The Power of Visualization

Last week in Baltimore, I participated in two continued-learning opportunities through the American College of HealthCare Executives (ACHE). I always look forward to learning opportunities like these—being in a classroom type setting, learning about what is new and what is coming in the field brings back fond memories of learning as a grad student.

In the first session, we used a tool that was familiar to me, called the Business Model Canvas. This canvas is one of a series of tools from Strategyzer. It is used to visually map out a business model, using a tool that focuses on delivering value to the customer (called the “Value Proposition”). This tool is useful for both new and existing businesses and can be utilized in strategic planning for any organization.


In addition to the Business Model Canvas, the seminar introduced a variety of other canvases, such as the Context Map Canvas, the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) visualization tool, and the Innovation matrix to name a few. Teams of people who had just met a few hours before were then tasked and able to work on the same page using the canvas frameworks.

It made me think about the power of visualization tools and how leaders can better utilize them. To be clear, I am not talking about PowerPoint presentations or those poster slides that Members of Congress use. I am referring to a tool that gives participants an opportunity to be an active part of crafting a narrative and creating something new.

I have noticed throughout my career that many executives under-utilize visualization tools, which is an opportunity lost. Visualization, done right, can build out a better framework for solving a problem, while simultaneously building understanding and trust. Without visualization, it is incredibly difficult to get multiple voices to properly understand and participate together in an activity.

For a while, I was hesitant to go up to the whiteboard and facilitate a discussion at work. I thought sometimes it was cliché to do so. But I was wrong. If you ever get the urge to go up and write something out, or draw something new, it will help the group as a whole facilitate their understanding. A leader’s ability to use visualization and facilitation to achieve team synergies is a must have.

I encourage you to never hesitate to use visual tools when leading a group. Check out the resources at Strategyzer to help you to determine how best to apply visualization beyond the Business Model Canvas. All it usually requires is a marker or two, a white board, sharpies and post-its. Happy visualizing!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Developing visuals help facilitate teamwork and team trust. Visualization and facilitation are must have skills for leaders looking to solve complex problems in a team environment.

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