 Questions used in VTS:

What’s going on in this (image, research, object)?

What do you see that makes you say that...?

What more can we find?

The facilitator uses carefully worded open-ended questions, active listening, paraphrasing, linking supporting and contrasting ideas to guide a group exploration of the common focus.

Most recently, VTS has been adopted by the Hailey Group to use with business professionals, including innovation teams like IDEO, to develop observation, deep listening, comfort with ambiguity, and critical thinking skills.

I would argue that facilitation skills are as essential to a designer as prototyping, visual design, and user research.

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Benefits of VTS to designers:

  • Improves observation and communication skills during research
  • Helps navigate ambiguity in problems and solutions
  • Supports empathy for users AND stakeholders
  • Increases participation during workshops and ideation sessions

Designers facilitate conversations around visuals every day. Whether it's a design critique or just an ad-hoc conversation about the user journey, VTS can move you from a participant in the conversation to an active leader.

Leading doesn't mean you have to have all the answers. Sometimes, it's about asking the right questions.

Until next week!

Hannah Baker
Educator & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute

P.S. Enrollment opens today for Facilitating Workshops, a 22-day learning experience on leading collaborative work.