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Images can help you paint a bright resolution to conflict

From Stephanie West Allen’s blog on Neuroscience and conflict resolution .

Western societies have largely lost the ability to think in images rather than words.
Ian Robertson

Each day, I am amazed at the brain power that is lost when we focus solely on words; I now am using hand-drawn images more and more for:

  • problem-solving
  • thought clarification
  • communication
  • memory enhancement.

For a couple of years, since reading neuroscientist Dr. Ian Robertson’s Opening the Mind’s Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us How To See, I have been increasingly convinced through many experiences that including both words and images enhances processes such as the four listed above.

Now it looks as if more and more people are coming to the same conclusion and practicing brain enhancement by image or drawing. Take a look at some of these links and excerpts below before discarding the idea of drawing pictures (and lots of them!) in your dispute resolution.

Over at idealawg, I posted about the new book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam. Roam’s book about the value of using images in business has been in the top 200 at Amazon since it came out. Seems I am not the only one who found the book to be an excellent book, offering practical advice on using pictures—and explaining why you would want to incorporate images. A couple of articles about the book . . .

From "Doodling for Profit" (Business Week):

In a corporate landscape awash with slick computer presentations, charts, graphs, and logos, some managers still utilize an age-old tool for business problem solving: the hand-drawn doodle. Whether sketched on a legal pad or drawn on a whiteboard, a doodle has the power to humanize the abstract and simplify the complex. It’s a way to add humor into a dry topic. And, when doodles are used in meetings with colleagues and clients, it’s a way to pull people into the process of solving a problem.

The author of "Pictures aid communication, book argues" (Miami Herald) writes:

. . .I think the very act of trying to come up with the right images forces the presenter to break things down into the most important and meaningful components, which is a very good way to get a point across, irrespective of the chosen medium.  . . .[A]s a way to get attention and disrupt the status quo and penetrate defenses, simple imagery is deceptively potent and effective.

Here’s the "lost chapter" of the book: "The 10-1/2 Commandments of Visual Thinking." (pdf)

Best-selling author Dan Pink‘s new book (book’s Web site) uses lots of images: it’s a comic book! (Or manga to be exact.) Howard Zinn‘s newest title is in comic format, too. The graphic novel genre is growing in popularity and acceptance.

Pictures are great teachers. I was happy to see that I am in good

company when using images—created by both me and attendees—in
seminars. The National Science Foundation has found that using the
visual approach deepens understanding of the content. NSF launched
"Picturing to Learn" in which college students make drawings to explain
concepts to high school students.

On the evening of the 9th of this month, I had students create
pictures of concepts in a Brains on Purpose™ seminar and was particularly pleased
with the results. I woke up the next morning to find in my e-mailbox an
article in Science Daily about "Picturing to Learn" titled "Picture This: Explaining Science Through Drawings."

sets this project apart is its emphasis on inviting students to draw in
order to explain scientific concepts to others. The act of creating
pencil drawings calls into play a different kind of thought process
that forces students to break down larger concepts into their
constitutive pieces.

. . .

"Visually explaining concepts can be a powerful learning tool,"
says Felice Frankel, principal investigator at Harvard University. "The
other important part of this is that the teacher immediately identifies
student misconceptions."

The universities involved make up an impressive list.

project brings together five institutions: Harvard, the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT), Duke University, Roxbury Community
College and the School of Visual Arts in New York City

drawing process creates delightful, insightful surprises. Because
another way of thinking is involved, the brain and mind power in the
room is doubled. I highly recommend it to you, both for your own
thinking and for that of the people with whom you work, mediate, teach,
persuade, learn, think, negotiate. This may sound a bit odd to some of
you now but, trust me, it will be an acceptable and beneficial option
in the near future. I will bet you a pad of paper, a whiteboard, and
some colored markers.

From the news office of MIT: "It is not just about communicating ideas to others. It is also about communicating with ourselves."


Stephanie West Allen

Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive… MORE >

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